Instapundit has a link to a GREAT Victor Davis Hanson article today.
Before I get to the meat of the article, I wanna write a bit about Hanson first. He's rapidly becoming a favorite Pundit of mine. I picked up his book "Autumn of War" in an airport a few months ago and found it a great read. The book is a collection of his prolific columns for the National Review. Hanson describes his background and how it impacts his philosophy stating (from Introduction, Autumn of War):
...I am a classicist, but also a farmer, who was born, lives, and works on a family farm in California's Central Valley... I have had doubts about what passes for intellectual life in America today -- particularly as manifested in the contemporary university. Physical work, close acquaintance with the poor, and affinity with the innate dangers that confront millions of Americans are all a complete mystery to many of the most vocal critics of America
...those who do not disk the south forty, hammer nails, or pump out cesspools, it seemed to me, had a greater propensity (not to mention time) to ponder the legal ramifications of trying John Walker Lindh...
...those who were tenured, highly paid, or leisured, both Republican and Democrat, I think have forgotten how hard it is to survive and raise a family -- how often daily life is muscular and dangerous, and how frequently evil people can must be stopped only through physical strength from hurting those who are helpless.
More data on Hanson's background.
A key thread that Hanson consistently identifies throughout his articles in Autumn is the role of physical force in shaping political philosophies and responses (he's writing here in reference to the individuals who were anti-Afghan intervention in the weeks/months immediately after 9/11):
The fireman and policeman in the auidence know how to deal with bin Laden because they have seen something like him every day and protect those who have not from his ilk. They suspect that Richard Gere and Senator Clinton no only know little about real evil -- much less how to deal with it -- but most certainly, in safety, will sometimes scoff at those who do.
As Hanson argues, physicality and the "muscularity of life" is viewed as an accident of existance by these folks rather than intrinsic.
In Autumn of War, I was particularly struck by his arguments on the root motivations of the Taliban/Al Qaeda which he published in the immediate aftermath of 9/11/01. His contemporaries were attempting to articulate a framework based on a "modernist"/"post-modernist" world view -- e.g. the attackers were motivated by poverty, the need for a political voice in world affairs, demand for democracy in their local regimes, etc.
Hanson instead was among the first to make the argument that we need to look back to the classical battlefield (his academic background, of course) and it's motivations where wars were truly fought in the name of vainglory, pride, honor to understand our new foes. In a battle of vainglory, tactics aren't employed to gain control of land or wealth (both "modernist" motivations) but instead to damage the vainglory of the opponent and therefore secure a psychological victory for the attackers in the eyes of their peer constituency [Introduction, Autumn of War].
...Rather, bellicose theocratic and autocratic nations can be like people -- immature, rash, and mercurial -- and so rush to battle out out of classical motives like Thucydidean fear, envy, and self-interest that in turn are fueled by a desire for power, fame, and respect.
Simply put, hurting the enemy - even cosmetically - makes me look good in front of my friends.
In a recent article (a GREAT read, BTW -- highly recommended) commenting on an Arab UNDP report that made waves in the Blogosphere, Hanson writes:
Frustration, pride, anger, envy, humiliation, spiritual helplessness—all the classical exegeses for war and conflict—far better explain the Arab world’s hostility toward a prosperous, confident, and free West.
Last night, the History Channel had a very well done 2 hour show on the "Rise and Fall of the Spartans" where Dr. Hanson provided extensive, very intelligent commentary. He's as well-spoken on camera as he is in writing.
Finally, today, via Instapundit, I found one of Dr. Hanson's most recent columns on the growing US / European rift (a favorite blogging topic of mine...). Hanson is writing partially in response to a recent article by Robert Kagan. Kagan argued that most of the US/European rift is the result of differences in military strength which results in different attitudes towards the utility of force and where/when it can be applied.
Hanson, instead argues that the root causes are much deeper and the result of (surprise!) historical artifacts of the composition of the two regions:
...In the recent election campaign in Germany, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder volubly parted ways with us and our proposed “adventure” in Iraq, promising his countrymen a “German way” of dealing with global crises—perhaps oblivious to the unfortunate historical echoes this phrase still awakens among millions of Americans.
... My own feeling is otherwise: that the current state of transatlantic tension, far from being a temporary artifact of power relations, is the more natural condition between us—a strain based on our radically different cultures and histories and hence unlikely to be dissipated by bigger defense budgets there or more sensitive diplomats here. And my guess is that this condition is likely only to worsen. ...Forgotten in the present anguish over European attitudes is our own age-old suspicion of the Old Country, a latent distrust that once again is slowly reemerging in the face of European carping.
...As it happens, such mistrusts are themselves deeply rooted in essential fault lines between the American sense of self and the European. Those differences lie in our separate histories and national characters, our different demographies, our different cultures, our different approaches to questions of class and economic mobility, our different conceptions of the individual and society, our different visions of the good life and of democracy—and our very different attitudes toward projecting outward our versions of freedom.
...The experience of the frontier encouraged a sense of self-reliance and helped to define morality in terms of action rather than rhetoric. Having no history of monarchy, fascism, or Communism, we retain our founders’ original optimism about republican government, considering it not only critical to our own singular success but a form of political organization that should be emulated by others. The absence of a common race and religion encouraged us to treasure a necessary allegiance to common ideas and values ... That refugees from around the world and especially the unwanted of Europe itself not only survived in an inhospitable country but created history’s greatest civilization in the course of a mere century is testament to the revolutionary success of American democratic culture, a society that today morphs newly arrived Koreans into NASCAR fans, transmogrifies Hmong into Country & Western addicts, and allows the children of illegal aliens to become Ph.D.’s, electrical engineers, and newspaper columnists.
I'll refrain from quoting much more of the article and instead direct y'all (frontier evocation intentional!) towards it.