Victor David Hanson, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, has written an open letter to Europe asking us to “reawake, rediscover your heritage, and join with us in defending the idea of the West from this latest illiberal scourge of Islamic fascism.” It is getting some play in the usual right-wing quarters, despite his extraordinary lack of knowledge about Europe – and that’s a kind interpretation; others might suggest (as does Gary Brecher, here, analysing his take on Iraq) that he is simply making things up.
Alexander Rubio has responded here (copied here) speaking to Hanson’s take on Iraq, and he has been mildly mocked elsewhere. But I think this misses the point. The simple fact is that Hanson knows very little about what is going on in the outside world. (I’m grateful to my co-blogger Alex Harrowell for some of the points below.)
He writes that “recently, Europeans have been taken hostage on the West Bank, Yemen, and Iraq. All have been released. There are two constants in the stories: Some sort of blackmail was no doubt involved (either cash payments or the release of terrorist killers in European jails?), and the captives often seem to praise the moderation of their captors.” The use of “no doubt” is telling, indicating that Hanson actually doesn’t know; I have obviously missed the media accounts of terrorists being released from European jails; the Italians freed in Yemen had nice things to say about the country as a whole but called their kidnappers “criminals”; the French engineer recently liberated in Baghdad has said nothing at all in public; and I obviously also missed the reports of recent kidnapping in the West Bank (though the hostages recently freed in Gaza did say that they had been “treated well” in captivity, which is not quite the same thing as praising their captors for moderation).
He writes that “a single, though bloody, attack in Madrid changed an entire Spanish election, and prompted the withdrawal of troops from Iraq â€” although the terrorists nevertheless continued, despite their promises to the contrary, to plant bombs and plan assassinations of Spanish judicial officials.” I obviously missed these promises from the terrorists, unless perhaps Hanson is the last person around who still thinks that the Madrid bombings were carried out by ETA (presumably their little-known Islamic wing, to fit with the rest of his thesis).
He writes that “only two places in the world are now safe for a Jew to live in safety â€” and Europe, the graveyard of 20th-century Jewry, is tragically not among them.” Are you more likely to be blown up in Lyon or Tel Aviv?
He writes that “In the post-Cold War you dismantled your armed forces, and chose to enhance entitlements at the expense of military readiness. I fear you counted only on a tried and simple principle: That the United States would continue to subsidize European defense while ignoring your growing secular religion of anti-Americanism.” What did the US do after 1992 except enhancing tax cuts at the expense of military readiness – closing scores of bases worldwide, downsizing army divisions, reducing NORAD to the four F-15s it had on duty on the morning of September 11, 2001?
He writes that European “courts indict American soldiers, often a few miles from the very military garrisons that alone protect you.” Can this be a reference to Mario Lozano, of the New York National Guard, who appears to have fired the fatal shots that killed Italian intelligence agent Nicola Calipari in Iraq in March last year? He has not yet, in fact, been indicted, so perhaps Hanson is referring to some other case?
He writes that “a mass murderer like Slobodan Milosevic could operate with impunity in Europe until removed by the intervention of the United States”. Well, in fact Milosevic was removed by his own people, in a democratic (sort-of) election; and those of us who were involved at the time certainly recall moments when the West, including the United States, appeared to be colluding in keeping him in power.
Towards the end he descends into total nonsense. “A European Union that facilitates trade, finance, and commerce can enrich and ennoble your continent, but it need not suppress the unique language, character, and customs of European nationhood itself, much less abdicate a heritage that once not merely moralized about, but took action to end, evil.” Can anyone interpret this paragraph in terms that make sense? What is the unique language of European nationhood – Proto-Indo-European (apologies to the Finns, Hungarians, Estonians, Basques, etc)?
Hanson’s appeal for a strong Europe, in alliance with the United States, is not at all unreasonable (and therefore his insistence that “the European Union is a flawed notion and will not survive to fulfill its present aspirations” is rather puzzling). His analysis of what is actually going on in Europe, however, is utterly ludicrous. (Apparently we are a nest of “childlessness, pacifism, socialism, and hedonism” – what’s so bad about hedonism, anyway?) It all seems to prove that old saying, that the problem with left-wing nutters is that they read only left-wing nutty literature, and the problem with right-wing nutters is that they read nothing at all.