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The Martial Plan, or Pox Woguli
on January 18, 2003
This is propaganda; pity there isn�t a more positive word for it, for these calls to arms are as substantial and thought-provoking as they were timely at their original publication. It�s not easy to convert good columns into a good book. Hanson wisely packages these essays as being of a specific place and time, rather than trying to conflate and inflate them into a single piece of bigthink.
The pieces have aged well. Hanson is full of praise for our military, and full of threats for our enemies. The news media emphasized our mistakes, but the American military and diplomatic achievement in Afghanistan was remarkable. What the lumbering Soviet army couldn�t do in eight years, a few units of American sea, air and air-mobile forces did in three months. With plenty of help from local friendlies, which the Sovs also didn�t have much luck keeping.
His historical satires, in which he mocks the hypothetical responses of contemporary liberals to great moments of decision in our past, are savagely funny. The high-handed dim-wittedness that he puts in the mouths of Ted Koppel and Peter Jennings in response to the Doolittle Raid are laugh-out-loud hilarious, depending on your POV.
Hanson has also read his Bernard Lewis and Samuel Huntington, and incisively details the now-familiar reasons that Islamic lands are so backward and resentful of the West. It�s a lesson that can�t be learned too thoroughly, especially when so many other voices insist upon their negative faith in America the Bad. Consensual, secular self-government is unglamorous, but is still a rare gift from history.
He makes many appeals to our own martial past, as well as the deeper, wider Western past, invoking Lepanto, Thermopylae, and Marathon in addition to Pearl Harbor and Okinawa. He execrates the American Left hot and strong, and deservedly so. In contrast to the amoral, irony-crippled, ideology-addled elites, he posits a sturdy, plucky yeomanry, good and true and brave and morally unblinkered. This is more problematic, as I didn�t find it very hard to find �ordinary working folks� who wanted no part of the war, and who also thought the Israelis were getting what they deserved in the wave of suicide bombings. But it was indeed instructive to see the psychic indigestion *some* people got from viewing all those American flags flying everywhere that autumn.
Toward the end, his columns drift into speculation about what to do about Iraq�s weapons of mass destruction program. The sitzkrieg that developed after the conclusion of the Afghanistan war seemed to give the lie to the urgency of that problem, though the reasons Hanson advanced were still current among proponents of military action to remove Saddam. So this is that journalistic rarity, a collection of columns that is of lasting value. Inspiring.