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A Just War from a Just Nation By: Anders G. Lewis
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, March 05, 2004

Victor Davis Hanson's Between War and Peace is available for $13.95 from the FrontPage Magazine Bookstore.

How different would the world be if George Bush was not a conservative but was, instead, a student of the liberal Kerry-Kennedy-Pelosi school of foreign relations?  About some things we can not be completely sure.  We can, however, be confident that Saddam Hussein would still be in control of Iraq.  He would be butchering Muslims everyday, fleecing the Iraqi economy so that he could build his lavish palaces, aiding terrorists, plotting worthy targets for weapons of mass destruction, and swapping valentines with Dominique de Villepin.   We can also be sure that terrorists around the world would be emboldened by a belief that America is a paper tiger, without the will to fight and bleed.  Fortunately, none of this has happened.  Saddam is rotting in jail and al Qaeda’s goons are on the run.  For this, we must thank the Bush administration and the brave men and women of our armed forces.  Over three years since the departure of Bill Clinton from office, Americans are safer and liberty is gaining ground. 

Victor Davis Hanson makes all of these points, and many more, in his brilliant new collection of essays, Between War and Peace: Lessons from Afghanistan to Iraq.  A California native, Hanson is a leading classical and military historian.  In a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, Yale University Professor Donald Kagan argued that “Hanson’s work on the role of the small family farmer in the development of democracy is the most important work in Greek history in my lifetime.”  Hanson is also a rare gem in the academic world - a genuine free-thinker in an ocean of militant radicals.  Currently a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Hanson has authored or edited over a dozen books.  His Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power conclusively demonstrated that Europe and, in turn, America rose to power primarily because of a commitment to liberty and rational inquiry, and not (as most academics believe) racism, sexism, or imperialism.  In addition to his historical scholarship, Hanson has penned a bittersweet memoir of his life as a farmer and a erudite study of immigration titled, Mexifornia: A State of Becoming.  He is a frequent contributor to such magazines as City Journal, Commentary, and National Review Online, and he has recently appeared in a Frontpage.com symposium on the decision to go to war in Iraq.  An Autumn of War, a collection of his essays on American foreign policy in the aftermath of 9/11, became a bestseller and earned Hanson a meeting with Vice President Cheney.  


The thesis of Between War and Peace is that evil exists and that it needs to be destroyed, not appeased.  “The world,” Hanson writes, “does not provide us with the reality of utopian perfection but rather with more mundane practical choices between something better and something probably worse.”  Hanson supports his thesis by examining four main topics: Islam’s long and tortured history, the origins of anti-Americanism, the war in Iraq, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  He also provides a useful road map for winning the war against terrorism.


In writing on Islam, Hanson astutely rejects the popular mythology (most prominently put forth by the late Edward Said) that the reason the U.S. has such a troubled relationship with the Middle East is because Americans simply do not understand the Islamic world.  Nonsense, says Hanson.  Our Middle East problem stems not from our misunderstanding of the Islamic world, but from the Islamic world’s misunderstanding of us.  America is a pluralistic and democratic society, where men and women of many faiths and cultures wield power, enjoy the same rights, and share the same civic responsibilities.  This is in stark contrast to the modern Arab world, a land of authoritarian and tyrannical governments, stagnant economies, minimal scientific and technological creativity, and widespread subjugation of women.  “Quite simply,” Hanson notes, “the reason we produce CAT-scanners and F-16s and Apaches and they do not – or the reason they come here to be schooled and we, as a rule, do not go there – is that our universities are free, our governments elected and tolerant, our people welcome to choose any religion or none, and our schools secular and meritocratic rather than fundamentalist and tribal.” 


Hanson’s analysis of anti-Americanism is equally insightful.  Its proponents are, he argues, stunningly ignorant.  They label America an imperial nation, but fail to consider that it has not used its strength to gain control over territory since the 1898 Spanish-American War.  They charge that America is a selfish nation, but fail to recognize how America saved the world from ruin and darkness three times in the twentieth century: World War I, World War II, and the Cold War.  Anti-Americans also assert that the U.S. is anti-Muslim, ignoring that we have now fought several wars in the past 15 years – in the Persian Gulf, the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Iraq - that were designed, in part, to free Muslims from tyranny. 


Far from acknowledging these facts, leftists now point to the war in Iraq as proof that America is evil.  The war, they contend, was a lie.  Where, after all, are the weapons of mass destruction?  Where is the evidence of the Iraq-al Qaeda connection?  And wasn’t Bush planning on attacking Saddam before 9/11?  Such arguments, as Hanson has noted in articles written after he completed Between War and Peace, are silly.  The 1998 Iraq Liberation Act made regime change the policy of the United States.  David Kay’s recent analysis proved that Saddam possessed a WMD program that could be activated once the French and the Germans convinced the international community to live and let live.  Further, Saddam did have close and extensive ties with bin Laden’s terror network.  The left’s arguments just don’t wash.  But what troubles Hanson the most, and what he so forcefully writes about in Between War and Peace, is the simple fact that the left was so hysterically opposed to a war that freed the Iraqi people and the entire Middle East of a monstrous dictator.   Politics, Hanson observes, “have been turned upside down.”  Conservatives, “not the Left, [are] now…the greater proponent of global freedom, liberation, and idealism….”  


The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the left’s embrace of anti-Americanism, demonstrate this.  So too does the fact that conservatives are now Israel’s strongest supporters.  As Hanson points out, conservatives recognize the values that Israeli and American citizens share: democracy, pluralism, freedom of speech and the press, and women’s rights.  Conservatives also recognize that Americans have almost no shared values “with the Palestinians, who, like the entire Arab world, do not embrace real democracy, free speech, open media, or religious diversity.”


Between War and Peace is a frank, insightful, and valuable examination of our troubled era.  We should be thankful that scholars such as Hanson exist and that he so capably slices through the left’s lazy logic.  We should also lend serious consideration to the many sound proposals he offers for winning the war on terrorism. 


High on the list for consideration should be Hanson’s call for America to rely less on military cooperation and diplomatic support from nations such as Germany, France, and South Korea that have been anything but friendly in recent years.   Instead, let us rely on aircraft carriers, an antiballistic missile system, and some of our new Eastern Europe allies.  In the Middle East in particular, the U.S. should be concerned with promoting democracy, not stability.  To drive this point home, Hanson faults previous administrations for not fighting back when America has been attacked, and he blasts our “Paleolithic diplomats” who have been “quiet about almost everything from Saudi blackmail payments to terrorists and beheadings to mass jailings, random murder, and disfigurement of women.”  Hanson also advocates bold and much needed reforms of the U.N.  Only democratic nations should be permitted to participate in the General Assembly, France’s veto power should be incorporated into one vote for the entire European Union, and India, Japan, and Brazil should be added as permanent members to the Security Council.   Most importantly, Hanson wants Americans to stay focused on the war against terrorism, to pursue our enemies, and to annihilate them.  “In war,” he writes, “clarity of purpose – which is not a relative construct – counts for everything, being liked by one’s enemies very little at all.”  Let leftists shuffle and shout, and let the Dominique de Villepin’s of the world seek to appease whomever they want.  America, as President Bush has stated, does not need a permission slip from anyone to defend our national interests.  


Ultimately, Between War and Peace is an optimistic book.  Most Americans, Hanson believes, appreciate the need for decisive action against terrorism.  The Bush administration has demonstrated that the United States will fight, and fight hard, against those who seek to hijack freedom.  The American military has proven that it has the technology, the power, the adaptability, and the raw heroism to win a variety of unconventional wars in far off lands.  Above all, American democracy is enormously resilient and remarkably creative.  When challenged, America has always proved victorious.  With reason, therefore, Hanson asserts that terrorists are now on the run.  Ultimately, they are doomed.  Freedom, as Saddam Hussein must now recognize and as the last remnants of al Qaeda will soon find out, always triumphs over tyranny.

Victor Davis Hanson's Between War and Peace is available for $13.95 from the FrontPage Magazine Bookstore.

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