Military history has a moral purpose, and national decline is always a choice

The following are the two final questions and answers from Uncommon Knowledge interviews with Victor Davis Hanson:

Peter Robinson: Final question, from [VDH’s book] “The Father of Us All”:

“Military history has a moral purpose. If we know nothing of Shiloh, Belleau Wood, Tarawa, and Chosin, then these sacrifices no longer serve as reminders that thousands endured pain and hardship for our rights and that the departed expected future generations, links in this great chain of obligation, to do the same for those not yet born.”

Victor, in this country today are we reaching the end of that great chain of obligation?

Victor Davis Hanson: I’m worried. I’m worried because there are a lot of reasons to study military history. We could go on and on but one reason that’s never mentioned is you have a moral obligation to acknowledge the ultimate sacrifice of thousands of Americans in their youth. When you go to Walmart today and we see all that plethora of goods and that instant credit, we have to understand that there’s somebody we don’t even know, don’t even care about who died in a place like Okinawa or who died at Shiloh, who died at Valley Forge for that opportunity.

I was on the American Commission for Battle Monuments Overseas and just to walk through a place like Ham or Normandy or the Argonne and see all those white crosses, nobody knows their names, nobody knows what 8th Air Force means anymore, nobody knows what 101st means and yet those people gave their all for us and yet we have turned American history into melodrama. “Americans were genocidal.” “Americans had slavery,” never that compared to the alternative we were far better than worse and we were good and a certain number of people sacrificed for us and we have to appreciate them rather than damn their memory. I’m very worried about it.

Military history and acknowledgment of the collective sacrifice of American young people in the past should be the ultimate topic in our high schools and schools. Every class, every school should have some acquaintance, some mention of places like Tarawa or places like Guadalcanal or places like Belleau Wood.

Click here to watch the entire interview.

Click here to read the transcript.


Peter Robinson: Victor, last question. To ensure then – so you see a sense of possibility here. You don’t see things inevitably closing in. This is not Greek tragedy. This is not an inevitable closing in on the United States that once was. To ensure that the 21st Century is as much an American Century as the 20th, what do we need to do?

Dr. Hanson: Decline is a choice, it always is by every society. When Rome fell apart in the 5th century, its enemies were just a fraction of what they were during the Punic Wars, six hundred years earlier. What we need to do is to ensure that we’re a meritocratic state and that people advance or fail according to their skill, their hard work, their ambition, and their knowledge and skill expertise. And we have to have a transparent lawful society. We have to have a dynamic economy.

And if we decide that we are no longer an equality of opportunity society, but we’re going to be an equality of result and you look at where that leads to, whether it’s Venezuela, Cuba, the EU, Greece, or the pernicious forms in the former Eastern Europe, it leads nowhere to serfdom.

So that’s the real question. The United States has got everything it needs: it’s got a large population, it’s the only truly multi-racial successful state in the world, it’s got a wonderful constitution. We inherited infrastructure and expertise and traditions from our forefathers.

However, if we think that we’re not going to be good unless we’re perfect and we are going to socially engineer predetermined results about human nature and we are going to do this with a technocratic class, like Plato’s overseers or guardians, and we are going to have an all powerful monolithic state that’s going to direct our lives and destroy American initiative, then yeah, we are going to end up like England in 1950 – it’s inevitable.

Click here to watch the entire interview.

Click here to read the transcript.