Paranoia about American Weakness Rests on a Flawed Understanding of History
For some members of the American foreign policy establishment, the world is permanently stuck in 1938 Munich. Ever since the Munich agreement and the strategy of “appeasement” failed to deter the start of the Second World War, some scholars have concluded that the only thing between global peace and complete chaos is the projection of American military strength around the world. The summer edition of the Hoover Digest features an article by Hoover Institution senior fellow Victor David Hanson based entirely on this facetious canard that is still somehow taken seriously as being the North Star of US foreign policy.
The crux of this way of thinking hinges upon a certain understanding of how wars start. Wars start, Hanson argues, because “innately aggressive cultures and governments, megalomania, and the desire for power, resources and empire prompt nations to bully or attack others.” Almost as an afterthought, he tacks on that “perceptions of self-interest are not to be discounted either.” But such perceptions are not to be found in the rest of Hanson’s analysis. Rather, Hanson paints a picture of a world full of fundamentally “bad guys” who have little more depth than that of a cliché comic-book supervillain.
Hanson cites the examples of N
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