Speaking in Colorado at the recent Steamboat Institute Summit on Foreign Policy, columnist, author and scholar Victor Davis Hanson predicted a rough 12 months in which Barack Obama’s appeasement habit versus Vladimir Putin’s aggression may put the NATO alliance at risk. Noting how easily Putin grabbed Crimea, Hanson said, “If Putin goes into, say, Estonia, does anybody think Obama would say that’s a red line and invoke Article 5 of the NATO charter? And if he didn’t do anything wouldn’t that mean the dissolution of NATO, which is what Putin wants?”
Estonia is one of the former Soviet satellite Baltic States admitted to NATO in 2004, entitling it to the mutual defense of Article 5 if the nation of 1.3 million is invaded, presumably by its Russian neighbor.
Continued Dr. Hanson, “I think Putin will be successful in one or two Baltic states and the New York Times will say: who wants to die for Estonia?” The key to deterrence, he said, is that the other side must never know whether America will use our ultimate weapons.
As a Senior Fellow in Classics and Military History at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, Dr. Hanson drew on multiple examples in his speech, “The Loss of American Deterrence.” “The appeaser is always beloved because he promises peace,” he said, “but the deterrent leader is hated by his own people.” For example, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlin was a hero when he famously brought home a deal with Hitler in 1938.
In the Munich Agreement, Hitler promised to stop his aggression but Winston Churchill wasn’t buying it. “When Churchill said we need more RAF squadrons because we can’t trust Herr Hitler, the British people called him a warmonger who wanted another world war,” Hanson said. We know how that turned out.
Appeasement has its price on a personal level too. The government leader who is appeased usually has nothing but contempt for the leader who appeases him, Hanson observed. After Chamberlain left Germany, clutching his fake “peace in our time” guarantee, Hitler told his top henchman Hermann Goering, “if that stupid little man ever comes back with his umbrella, I’m gonna step on him.” Similarly, “Vladimir Putin detests Barack Obama,” Hanson revealed. “He thinks Obama doesn’t really represent the people of the U.S.”
Closer to our era, President Jimmy Carter was beloved in the late 70’s when he declared America should have no inordinate fear of communism and told the nation that “not one soldier will die on my watch.” The Soviet Union breathed easy and continued to brutally oppress East Germany and its captive satellite states, unmolested by the defenders of liberty.
The Muslim revolutionaries who took over Iran following the 1979 Islamic Revolution showed their respect for Carter’s peacenik policies by storming the American embassy in November of that year. They arrogantly held our 52 American diplomats hostage for 444 days, releasing them only the day after Ronald Reagan was inaugurated president. They knew Reagan was no Carter-style appeaser.
“People demonized Reagan,” said Hanson, “and it took him three or four years to restore deterrence.” But in November of 1989, the eager hands of East and West Germans tore down the Berlin Wall that had cut off the suffering Soviet communist nations from the rest of the world. Thanks largely to Reagan’s strong deterrence strategies, the Cold War and 28 years of Iron Curtain rule was settled – in favor of freedom.
Hanson predicted the next election will be a replay of 1980 when the electorate rejected the Carter appeasement mindset that for seven years now has been mirrored by Mr. Obama. “His successor cannot continue Obama’s policy because it’s suicidal,” Hanson pointed out. “The next president will need to restore deterrence but will be despised as that will be very difficult to do.” The steady reduction of our military doesn’t help. The tragedy of all of this, said Hanson, is it’s much like World War II – take away Britain’s appeasement and the alliance of Russia and Hitler and it could have been stopped. Instead, appeasement took 60 million lives.
Hanson’s study of Greece and Rome gives him an historical view of what happens to a culture with an identity crisis. “If a society is just a slave to its appetites, and people eat, go to bed, live, but don’t think abstractly about where we come from, and why this nation is unique, there’s no reason for that society to continue,” he said. “If all our institutions like the Fourth of July are constantly made fun of and our past is not nourished, it’s like a chain, one link passed on to the next.”
“When the president says at the National Prayer Breakfast that Christians are responsible for all these deaths when it was only to retake Christian lands, people listen to that. They say to themselves, ‘Well, the president is supposed to be a booster of American traditions; (70 to 75% are Christians) if he’s not a booster, why should we be?’ And this is quite dangerous.”
As is the socialism increasingly infecting America. “Socialism erodes peoples’ willingness and ability to spend money on defense,” Hanson continued. “When half of the people are not paying income tax, they’re not going to want to cut back on their pensions and food stamps. Socialism erodes national will and we are becoming more and more socialist.”
Socialism also gives you a house, a job, tells you how to think, and promises the state will take care of you when you are old, said Hanson. “Socialism abrogates all personal responsibility. For some that’s a narcotic.”
Socialists think “equality” means it’s wrong for people to use accidents of inheritance or luck or talent – and the state should have the power to rectify that, Hanson observed.
Speaking of socialism, I got a chance to spend a few minutes with Dr. Hanson and asked him if Hillary Clinton would be indicted. His frank answer: “It depends on any given day what Michelle and Barack and Valerie Jarrett feel. On one hand they don’t like her, but they don’t have an alternative. Now if Joe Biden would get in, yes. But if not, they don’t think Bernie is a viable candidate.”
How about Mr. Trump? “The left has perfected deterrence in establishing this linguistic kingdom. People understand if they deviate they will be demonized, destroyed. So here is Trump and people are saying, ‘I don’t care what he says, I like what he represents, the spirit.’ Obama is Dr. Frankenstein, and Trump is his monster.”