Superb. This interview has probably already been linked by fifty blogs but I’ll make it 51. Hanson is insightful as always. Totten is characteristically observant and thoughtful.
VDH: I’m worried about Iran, and I think we’re asking some of the wrong questions. It’s not just about whether or not Iran can be deterred. Even if Iran can be deterred, leaders like Ahmadinejad are going to periodically issue these proclamations about killing the Jews. I’ve read polls where Israelis are asked if they’ll leave the country if Iran develops a nuclear weapon. Some of them say yes. There’s a real worry that Iran will place this Sword of Damocles right over their heads, and a lot of them will just leave.
MJT: It would have to be awfully demoralizing.
VDH: It’s like living next to a crazy neighbor with a house full of guns who once in a while yells over the fence that he’s going to shoot your whole family, but never quite gives you a good enough reason to call the police. Who wants to live next to somebody like that?
VDH: This is what Obama does not understand.
MJT: I don’t believe Iran will actually nuke Israel, but I don’t believe that in quite the same way I believe France won’t nuke Israel. I’m 100 percent certain France won’t, but I’m not 100 percent sure Iran won’t.
VDH: But you can be 100 percent sure they’ll talk about it.
MJT: Absolutely. Ahmadinejad talks about it right now.
VDH: And he’ll keep doing it.
MJT: They’ll ramp up the belligerence in general. I mean, why wouldn’t they? Why would they suddenly dial it down once they’ve built a nuclear arsenal?
VDH: The administration is immature. There are millions of reform-minded Arabs in Jordan, Egypt, and the West Bank. There are millions in Lebanon. To the degree that they can function and try to create a liberal community of nations in that area is dependent on the United States opposing radicalism and allowing Middle Eastern governments to be hypocritical. What I mean is, let the Arab states complain about the meddling United States with the private understanding that they want us to oppose Al Qaeda and Iran. I’m worried that Obama believes this anti-Western rhetoric, or at least thinks it’s legitimate, and by voting “present” he sold out all these people. They’ll just go back into their shell or make the necessary accommodations.
We saw this in the 1930s in places like Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania. People there accepted that hardly anyone would speak out against Hitler, that if they aligned themselves with Britain, Britain wouldn’t do anything for them.
MJT: Look at the Lebanese. They now have the United States “engaging” with the people who have been trashing their country and murdering their elected officials with car bombs. France is now “engaging” Damascus. Sarkozy was supposed to be an improvement over Chirac, but I’m beginning to doubt he really is.
VDH: This a confusing period. There’s a lot of irony. Look back at the period when Europe had it both ways, when we defended them while they mouthed off, when they undermined us and Bush pushed back.
Now compare that to what Obama is doing. He’s almost smiling while selling out Europe. He’s trying to become even more left than they are on foreign policy. On one hand, the Europeans are getting what they deserve, but they are Westerners, they are a positive force in the world, and what we’re doing is dangerous.
MJT: It seems to unnerve the Europeans now that Obama is to their left.
VDH: It does.
MJT: They seem uncomfortable being to the right of the United States in some ways.
VDH: I had an interesting conversation two years ago just before Obama’s election with some military people in Versailles. They were at a garden party, and everybody was for Obama. But an admiral said to me, “We are Obama. You can’t be Obama.”
Everybody looked at him. And I said, “What do you mean?”
He said, “There’s only room for one Obama.”
I said, “So we’re supposed to do what? Take out Iran while you trash us?”
And he said, “Right out of my mouth. I couldn’t have said it better. Bush understood our relationship. We have to make accommodations with our public, which is lunatic. You don’t really believe there’s going to be an EU strike force, do you? Nobody here believes that. If you become neutral, what are we supposed to do?”
That’s what he said. I was surprised at his candor. And it’s worrisome. On the one hand I like it because they’re getting just what they asked for, but on the other hand, it’s tragic. And it’s dangerous. We shouldn’t be doing this.
10 thoughts on “Totten Interviews Hanson”
The comments are interesting. There is a very hostile series of comments coming from what appears to be the Buchanan wing of a “conservative” fringe. They link to The American Conservative magazine which I have never read. It is so strange to see these pieces by people who seem to be far beyond anything I’ve seen Buchanan say. I guess it is true that the left and right meet on the other side of rationality.
There is also some amusing byplay as the anti-“neocons” complain that Totten doesn’t know what he is talking about. Michael Totten, like Michael Yon, is the essence of experiential reporting. He has driven across Kurdistan. He toured Kosovo last year and finally figured out that he was getting dirty looks because his rental car had Serbian plates. I don’t know anyone who has more first hand experience at what I like to call the worm’s eye view.
Totten has become increasingly good with experience.
Interesting that you mention the comments. I don’t usually read the comments on Totten’s site. Some blogs have excellent posts but a poor signal/noise ratio in their comments. Megan McArdle’s site and Volokh are also in this category.
“This is what Obama does not understand care about.”
There, I fixed it for you.
Crap, that was “understand” was supposed to be strike-through’d. Here, I’ll fix it for me, too:
“This is what Obama does not care about.”
There, I fixed it for you.
“We have to make accommodations with our public, which is lunatic. ”
Struck a chord with me. We’ve all gone crazy lately.
“There is a very hostile series of comments coming from what appears to be the Buchanan wing of a “conservative” fringe”
Michael Kennedy, how about some examples or at least a synopsis….I don’t necessarily want to go there myeslf!
Ever since I saw Totten’s reportages from Georgian War close to 2 years ago I was skeptical about him. He, indeed, did not know what he was talking about. He didn’t seem to grasp a difference in value or weight of the opinion of the guy in a bazaar’ stall he interviewed on the street, and someone with information beyond rumors. He appeared to be looking for confirmations for his pre-conceived considerations, mostly very sketchy and rather simplistic. A lot of people on the ground that I read then, including the ones in Georgia, Abkhazia and Ossetia, dismissed his “findings” – and with good arguments.
I don’t know, maybe as you said he improves with experience – I haven’t read him since. This conversation is good, though – but mostly due to VDH.
Tatyana, you may be right about him. However, this interview stands on its own and I think it’s good.
Totten reminds me a bit of Brian Lamb of C-SPAN, who is a good interviewer even though he often either knows little about the topic he is covering, or is trying to keep the interview on a level that can be understood by naive viewers.
I like Brian Lamb. (*said in same tone you demonstrated with the sentence “I like George Bush”. Still chuckling.*)
OK, maybe I should give Totten more credit.
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