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Old November 8th, 2012, 08:02 PM   #1
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Darkest before Dawn: VD Hanson on US military critical dates


By April 2007 there was a notorious defeatist statement of the then Senate majority leader Harry Reid (democrat, Nevada, still incumbent today) [sic]:
Quote:
"I believe myself that the secretary of state, secretary of defense and - you have to make your own decisions as to what the president knows - (know) this war is lost and the surge is not accomplishing anything as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday,
Source:

While reviewing some old articles I found this commentary posted in the Washington Post (29 April 2007) by the US military historian
Victor_Davis_Hanson Victor_Davis_Hanson
on Mr. Reid's statement [sic]:
Quote:
No.
The war is not lost -
- no more than it was in winter 1776, July 1864, December 1945 or November 1950.
The challenge is winning back hearts and minds at home, rather than in Iraq, where brave thousands join us each day to fight an evil sort the likes of which we haven't seen in recent memory.
Source:

Now, the point which truly fascinated yours truly was the critical review of Hanson's commentary by the journalist Greg Sargent [sic]:
Quote:
Even if it slipped the historian's mind, someone at the Washington Post should have remembered that World War II had ended by December 1945
(and the Cold War hadn't even started yet).
Hanson probably means December 1944, which was the Battle of the Bulge,
but no one thought the Battle of the Bulge meant that Germany was going to win the war.

July 1864 is almost as wacky as a choice for the darkest days of the Civil War:
In that month, Grant was besieging Lee at Petersburg-
-where he would be trapped for virtually the remainder of the war-
-and Sherman was surrounding Atlanta in preparation for burning it.
Things were looking incredibly bleak for the Confederacy at that point
—and sure enough, they were bleak.

Not much happened in the winter of 1775-76, and the biggest event in the winter of 1776-77 was Washington's victory at Trenton;
Hanson is probably referring to Valley Forge
—actually the winter of 1777-78
—since this is the official U.S. metaphor for toughing it out when things look grim.

He gets November 1950 right as the date when China entered the Korean War,
but it's not a great choice for making an always-darkest-before-the-dawn argument
—the U.S. and its allies would never retake much of the territory that they lost in November and December of 1950.

They say that those who don't know history are condemned to repeat it.
Maybe Hanson should have repeated it
—in summer school.
Read More: (Any emphasis is from each author)

That said, with whom would you agree more?
Mr. Hanson, Mr. Sargent or none of them?

As usual, any contribution will be highly welcomed.

Please explain your opinion as detailed as possible.

Thanks in advance
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Old November 9th, 2012, 05:44 AM   #2
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Politicians and journalists parrot the conventional wisdom of the day. Historians have better perspective.

Historians are not dependant on the sound bite or the daily article (forgotten tomorrow) for their jobs.

Warfare in the 21st century (as it has been for 50 years) will not be characterized by black-and-white issues; it will not have clearly defined goals, and it will not be ended by "unconditional surrender."

Although Victor Davis Hanson went away from Classical Greek warfare, where his reputation was made, his observations seem to me to have more validity than those of Messrs Reid and Sargent. Those gentlemen seem to think in terms of victory parades, and one of those will be be hard to find going forward. In other times, and other places, Mr. Reid's comments may have gotten him shot as a defeatist.
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Old November 9th, 2012, 07:22 AM   #3

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Originally Posted by pikeshot1600 View Post
In other times, and other places, Mr. Reid's comments may have gotten him shot as a defeatist.
Without getting too political, we know why those statements were made.....to undercut the other side. This is why I believe that all of them were incorrect (I agree with you on the parade statement), and that Hanson displayed naivete in his comments about winning hearts and minds at home. To me this is unnecessary as well as impossible for the simple fact that we are actually not in harms way. Without an enemy that can actually hurt us or even "destroy our way of life" (galvanizing us as a nation), a desire for a military defeat is actually desired in order to be turned into political fodder for the party that is out of executive power.

Just my humble two cents, and I hope that it makes a little sense as I have not had any caffeine yet. :P
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Old November 9th, 2012, 07:31 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by okamido View Post
Without getting too political, we know why those statements were made.....to undercut the other side. This is why I believe that all of them were incorrect (I agree with you on the parade statement), and that Hanson displayed naivete in his comments about winning hearts and minds at home. To me this is unnecessary as well as impossible for the simple fact that we are actually not in harms way. Without an enemy that can actually hurt us or even "destroy our way of life" (galvanizing us as a nation), a desire for a military defeat is actually desired in order to be turned into political fodder for the party that is out of executive power.

Just my humble two cents, and I hope that it makes a little sense as I have not had any caffeine yet. :P
Yes, of course it has political, and also editorial, purposes. Still, the implication is that contemporary warfare and its prosecution can be put on a spread sheet and analytically defined. It can't.

"Victory" in war pretty much went away after 1945.....Israeli wars and Falklands notwithstanding; even Gulf War I. None of those settled much. All the conflicts are still there.

NOW, go get the Starbucks, or a Caf-Pow. It is how you get your heart started!
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Old November 9th, 2012, 08:04 AM   #5

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Quote:
Originally Posted by pikeshot1600 View Post
"Victory" in war pretty much went away after 1945.....Israeli wars and Falklands notwithstanding; even Gulf War I. None of those settled much. All the conflicts are still there.
That's a good point.

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NOW, go get the Starbucks, or a Caf-Pow. It is how you get your heart started!
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