Victor Davis Hanson

It proved as hard to break up the bankrupt European Union as it was to create it. For all the hundreds of stories predicting the imminent end of the union, insolvent Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain still hung in. Apparently if these debtors keep promising to end their spendthrift ways, quit calling the historically sensitive Germans bad names, and welch only on serial billion-euro loans -- rather than default all at once on massive trillion-euro obligations -- the Germans will keep doling out enough money for the EU to whimper on a bit longer.

Meanwhile, the world's failed states, such as Iran, North Korea and Pakistan, just keep on failing. Getting the bomb and acting crazy are about all these pariah nations can do. Otherwise, who would care that the adolescent-looking Kim Jong Un just took over North Korea? How else can we explain giving away billions each year to anti-American Pakistan? Without monotonous threats of acquiring nuclear weapons and closing the Strait of Hormuz, would anyone pay attention to the nutty theocracy in Iran?

If tottering states can keep convincing successful nations that they are willing to suffer a lot to make their betters suffer a little, then they win a little political clout, some small influence -- and a little more time to cause others misery. What is needed for these volatile countries to survive another year is to occasionally test a nuke, shoot off a missile or threaten to obliterate a neighbor. Kidnapping some foreigners or sending out terrorists works, too -- any sort of occasional taunting just short of provoking the United States and its allies into a full-fledged war. Only with many enemies and lots of crises can these sick regimes hobble on for a bit longer.

Solyndra, Climategate II, and the discovery of massive new finds of American gas and oil have for now postponed the promised era of the government-subsidized windmill and solar panel. In 2011, there was no more talk of cap-and-trade and new public/private green companies, but instead discoveries of oil and gas in unlikely places such as the Dakotas and Ohio. None of this was supposed to happen: Energy Secretary Steven Chu had dreamed of $9-a-gallon, European-priced gas to soften our carbon footprint. Candidate Barack Obama had long ago promised that our electricity bills would skyrocket. We are still supposed to buy Chevy Volts and not incandescent bulbs. But for now, American entrepreneurial ingenuity may have cooled our new government-run green lifestyles.

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.