Victor Davis Hanson: Called a "Fabulist" by Andrew Sullivan





In his NRO splutter this morning, military expert Victor Davis Hanson hyperbolized the following:

No one necessarily believes anything in once respected magazines, whether the Periscope section of Newsweek or anything published in The New Republic.

Let me suggest two articles in The New Republic that no one should have believed at the time, two articles that have been debunked by subsequent events, two articles that reveal spectacular misjudgment about the war in Iraq, two articles that should consign the author to irrelevance, unless he has explicitly explained why he was wrong and apologized. The two articles, of course, are by Victor Davis Hanson. Let's roll the tape, shall we? The first is an argument that counter-insurgency works best when American troops stay in their tanks and kill people. It's a June 2004 defense of a strategy not exactly identical with the Petraeus strategy Hanson is now touting. Money quote:

For their part, American troops have discovered that they are safer on the assault when they can fire first and kill killers, rather than simply patrol and react, hoping their newly armored Humvees and fortified flak vests will deflect projectiles.

This is the context for the current insistence on more troops. America's failure to promptly retake Falluja or rid Najaf of militiamen demands more soldiers to garrison the ever more Fallujas and Najafs that will now surely arise. In contrast, audacity is a force multiplier. A Sadr in chains or in paradise is worth more, in terms of deterrence, than an entire infantry division.

There are other advantages to a force of some 138,000 rapidly responding soldiers, rather than 200,000 or so garrison troops. The more American troops, the less likely it is Iraqis will feel any obligation to step up to the responsibilities of their own defense. The more troops, the more psychological reliance on numbers than on performance of individual units. And, the more troops, the higher the profile of culturally bothersome Americans who disturb by their mere omnipresence, rather than win respect for their proven skill in arms.

So Hanson was a key voice arguing against the counter-insurgency strategy now being pursued belatedly and with too few troops in Iraq. But now Bush has signed on, Hanson is on board and busy excoriating the media. Let's not hold our breath for intellectual accountability, shall we? Let's instead go back to February 2005 as well, where Hanson saw the then-strategy, which even Bush has now disowned, as the right one:

The third and best alternative is to continue on the present path of countrywide reconstruction in hopes that the democratic process will begin to create a momentum of its own - as we have seen in the scenes of genuine post-election rejoicing. Soon there will be a psychological shift as Iraqis begin to blame other Iraqis - rather than Americans - for shortfalls of power or gasoline and start to appreciate the difficulties that the United States has faced.

And, contrarily, the praise for establishing the Arab world's first democratically elected nation will empower the reformers, as nationalists will gradually become less vulnerable to charges of collusion with the infidel...

As the United States has refined its tactics and learned more about the terrorists, its losses in recent weeks have fluctuated, but they are not steadily increasing from month to month. Meanwhile, American soldiers are killing or capturing more insurgents than before--15,000 in 2004, according to an estimate by General George Casey--who are now primarily confined to four of 18 provinces. At the same time, the Arab world is beginning to see elections take hold in the Islamic world--in Afghanistan, the West Bank, and now Iraq. And that fact will eventually be fatal for Al Qaeda and Baathists alike. We cannot appreciate these positive symptoms in our despair over the post-invasion period.

Yes, Victor Davis Hanson is right in some respects. Some things that have been published in The New Republic are things that no one should believe. The more ambitious fabulist is not Scott Beauchamp, however. It's Victor Davis Hanson.



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