Okay, I respect Mollie Hemingway of The Federalist as one of the few commentators who analyze events calmly, without the partisan hysteria and confirmation bias that’s so glaringly obvious on the right as well as the left. But when I saw this tweet touting Victor Davis Hanson as a “great historian,” I had to laugh: if his revisionist “history” of the Iraq war, which he fulsomely supported, is any indication of his skills in this realm, then we’ll have to redefine greatness as the ability to express a large number of falsehoods without pausing for breath. According to Hanson, we won the Iraq war, which was a great success up until the time when we inexplicably abandoned our great victory and headed homeward: the rise of ISIS, the triumph of Iranian influence, and the rather humiliating expulsion of US troops by order of the Iraqi government don’t figure in this “historical” account.
For anyone who takes ideas seriously, Chase Madar’s parody in The American Conservative should’ve put Hanson in his proper place. I guess Mollie must’ve missed that one.
In any case, according to Hemingway, Hanson’s alleged genius is supposedly illustrated in an interview with Laura Ingraham on Fox, wherein the Russian bogeyman is debunked – in favor of the idea that it’s Beijing, and not the Kremlin, that’s the real threat to our precious bodily fluids.
What evidence is there of Beijing’s evil intent? Well, let’s see:
“China has got ten times the GDP of Russia, five times the population. It is a real threat. [China] is sort of doing what Japan did in the 1930s, with the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, so it goes to these neighbors, the Philippines, Japan, and it says, ‘The U.S. is in isolation, it is on the wane, so cut a deal with us.’”
Since we’re now measuring threat level by GDP, I would note that California has a much bigger economy than Russia, and the level of anti-Americanism in the Sunshine State is surely comparable and considerably more intense. So why pick on the Chinese?
Well, because those sneaky yellow people are always up to something! If it’s not the Japs, with their Co-Prosperity Sphere, or those cranky Koreans, it’s the Chinese – I mean, how many Chinese restaurants do you think there are in the world? And just look at those militaristic menus: General Tso’s chicken! My god, it’ll burn your tongue off if you’re not careful!
As I’ve pointed out on numerous occasions, China is a paper tiger. Their huge multi-million man army is basically a domestic police force, kept stationed in places where internal unrest is likely to break out – western China, Tibet, and around the capital, where the threat of a coup – a constant possibility in a totalitarian state – is always on the minds of the leaders.
Ever since Deng Xiaoping’s “to get rich is glorious” campaign, which overthrew radical Maoism and put economic development at the center of the Communist Party’s goals, the disparity between the economic and political spheres has grown until a social explosion seems almost inevitable. To forestall this, the Party has launched an “anti-corruption” campaign which seems designed to take out all rivals to the Maximum Leader, Xi Jinping. At the present moment they’re trying to create a cult of personality around Xi, and greatly increasing his power, but his leadership is far from unchecked.
The number and ferocity of strikes has markedly increased in recent years as China’s meteoric growth slows and economic expectations collide with economic reality. In China’s far West, the Uighur minority is in open rebellion, and the Peoples’ Liberation Army is currently battling a full-fledged guerrilla movement. The proliferation of Ponzi schemes has led to a government crackdown amid fear of popular protest. The rise of Chinese feminism is also a headache for the government, which is seeking to suppress the nascent movement.
China is too big to be governed efficiently, and too populous for a totalitarian dictatorship to keep tabs on everyone – or even most people. In short, it’s all the Chinese leaders can do to keep a lid on their own population, never mind absorbing any of their neighbors.
Hanson’s nonsensical characterization of China as a “real threat” betrays a complete ignorance of the subject – and tells us more about the conservatives’ need for an enemy than anything substantive about the politics of the region. The Chinese don’t want to invade us – except with cheap (and increasingly high quality) goods. Why would they want to make war on one of their principal markets? Chinese investment in America is at an all-time high.
Hanson, to his credit, disdains the “crazy hysteria over Russia,” only to replace one form of hysteria with another. This “threat” from China is why we need a bigger navy, he avers. Yes, there’s always a budgetary reason why one faction of militarists insists on a particular “enemy” scenario: the Army is the generator of Russophobia, since preparations for fighting a land war in Europe and Central Asia against the Kremlin give the generals more money to play with. Follow the money!
The United States currently has no rivals worthy of the name anywhere on earth. Not Russia, not China, not anyone or anything can compete with the US as the premier superpower – the one and only “hyper-power,” as the French have dubbed us – in the world. This may be a blessing, or – in the end – a curse. But surely one of the hazards of playing this role is the realization that “there is no security at the top of the world,” as the Old Right seer Garet Garrett put it at the dawn of the cold war era. Living at such heights induces a kind of vertigo, and perhaps a touch of paranoia, too, as the lofty view affords a constant search for enemies over the horizon.
Our real enemies are all internal, a lesson conservatives are just beginning to learn as the Deep State seeks to undo the last presidential election. However, I have the feeling that the Victor Davis Hansons of this world will always fail this particular tutorial.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.