Victor Davis Hanson

A fully armed and mobilized volunteer American military forced Iraqi forces out of Kuwait with relatively few losses. And even in the long current slogs in Iraq and Afghanistan -- for all the heartbreak of their terrible human costs -- fewer American soldiers have died than in single past battles like the Meuse-Argonne or Iwo-Jima. In short, America never went to war regretting that it was overarmed and overprepared.

We should keep such bothersome late-summer history in mind this August. The world is once again heating up with the weather. Iran boasts of its new nuclear reactor -- with more to come. A nuclear North Korean keeps threatening South Korea. Hezbollah and Syria are arming to teeth with new missiles. And an assurgent Turkey is seeking an updated version of its Ottoman imperial past. Meanwhile, the United States has unsuccessfully reached out to firebrand leaders such as Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Syria's Bashar Assad, while drifting away from its Indian, Israeli and European allies.

More worrisome, in times of 1939-like recession and staggering deficits, the United States is understandably talking of massive cutbacks in its military. Nations never reduce defense expenditures because they want smaller militaries, but because in tough times the public shortsightedly thinks that money is better spent on social programs at home.

The combination of provocative rivals abroad, our president's constant assurances that the United States has been at fault in the past and wants to reach out to enemies in the future, and probable defense reductions should remind us to tread carefully this late summer.

Unfortunately, the past Guns of August teach us that war may be looking for those who are not looking for war.

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.