‘The End of Everything’: Victor Davis Hanson on the Gravest Threats to America

‘The End of Everything’: Victor Davis Hanson on the Gravest Threats to America
Jan Jekielek
Jeff Minick

In a recent episode of American Thought Leaders, host Jan Jekielek sat down with classicist and military historian Victor Davis Hanson. In his new book “The End of Everything: How Wars Descend into Annihilation,” Mr. Hanson looks at four civilizations that were utterly destroyed by their enemies, then draws comparisons between the United States and its enemies, both domestic and foreign.

Jan Jekielek: Victor, I’m going to start with something you wrote, “We see a recurring universally human theme across time and space. The doomed at the brink of civilizational destruction have an attitude partly born of hubris and partly born of naivete, perhaps best summed up as, ‘It cannot happen to us.’”

Victor Davis Hanson: When one side loses a war, the typical follow-up is that they surrender. They’re not annihilated. But every once in a while, that doesn’t happen.

I was curious to see why it didn’t happen in these few instances. I selected four of the maybe 20 that are known: classical Thebes that had been around for 1100 years, Carthage for 800-plus years, Constantinople for almost 1200 years, and Tenochtitlan we don’t quite know about.

They felt they were invulnerable. When these occasions arose, they felt they could finesse it, negotiate it, or win it.

Mr. Jekielek: It comes back to, “This can’t happen to us, these walls have never been penetrated.” In our society today, we forget about the lessons of history. What is the biggest lesson from Carthage?

Mr. Hanson: One is understanding the invader. They had no idea that the Romans had global aspirations and wanted to control the entire Mediterranean. They didn’t realize that they were the only obstacle, and no matter what they did, they would be interpreted as an obstacle. They thought they could reason with the Romans.

But the Romans were tired of them. Their attitude was, “They ran wild in Italy for 19 years and we’re sick of them. We’re going to land this huge force and we’ll give them an ultimatum.” Once they disarmed, the Romans thought, “Now what? As soon as we leave, they’ll rearm again.”

The Romans had a renewed demand, “You have to destroy your city so you won’t be able to have a Navy. You won’t be able to go into the Mediterranean if you’re way inland.” They couldn’t do that. At that point there was a riot, and they killed some of the leaders who had acquiesced to the initial Roman demand. They felt they had a good chance to survive. They had 500,000 people. They were larger than Rome at the time. They were probably as wealthy as Rome. They felt they were better at sea than Rome. They could rebuild their fleet. But they had no idea of what Rome’s intentions were. All of the power of the Roman Republic would be directed at Carthage.

Mr. Jekielek: You’re facing difficult odds, but you still think, “Nothing bad can happen to us.”

Mr. Hanson: Yes. Look at the United States as a declining power and China as an ascending power. We think, “We won two world wars, we created the post-war order, we spend the most money on defense of any country. When we want to win, we can, and therefore we should downplay China.”

If you were Carthage, you would think that way. If you were analytical today, you would say, “Wait a minute. We’re $36 trillion in debt. We’re borrowing $1 trillion every 100 days. We’re 45,000 people short in the military. Our cities are full of crime. China has an agenda to emasculate the United States. They’re building nuclear weapons and ships faster than we are. They have nearly five times the population of the United States.”

That would be a realistic assessment, but we don’t hear that. We just hear, “We’re the United States, the cultural capital of the world and the wealthiest of anybody.”

This decline is self-inflicted.

Mr. Jekielek: We have Xi Jinping saying, “We are waging a people’s war against America.” It can’t be any clearer than that. But somehow we’re not aware.

Mr. Hanson: That’s exactly the same with the Aztecs. When Cortes set foot in that city, Montezuma’s brother said, “He’s not a god. He’s a killer. He bleeds, he eats, he defecates. These people will destroy us.” But he was not listened to.

We’re like these ancient societies who were paralyzed by fear and inaction.

Mr. Jekielek: Our producers have collected questions from the audience during this live Q&A. The next question is, “Who is the greatest threat to the Republic, foreign enemies or domestic enemies?

Mr. Hanson: Domestic. The greatest threat is somebody with an advanced graduate degree in the media, high tech, or government who has utopian impulses and feels morally or intellectually superior to the rest of us. Therefore, they think any methods are permissible in order to reach their dream. All of our institutions are under assault by messianic people who believe they have better education, and are wealthier and more virtuous.

Mr. Jekielek: Here’s another question, “What does Victor Davis Hanson tell his family to do? What practical solutions does he have?”

Mr. Hanson: I tell them to be proactive first, because I believe you have to work within the system. I tell them, “You have to vote. You have to speak up among your friends. You’ve got to be an active citizen in order to stop the madness.” I tell my children, “Monitor what they’re teaching your children.”

We’re in new territory, and our agencies and institutions have become so warped they’re plotting for short-term political gain. The irony is that the people who are doing this say, “Democracy dies in darkness.”

Everybody’s got to get active. Vote, help people get to the polls, speak up, write to your local paper, volunteer to observe the election. Do whatever you can to be engaged.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Jan Jekielek is a senior editor with The Epoch Times, host of the show “American Thought Leaders” and co-host of “FALLOUT” with Dr. Robert Malone and “Kash’s Corner” with Kash Patel. Jan’s career has spanned academia, international human rights work, and now for almost two decades, media. He has interviewed nearly a thousand thought leaders on camera, and specializes in long-form discussions challenging the grand narratives of our time. He’s also an award-winning documentary filmmaker, producing “The Unseen Crisis: Vaccine Stories You Were Never Told,” “DeSantis: Florida vs. Lockdowns,” and “Finding Manny.”
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