An Interview with Victor Davis Hanson: Re. Iraq and Anti-Americanism

Roundup: Historians' Take

An interview with Victor Davis Hanson on ABC Radio National (Nov. 9, 2003):

VICTOR DAVID HANSON: We still have lost about 300 Americans, which is just 10 per cent of what we lost in one hour on 9/11. We lost 262 in Lebanon in 1983. So after taking over two countries, if I could use that term, and liberating 50 million people and planning to install consensual government at a cost of 300 lives, and not having another 9/11, is a pretty amazing military record, although you'd never get that in the media.

LEIGH SALES: So if we do look at what's going on in Iraq in the context of history, how would you characterise the progress of the occupation?

VICTOR DAVID HANSON: I think it's going very well. I think we are dealing with a very difficult period.

I'm afraid that we made a few critical mistakes by trying to not stop looters, shooting looters would have been a good, that would have established authority right away, or sending more troops into the Sunni triangle.

But I think now we're going to have to arm the Kurds and some of the Shia and start to cordon off the Sunni triangle, and when we have Americans killed and people cheering, we're going to have to change that dynamic.

LEIGH SALES: How long can the instability in Iraq be expected to last?

VICTOR DAVID HANSON: If we can pressure the Syrians and the Iranians to stop sending troops and capital in there and then isolate… I think within a year it will be much better.

LEIGH SALES: How do you think the lessons of what's happened in Iraq will influence the Administration as it thinks about how to possibly deal with the problems posed by Syria and Iran?

VICTOR DAVID HANSON: Well, I think the world is going to have to realise that there's going to be consequences for their deductive anti-Americanism, in the sense that if you have France or Russia telling Saddam Hussein that don't worry, we're going to ensure the Americans won't invade, which Mr Aziz just said, or you're going to have people say that we're too pre-emptive, then the Americans are going to probably give them their wish – they're going to probably tell the South Koreans go up to the DMZ on your own, or they're going to tell the Turks if you don't want to participate in an alliance then there's no reason for Americans to be there. Or if they're going to tell the Germans why should 80,000 Americans be in Germany.

So, I think there's a mood in America now that we're going to be more pre-emptive, unilateral, but from the point of view of American security, and the world's going to have to understand if they're going to be so deductively anti-American, then their own security will be in their own hands.

LEIGH SALES: So how you do think that's going to make the world look in, say, 25 years?

VICTOR DAVID HANSON: I'm very worried about that, because I think the world was so worried about America, and when you have a European poll, as we saw this week, that said America was right up there with Israel, to be lumped together with Iran and North Korea, stretched to the world. And most Americans, be they Republican or Democrat, left or right, are going to want to wash their hands of these collective security arrangements.

And I think the Europeans are going to find out in about 10 years that we get another Balkans, or there's a madman in one of the Soviet republics, or there's a north African problem, it's all their problem, it's going to their concern.

LEIGH SALES: Is there a way that that scenario can be avoided?

VICTOR DAVID HANSON: I don't think so. I really don't. I think that what I've seen in America is a very strange political coalescence. Right now Republican and Democrats are angry at each other, and blaming each other.

But if you distil carefully and soberly what the message is, the message is on left and right it doesn't make much sense to force people to want to protect or do something in their own long-term security.

So, England, Australia, Japan – Americans are more than willing to participate with them, they have a high regard. But the Europeans, other people, they’re thinking well these people aren't worth it. Let ‘em go and do what they have to do on their own. That's going to be very, very important in the next 20 years.

LEIGH SALES: So then if you look ahead even further in say… to 50 years, or 100 years, how will the world look then?

VICTOR DAVID HANSON: I don't know. I think that the United States is going to have to look to its own national security interests, whether it's missile defence or it's bilateral relations with particular allies.

comments powered by Disqus