Friday, July 29, 2005

Hanson's History Lesson

Victor Davis Hanson, a senior fellow and historian at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, graces today’s Chicago Tribune with a little lecture on how the History gets misused in the political debates of the day. This is how he begins:

History is evoked more and more these days . . .
Wow. I had no idea. That historians have studied the frequency with which History is evoked. And found that it is increasing. That’s the kind of information the general public learns when these classy historians drop in to the op-ed pages of the newspaper.

So let’s get to some examples.

. . . we are now warned that the war against terror is failing because it has lasted as long as World War II– as if the length of the war, not the cost, determines success.

It had never occurred to me that the length of a war determines success. I hadn’t noticed anyone saying this either. Nor for that matter, had I heard the theory, until reading Hanson’s column, that the cost of a war determines success. Not sure how that works– the more expensive the war the more successful? Or is the more expensive the war the less successful? I would probably already know this if I were a professional historian.

Another good one:

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) intoned of the USA Patriot Act he voted for, "We are a nation of laws and liberties, not of a knock in the night." Though, so far, that mild statute pales before exigencies of past liberal wartime presidents who really did jail innocents, night and day, without warning or sometimes even justification.

For instance, Abraham Lincoln suspended habeus corpus during the Civil War. Another bit of historical knowledge I wasn’t aware of– Abraham Lincoln was a "liberal." Damn liberals. Always suspending habeus corpus. So take that John Kerry. We are a nation of a knock in the night.

Also, Hanson notes that while some complain about intelligence failures in the war on terror, "they seem almost minor in light of prior blunders in the fog of war."

So any politician or citizen out there who wants the United States to aspire to something better– to be more just or to have more effective intelligence, watch out. Victor Davis Hanson, the brilliant historian, is on the case to tell you that you’re a fool who doesn’t understand History.