Friday, March 24, 2006

The Decline and Fall of Victor Hanson

Commentary by Martin Kelly
November 29, 2004

“Most conflicts do and yet do not begin over disputed borders. So it was with the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879, which ostensibly started from disagreement over the exact boundaries between Zululand and the European provinces of Natal and the Transvaal, but in truth was inevitable, given the colonials’ desire for more land, labor and security. Other than the pretext of a pre-emptory attack, the British had no ostensible reason for invading Zululand. Even most of the state ministries in London wanted nothing to do with a war in southern Africa at a time when the empire’s more critical interests in India, Afghanistan, and Egypt required its full resources. No observer on either side ever made the case that a Zulu army had crossed into either Natal or the Transvaal to prompt hostilities. King Cetshwayo’s repeated orders were to avoid sending his impis across the borders of Zululand”- Victor Davis Hanson, ‘Carnage and Culture’, Doubleday, 2001, page 300.

Condoleeza Rice’s appointment as Secretary of State was perhaps not unexpected; however, it was not her nomination that was puzzling, but her acceptance – why would this lady, whose personal achievements far outshine those of the President, still be prepared to work for the guy who hung her out to dry before the 9/11 Commission?

It’s the neoconservatism, stupid.

As has often been repeated, neoconservatism is a philosophy that is rooted in Trotskyism. Some neocons just can’t hide it – in a September 8 column called ‘What’s wrong with you people?’ Jonah Goldberg wrote, ‘I’m the sort of curmudgeon who believes voting should be more difficult and there should be less of it’.

Being a fundamentally fascist philosophy, neoconservatism needs to name scapegoats and make enemies, and no neocon is more vocal in performing this function than the contract lawyer Jed Babbin, forever railing against France and the French for their impudence in adhering to their sovereignty.

Others, like Pat Buchanan and Paul Craig Roberts, call them ‘Jacobins’, after the sect of French revolutionaries, a conclusion that was hard to avoid on November 5, when the mercurial Andrew Sullivan reported on his ‘Daily Dish’ that Bill Kristol of the Murdochite neocon ‘Weekly Standard’ had quoted Danton in the wake of Bush’s re-election.

However, the worst of all neocons are those who provide it with intellectual legitimacy. For the succour and encouragement he has given the philosophy, Victor Davis Hanson, the smartest neo of them all, is the worst of the worst, and it is only since the re-election of the Neocon White House that he has revealed his true colours.

Hanson is an intellectual of rare talent, an author, journalist, military historian and sometime classics professor at the University of California. His Friday columns on the ‘National Review Online’ provide necessary intellectual ballast to the rantings of Michael Ledeen and John Derbyshire, and the Pavlovian yelps of delight at every utterance from the mouth of George W. Bush.

Hanson authored one of the finest pieces of prose written in the wake of 9/11, called ‘What made them do their duty?’ for ‘City Journal’. He also wrote the best deconstruction of the House of Saud that I have read so far, called ‘Our Enemies, the Saudis’, for ‘Commentary’. It’s always sad to see a very clever man make a fool of himself, but Hanson has done it twice in the last two weeks.

On November 5, he made another nasty insinuation of cowardice against the Spanish for their rejection of Jose Maria Aznar in the wake of the Madrid bombing – “The farmers of Utah, the plant workers of Ohio, and the immigrants of Florida are not the same folk as those of Spain”. No doubt, if only because those folks didn’t have to suffer lies for advantage in the aftermath of tragedy. It ill befits such a capable historian to fall into the sort of ideological trap for which he would roundly condemn Eric Hobsbawm or Howard Zinn. However, he fully revealed his neoconservatism on November 19, when the link from the NRO front page to his piece contained just one word – ‘Revolutionary’.

The article, called ‘The Real Humanists’, pretty much followed Hanson’s formula of praising Bush and bashing Carter and Old Europe. If you dared criticise the initial invasion of Afghanistan, you’re a ‘subversive ankle-biter’, or a ‘deer-in-the-headlights critic’. You’ve got to be careful if you criticise the failure of Iraqi reconstruction – ‘Our mistakes in the reconstruction of Iraq were never properly critiqued as naïve and too magnanimous, but rather they were decried by the Left as cruel and punitive – as if being too lax was proof of being harsh’. Abu Ghraib? Lax? Whatever.

It is a poor historian who draws his conclusions from the blood on David Frum’s hatchet. Now that Arafat is dead, there is no further need to speculate whether or not he had AIDS, as Frum did, nor was there any need for Hanson to comment on his family’s ‘unwillingness to disclose what really killed the “Tiger” of Ramallah’. Let the dead, even the bad dead, rest in peace, for he is now under the judgment of God for his actions, as they themselves will also be.

Now comes the red meat. “In fact, the effort not just to strike back after September 11, but to alter the very landscape in which our enemies operated was the only choice we had if we wished to end the cruise missile/bomb’-em-for-a-day cycle of the past 20 years, the ultimate logic of which has led to the crater of the World Trade Center’. While many previous policies did contribute to 9/11, it is interesting to see Hanson repeat again that invading a country that had no connection with 9/11 was ‘the only way’ in which terrorism could be defeated. How many countries have suffered through the siren song of fascists that their way is ‘the only way?’

To Hanson, the Doom of Fallujah is a cosmic struggle – “In the struggle in Fallujah hinges not just the fate of the Sunni Triangle, or even Iraq, but rather of the entire Middle East – and it will be decided on the bravery and skill of 20-something soldiers’ – not, you will note, 40-something hacks or 50-something classicists. He continues, ‘If they are successful in crushing and humiliating the fascists there and extending the victory to other spots then the radical Islamists and their fascistic sponsors will erode away. But if they fail or are called off, then we will see Days of Sorrow that make September 11 look like child’s play’.

All neoconservative scaremongers must be asked- where is your proof that more terror is inevitable if your policies are not implemented? Upon what evidence do you make such sweeping assertions? They will never praise the sterling work done by civilian agencies behind the scenes, and the role played by citizens in keeping vigilant to the possibility of threat, instead always praising and promoting the aggressive, militaristic mindset that has turned Iraq into Tartarus.

Hanson ended his piece by saying ‘Quite literally, we are living in the strangest, most perilous, and unbelievable decade in modern memory’. We sure are, thanks in no small measure to the actions of neoconservatives and their erudite apologists. The ancient Greeks wrote of Perseus slaying the Gorgon, and Theseus slaying the Minotaur. Maybe VDH has gone off on some proto-mythological monster hunt, with Ba’athists and Islamists taking the place of giants and centaurs.

However, he will well know the meaning of hubris. Bellerophon was a mighty hero who slew the Chimera, but who in later life grew arrogant, and tried to fly the winged horse Pegasus to visit the gods on the summit of Mount Olympus. To punish his arrogance, Zeus released a tiny gadfly that stung Pegasus and threw Bellerophon to his death far below.

All should beware the fate of Bellerophon.