Victor Davis Hanson

At the end of the 18th century, there were two great Western revolutions -- the American and the French. Americans opted for the freedom of the individual, and divinely endowed absolute rights and values.

A quite different French version sought equality of result. French firebrands saw laws less as absolute, but instead as useful to the degree that they contributed to supposed social justice and coerced redistribution. They ended up not with a Bill of Rights and separation of powers, but instead with mass executions and Napoleonic tyranny.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration is following more the French model than the American.

Suddenly, once-nonpartisan federal bureaucracies have become catalysts for fundamentally transforming America. Often-ideological bureaucrats have forgotten their original mission. NASA might do better to ensure that our astronauts are independent of Vladimir Putin's Russian rockets rather than claiming that its primary mission is to reach out to the Muslim community.

Intelligence directors vie with one another to please superiors with fatuous but politically correct analysis. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper assured us that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was largely secular. CIA Director John Brennan once termed a now-emerging Islamic caliphate as "absurd." Former Director of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano once warned that returning veterans and right-wingers were the chief domestic terrorist threats, not Islamic jihadists.

The IRS has lost its nonpartisan reputation by hounding perceived ideological enemies. It no longer abides by the historic standards -- transparency, rapid submission of documents, honesty -- that it demands from those it audits.

The role of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement once was to enforce federal statutes established by Congress and signed by the president. Border patrol agents were not supposed to become agents of social change to nullify settled laws by noncompliance.

Almost immediately it was clear that the 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was a preplanned attack by an al-Qaeda terrorist affiliate. But that truth did not fit the re-election narrative that al-Qaeda was on the run.

In response, public servants such as U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton fabricated preferable scenarios -- in service supposedly to a good cause. Suddenly, right-wing video maker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was to be blamed. He alone had incited ordinary Libyans to spontaneously riot -- a useful teachable moment for the administration to muzzle such reactionary firebrands.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.