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Interviewing Victor Davis Hanson On History And War

Posted on July 15 2010 8:00 pm
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Victor Davis Hanson is an extraordinary writer with an encyclopedic knowledge of historical warfare. His columns are magnificent and his books are even better. So, I was pleased to have an opportunity to interview him about his newest book, The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern .

What follows is a slightly edited transcript of our conversation. Enjoy!

America’s media seems at times to be ambivalent, even to the point of being hostile toward our military and efforts to win the war on terrorism. Can you talk about other times in history that’s happened and what the results of it have been?

I think if we were to go back to England and France between 1920 and take an arbitrary date — 1936 — it was politically incorrect to evoke Verdun. The Battle of Verdun was not mentioned in the school system. By the same token, those who wanted to re-arm in Britain were accused of trying to evoke these ghosts of the Somme. The media wanted to condition the British public to the notion that any other war would end in the nightmare of the trenches. So, it was much better to use the arts of appeasement — which wasn’t a dirty word. It was a positive word that meant you were willing to avoid a blood bath in the trenches. The result of that, of course, was the serial aggrandizement of Germany from 1936 to 1939.

I think that there was a period from about 1946 to 1950 when the American media wanted us to believe that the Soviet Union was no different than a socialist state, that its Marxism was not virile, and they fought the fascists in Japan and Hitler with us. Therefore, we would still be able to have a perpetual peace. That message, I think, was pretty much a standard until about 1950, when the breakout of the Korean hostilities ended it.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that the media tries to enhance the agenda of political movements or political leaders who are very distrustful of military preparedness.

Although the actual means of terrorism have changed, it’s a very old tactic that’s been successfully defeated many times in the past. Can you talk about some of the successful campaigns against terrorism and how they were won through history?

Well we can go back – there are some very good examples of the Romans putting down Jewish insurrections from the first century BC all the way into the second century AD that were very successful. …In every one of the cases the Romans were able to divide and conquer. In other words, they found a larger percentage of the population would be willing to want to educate their children, speak Latin, have aqueducts, be subject to habeas corpus law, and enjoy Roman prosperity — a larger percentage than that of so called nationalist leaders who wanted to kill the Romans and revert back to their pre-provincial status. So it worked.

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