Classicist Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author of hundreds of articles, book reviews, and newspaper editorials on Greek, agrarian, and military history and essays on contemporary culture. He has written or edited twenty-four books, the latest of which is The End of Everything: How Wars Descend into Annihilation. The book—and this conversation—charts how and why some societies choose to utterly destroy their foes and warns that similar wars of obliteration are possible in our time. Hanson provides a warning to current societies not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

To view the full transcript of this episode, read below:

Peter Robinson: It may not happen often, but sometimes, sometimes, entire civilizations die in a single day. Historian Victor Davis Hanson on Uncommon Knowledge Now. Welcome to Uncommon Knowledge.

Peter Robinson: I'm Peter Robinson, a fellow at the Hoover Institution here at Stanford. Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and military historian. Dr. Hanson has published more than two dozen major works of history, including A War Like No Other, his classic work on the Peloponnesian Wars. Victor Davis Hanson's newest book, The End of Everything, How Wars Descend into Annihilation. Victor, thanks for joining me.

Victor Davis Hanson: Thank you for having me, Peter.

Peter Robinson: First question, The Destruction of Thebes by Alexander the Great, The Obliteration of Carthage by the Romans, The Defeat of Constantinople by the Turks, and The Destruction of the Aztecs by Cortez. Those are your four case studies in this book. All those happened a while ago. Why write this book now?

Victor Davis Hanson: I was curious, most of my career, I've been curious why Thebes, or I can go into the details, but why these...

Peter Robinson: We'll come to it.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes, we'll come to it.

Victor Davis Hanson: Why these civilizations were not just defeated, but were annihilated. And there were others. I had, there's a wide array in the ancient world, the island of Milos, towns in the Peloponnesian war like Schioni, et cetera. And this is very different than natural disasters like the Mycenaeans, et cetera. But I was wondering if there was a typology, a repeating pattern, and if it would be applicable to any of the value. And I found that there was, both on the part of the attacker, certain a mindset, and on the part of the defender, and that those situations that we think could not happen today, because we're supposedly a postmodern moral world.

Peter Robinson: We're more advanced than they were, Victor.

Victor Davis Hanson: That's what we think. And it's there...So in the epilogue, I just did a brief survey. Well, not a brief survey, but I did a survey of countries that are very vulnerable as described, either in the nature of their enemies and the intent of their enemies, or the neighborhood in which they reside, or their size, or their limits. So for example, there's only 12 million Greeks in the world.

Peter Robinson: Right.

Victor Davis Hanson: There's Cypriots, but Greeks, and they have a lot, they have a bad neighborhood, and they have been existentially threatened by the Turks, especially the present government. Israel is another example. The Kurds are an example. The Armenians are still an example. And all of them have had a history where at times people thought they would be existentially gone, because that was the intent. And yet, we feel that today when somebody threatens to wipe somebody out, either with nuclear weapons or with conventional weapons, we discount that. That can't happen.

Peter Robinson: It's mere hyperbole.

Victor Davis Hanson: In the epilogue, I think I mentioned maybe a half a dozen, or maybe even a dozen direct threats by various Turkish figures, Russian, Chinese, where they actually threaten to destroy and wipe out, whether it's Ukraine or Taiwan, or the Armenians, or Greeks, or Israel.

Peter Robinson: And the argument is, take that possibility seriously, because every so often it really does happen.

Victor Davis Hanson: Maybe so often the exception that nobody thinks, the unimaginable, or what people think it can't happen here does happen here.

Peter Robinson: The end of everything presents almost 300 pages of your usual approach, which is meticulous, thorough, and engrossing historical writing.This is television.We can't go into it that deeply.But I would like to touch on these case studies at least briefly, because even put in some reform, my feeling was as I went through the book, even in some reform, every one of them is just fascinating and surprising in some way. All right. Thebes, the end of everything, I'm quoting you. In 335 BC, the Thebans not only revolted against the Macedonian occupation of Greece, but defiantly dared Alexander the Great to take the legendary city, that is to take Thebes itself. He did just that. All right. Briefly, the significance of Thebes, it was a major city. Who were the Macedonians? Set it up. Who were the Macedonians? And who is this brilliant figure who arises as a very young man, Alexander the Great?

Victor Davis Hanson: Well for 20 years prior to 335, Philip II of Macedon...

Peter Robinson: Alexander's father.

Victor Davis Hanson: Alexander's father had taken a backwater area that was deprecated as uncivilized by Greeks.

Peter Robinson: The northern mountainous region.

Victor Davis Hanson: The mountainous region of today is parts of northern Greece and the autonomous state of so-called Macedon, Macedonia. And he had forged a imperial power. He borrowed...he was a hostage at Thebes when he was a young man himself and he learned from the great master of Pamanondas about Greek military tactics. He lengthened the Sarissa. He did all of his military war.

Peter Robinson: The Sarissa is..

Victor Davis Hanson: Pike. So he innovated and improved on Greek phalanx warfare, fighting in Colum. And it was a juggernaut and he came from the north and he conquered at the Battle of Carinea three years prior to this. He destroyed Greek freedom by this...basically it was an army of Thebans and Athenians and a few other city states and they were conquered and they were occupied and there was no longer a truly consensual government in these cities, 1500 city states.

And he had a plan or an agenda that said, "I will unite you and even though you think I'm semi-barbarous..." Macedonian, it was sort of hard to understand. You could understand it, the language and the tradition. But it had no culture, the Greeks thought, but we're going to unite and take Persia and pay them back for a century of slights and get rich in the process.

And the Greeks revolted in 335. He died, he was assassinated and he had his 21-year-old son who had been at the Battle of Carinea at 18 and had been spectacular in defeating the Theban and they didn't take him seriously.

Peter Robinson: The Thebans or the Greek city states in general?

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes, they thought, "You know what?"

Peter Robinson: He's a kid.

Victor Davis Hanson: And who's going to take over from Philip II? He was a genius and he's got bastard children here and concubines there and he's got this one guy named Alexander and it's, "Don't take him, we're going to revolt." And everybody said, "Well, we hear about him and he's kind of fanatic, be careful, but we're willing to revolt if you revolt first." And Thebes was at this time legendary because it's the legendary home of Oedipus and Antigone. It's the fountain of Greek mythology. It has kind of a dark history because bad things happen at Thebes like Oedipus kills his father or Antigone is executed.

Peter Robinson: Not a lot of cheerful stories.

Victor Davis Hanson: In Euripides' Bacchae, it's under the shadows of Mount Cthyrum. But the point is that it had been under a Pamanondas, a Pythagorean, enlightened society. The first really expansive democracy was trying to democratize the Peloponnese. So it was the moral leader at this point. It happened to be...

Peter Robinson: Roughly how big a population is.

Victor Davis Hanson: It was small. It was somewhere between 15 and 25,000 citizens and maybe at most 5 or 10,000 residents. But it was the capital of what we would call today in English a province called Boeotia. And that probably had somewhere around 150 to 250 and it was the capital that subjugated that.

Peter Robinson: Okay.

Victor Davis Hanson: But it has separate dialect, Theban dialect was different than the Boeotian dialect and it was the stellar city. So Alexander then says, "If you revolt, we're going to come down." So he eliminates his enemies. He starts to march. The Athenians are egging the Thebans on and said, "Don't worry, we'll come." And the Spartans are going to come, both of them in decline. And the long and the short of it is he arrives there. The Thebans mock him. They think we can replay the Battle of Carinea, we'll win. And all of a sudden, when he shows up, they have no idea who he is. They don't know what he's intending. Had they studied his career, they would see he's a killer and he's a genius and he's about ready to conquer the Persian Empire. And he needs to have a solid home front and he means business and he doesn't play by the rules. And the rules of Greek warfare, except for the Peloponnese, you don't destroy your enemy. You don't, even Athens as it lost the Peloponnesian War, they did not destroy Athens. The Spartans and the Thebans. So Spartans say they're going to come, the Athenians are going to help them, they egg them on, they revolt, they kill the Macedonian garrison, are they imprison them? And Alexander pulls up with this huge army. You can't get 200 miles from the north in 10 days. You can if you're Alexander. You march at 20 plus miles a day. He pulls up, they build siegecraft and...

Peter Robinson: Is it fair to say he's a little bit like Napoleon?

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes.

Peter Robinson: He's shocking.

Victor Davis Hanson: He's quick, or Caesar, quickness of Caesar and Napoleon, audacity, it's like Donton. And the Spartans dissipate and the Athenians dissipate.

Peter Robinson: You're on your own.

Victor Davis Hanson: You're on your own and they think, this is the seven gates of Thebes, the magnificent walls of Thebes. We've only been broached once after the Persian War. We can endure, we're on the defensive, we've got this wonderful army, we'll go out in front of the...and they're defeated. And they think...

Peter Robinson: But not just defeated.

Victor Davis Hanson: Not defeated. They think they can negotiate, I think. And he says, "I'm gonna kill every single person that's over the age of 16. I'm gonna enslave every woman and child." But you know what? I will save the descendants of Pindar, the poet, his house, and maybe some religious shrines and he levels the city down to the foundations and there are no more Thebans. Later the Macedoians will take the site and bring in other people, other Greeks.

And so there is no longer a Theban who have been there for two millennia. They're gone.

Peter Robinson: They have their own culture, their own history. It is recognized as such by the entire Greek-speaking world and they even have their own, not quite their own language, but their own dialect. And it just ends.

Victor Davis Hanson: And some of the surrounding Vyoshan villages, of course, don't like them so they join Alexander and they haul off the marble columns, they haul off the roof tiles, they level it. After Alexander's death, some two decades later, they think it's be good propaganda to refound Thebes and they call it Thebes, which is the modern city today, but it's not the same culture.

Peter Robinson: Okay, that's example number one. By the way, do we have, from contemporary sources, who would have written about that? What effect did that event have? It shocked all the other Greek city states into total submission?

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes, they could not believe it. They completely folded and it was...

Peter Robinson: So he got the stable home base he wanted that permitted him to advance into...

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes. And it became, even among the Macedonians, it became shameful that Alexander had destroyed this legacy city, the fountain, as I said, of Greek mythology and of Paminondas, the great liberator, his legacy Pythagoras, the Pythagorean group there, and he'd wipe them out and they regretted it later. But at the time, nobody came to their aid. They were very confident. They didn't think anybody would ever do that and they were shocked. It was something that had not happened before.

Peter Robinson: Carthage.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes.

Peter Robinson: Rome and Carthage, The End of Everything, your book, the three centuries long growth of the Roman Republic, this is BC, we're not at Caesar, we're certainly not close to Augustus, we're seeing Rome grow from a city to the dominant force in the Mediterranean. The three centuries long growth of the Roman Republic was often stalled or checked by its formidable Mediterranean rival Carthage on the other side of the Mediterranean, at the northern tip of, northern edge of Africa. The competition between Rome and Carthage involved antithetical civilizations.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes.

Peter Robinson: Explain that.

Victor Davis Hanson: Carthage was founded about the same time as Rome was, but it was... We use the word, they use, it's an ancient word, Punic, and all that is, is a Phoenician transliteration for Phoenician culture that would be today where Gaza is along that area. This was a colony, colonists founded under the mythical Dido at what is modern Tunisia, right? Just 90 miles opposite, it's the narrowest point of the Mediterranean. 90 miles opposite Sicily.

Peter Robinson: 90 miles..thats Sicily, yes.

Victor Davis Hanson: And they were a Punic-Semitic culture, so their language was not linguistically related to Greek or Latin. They did things that classical culture abhorred such as child sacrifice. However, they did, were heavily influenced by Greek constitutional history, so they actually had a constitutional system. They learned about Western warfare from Spartan taskmasters. And so they fought these series, what we call the Punic War, first and second.

Unfortunately for Rome, they were confronted with an authentic Alexander Napoleon-like figure in Hannibal who took the war home.

Peter Robinson: Second Punic War, he goes across into what is now Spain.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes.

Peter Robinson: And goes behind the Roman line, so to speak, famously taking elephants up over the Alps and then wreaking havoc.

Victor Davis Hanson: From 219 to 202, this war went on.

Peter Robinson: In Italy itself.

Victor Davis Hanson: In a series of battles at the river Caecanius, Trebia, Lake Trasimone and Canai, he killed or wounded a quarter million Italians. And he ran wild for over a decade in Italy until Scipio Africanus invaded Tunisia and forced him to come home. But when I'm getting it.

Peter Robinson: To defend his home.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes, and he lost the Battle of Zama. He was exiled. But that was such a trauma or wound in the Italian mind. It was always Hannibal ad Portis. They scared little kids with, "Hannibals at the gates." And they were traumatized. So they had given a very punitive piece to the Carthaginians and they said, "You're going to pay this huge fine and you can never make war without our permission. You're going to surrender all of your European and Sicilian colonies. You're going to have it and you're going to be largely confined to the city of Carthage and some satellite villages."

Peter Robinson: So the Romans, I'm thinking now of a phrase that was used by Madeleine Albright to describe what we had done to Saddam Hussein.The Romans had Carthage in a box.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes. That was the idea.

Peter Robinson: So may I set up the third Punic War here, which brings us to the event to which this chapter is dedicated. I'm quoting the end of everything. After the first two Punic Wars, there was no call at Rome to level a defeated Carthage and yet Rome attacks Carthage again. Why?

Victor Davis Hanson: Well, it's very ironic and tragic because they paid the identity off early.

Peter Robinson: The Carthaginians did.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes. They were Carthaginians and they discovered that without these overseas colonies and given their prime location in North Africa. I've got to remember that this time North Africa was the most fertile part of the Mediterranean, much more fertile than the shores of Europe, southern shores. And so they sent a delegation three years earlier to Carthage to inspect what was going on and how did they pay the fine off and they were astounded. The city had somewhat 500,000 to 600,000 people in it. It was booming. It was lush. The countryside was lush. They were confident and unfortunately for them...

Peter Robinson: And they had one of the great ports of the ancient world.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes, it was the part of Carthage. It's about 20 miles from modern Tunis today. Was starting to rival Rome again and yet they professed no bellicosity at all. They said, "You know, we have no problem with you."

Peter Robinson: We've learned our lesson.

Victor Davis Hanson: We learned our lesson. We're just a mercantile. They were sort of re-fashioning themselves from an imperial power to something like Singapore or Hong Kong.

Peter Robinson: Right.

Victor Davis Hanson: And Rome unfortunately was in this expansionary mood. They had now consolidated Spain. They had consolidated Italy. They consolidated much of Greece and soon would conquer all of Greece and Macedon and they had Cato the Elder and he got up, you know, legendarily and say, "Carthage must be destroyed as the epithet of every speech." So there was...

After the inspectors came back, they said, "These people are insidious. They may not have Hannibal but they're going to rival us again."

Peter Robinson: They're doing too well.

Victor Davis Hanson: They're doing too well and we've got all... There were people in the Roman Senate that said, "No, no, don't do that." They don't pose a threat and actually they're good for us because the more that they're there they put us on guard and they don't...we don't get luck. The Romans had this idea that affluence and leisure make you decadent. So just the fact that they're right across the Mediterranean means it will always be vigilant.

Peter Robinson: The competition is good for us, Cato.

Victor Davis Hanson:  Yes. Kind of what Americans used to think, 19th century. So unfortunately they decided that they would present Carthage with a series of demands that could not possibly be met and still be autonomous. So they sent a group from the Senate down to consuls. Consular army was rare but they brought two consuls in an army and they landed them there and they said to them, "You're going to move your city at least 15 miles from the ocean. You're not going to be a sea power." If you get mad about it, we're the same way. We're Rome, we have Ostia, we're from the end. No problem. But you're going to destroy this ancient city and then you're going to have to move lock, stock and barrel. And by the way, we want all of your arms. We want your elephants, your famous elephants. They have personal names even. We want your elephants, we want your siege craft, we want your armor, we want everything.

Peter Robinson: You’ll live.

Victor Davis Hanson:  And if you're willing to do that, we'll consider that the city can live.And they were willing to do that. Not to move. They sent a delegation. They said, "Okay, here's our catapults, here's our body armor and we'll negotiate about the rest." They went back and they think, "I think we're okay." And then they went back the next time and the Romans who were camped away with this huge army said, "You know..."

Peter Robinson: You said that the Romans took an army across the Mediterranean.

Victor Davis Hanson: It's in Utica, right near them, about 20 miles away.

Peter Robinson: That was bigger than the landing force in the invasion of Normandy.

Victor Davis Hanson:  Yes.

Peter Robinson: It was a vast force.

Victor Davis Hanson: Our sources are somewhat in disagreement but it could have been anywhere from 70 to 90 to 100,000 people. It took us all day to land 135,000, us being the British and the Americans. But the Americans themselves did not have as many people as the Romans landed at Utica. And so the Romans then told all of the Carthaginian allies on the North Coast, "Are you with us or against us? Because if you're with us, we're going to destroy them and you're going to be a favored colony. You're going to get to share in the spoils. We won't tax you. You'll be the guys that run North Africa for it." If you're with them, we're going to do to them what you...And so most of them, not all defect. And then the legates come back and they tell the Carthaginians, "We blew it. They're going to kill us. And now we have no weapons because they're going to make us move." We thought if we turned in our weapons, they might not make us move. So they bring out of retirement, Hasrbal, who's this fanatic, not the famous Hasrbal, father of Hannibal, but another named Hasrbal. And he's a complete maniac and they had not trusted him. And he says, "Kill all the legates. Anybody who was an appeaser, we're in full moor. We're going to rearm." And they do. They get all the women's hair, they make catapults and they go crazy and then they put a siege around the city. The problem the Romans have is these walls are, until Constantinople, they are the greatest walls in the ancient world, 27 miles of fortifications. Carthage is on a peninsula and it's kind of like a round circle with a corridor. And they've got that all area walled and they have a fleet still and it's very hard to take that city and the Romans are not known for their siege craft and they can't take it. And they lose, lose, lose and they get the Numidian allies to join them. And suddenly, after two years, they've lost probably 20 or 30,000 Romans. Sometimes they break into the suburbs but not the main walls and it looks like it is an ungodly disaster. And they are very confident and then just in the case of Alexander, they don't know who they're dealing with. They bring out of this obscurity, Scipio Emilianus and he is the adopted nephew, grand nephew of Scipio Africanus, the famous one. And he is a philosopher like Alexander the Great. He's a man of letters. He wouldn't do such a thing. He has a Scipionic circle, playwrights, terrains. He's a friend of Polybius the Great historian just like Alexander has the student of Aristotle. So he comes and he's a legate and he's been there and he keeps saying the consuls are incompetent and they don't know what they're doing and I should be it but he's a lowly young guy. And they said, "You take over." So he comes, he gives a big lecture and says, "You guys are pathetic, his soldiers. You're lazy. This is what's going to happen." He has discipline. They build a counter wall and over the next year he turns out to be an authentic military genius. He cuts off the city. He cuts off the corridor. He cuts off all the allies supplying them and he besieges them and they will not surrender but they still have a hope that he's a man of principle and he will negotiate with them and he will give them terms and he is a killer. And he does not give them terms and he systematically breaks for the first time and only time in history the great walls of Carthage. He gets into the city and then over a two-week period he systematically kills every single person that the Romans. In fact, the descriptions are horrific.

Peter Robinson: Now, are we still dealing with half a million people or have men haven't fled by now?

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes.

Peter Robinson: No, no, it's still densely possible.

Victor Davis Hanson: They have nowhere to go. They're stuck and they're starving now. And he's...

Peter Robinson: So this is an act of butchery. Like Slaughtering and cattle or sheep.

Victor Davis Hanson: Well, our sources, we have accounts in Diodorus and somewhat in Libya, Polybius fragments here and there. We're told that the Roman army has to scrape off the bodies because they've killed so many people because they're's like Gaza or Fallujah or Mosul.

It's fighting in block by block and they're get rid of the Carthaginian defenders, they're destroying the buildings and they topple and then the bodies are there and then the army can't move. So they go, go, go until they get to the pinnacle, the capital. And there is Hasrbal and his wife and of course he flips and cuts a deal with...

Peter Robinson: And on your side now, boys.

Victor Davis Hanson: He leaves his wife and they burn themselves up. And then he goes...he ends up in retirement in Italy, one of the few people who is...endures a Roman triumph and humiliated in the parade and they let him live.

Peter Robinson: and they let him live. 

Victor Davis Hanson: And then they wipe it out. I don't think it's accurate to say they sowed the ground with salt as myth goes, but they did completely declare it an inhospitable place and it was sacrosanct to even get near it. They took it down to the foundation. There is no more formal Punic center of knowledge. They had a very rich agriculture, agronomy literature. It's gone. What happens? It's remnants of people who in Augustine's time in the fifth century AD, there are still people who they claim speak Punic, very few of them. And Romans under Caesar then they make something called Carthago Nova, a new city, but it's a Roman city built on the...somewhat near the old city.

Peter Robinson: So it's gone.

Victor Davis Hanson: It's gone.

Peter Robinson: It's just disappeared.

Victor Davis Hanson: Gone. Caput.

Peter Robinson: All right. I want to get two more stories, but probably don't have time to go into as much detail.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yeah, I won't break it. Yeah, I won't go into it.

Peter Robinson: But well, these become a little bit more modern, so maybe we know a little bit more about them. I mean, maybe your listeners will know more. Constantinople. The end of everything. Quote, "The most infamous of wartime extinction was the destruction of Byzantine Constantinople on May 29, 1453." Let me just set this up to go to so I can do this set up, kind of condense the material a little bit. We have the Emperor Constantine in the very early fourth century moves the capital of the empire from Rome to this city in what is now Turkey.

It's been called Byzantium. He refounds the capital as Constantinople. Walls get erected.

It remains, it becomes a Christian, Greek speaking empire that lasts a thousand years.

Victor Davis Hanson: Beyond the West, when the West falls. A thousand years.

Peter Robinson: A thousand years after Rome itself falls. Eighth century AD, we have the rise of Islam. And now pressure begins to be brought on the Christian Byzantine empire century after century after century after century. And in 1453, on May 29th, what happens?

Victor Davis Hanson: Black Tuesday. I lived in Greece and on Black Tuesday I was awakened by my landlord to make sure that I went to mass or Greek Orthodox services to lament that the Emperor Constantine had been marbleized and saved by the archangels. And he was going to come one day and free Constantinople. So around noon, the Ottomans under Met that had brought this.

Peter Robinson: Sultan.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes, Sultan. And he had, his father and everybody had said they're declining. The empire of 20 million is now shrunk down to about a million. And there's only the city of a million people because of the fourth crusade where Christians, Western Christians sacked it. It's in decline. All we have to do is wait. And it's very lucrative because it's still a beacon of Western culture in our area. So Venetians come in, Genovese come in, they bring in crossbows, they bring in gunpowder. It's very—

Peter Robinson: It's in trade with these people.

Victor Davis Hanson: Exactly. So most Sultans had let it live. And there was actually Turkish people within the city. This amendment, the great says, no, no, no, no, no, no. I am 19. I'm going to destroy this. And he systematically fortifies the Hell's Point, the entrance in the Black Sea. And he takes the Dardanelles, you can't go in or out. And he squeezes it. And when he surrounds the city, there's only about 7,000 to 8,000 actual combatants of a city that's no more than 50,000. And he thinks it's going to be easy. But the walls of Constantinople, the so-called built by the emperor Theodosus, are, they remain the most impressive walls in the world. They were a tripart system.

Peter Robinson: When you say remain, you mean today.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes. You can vote you— Yes, you can see them today. Yes, you can see it.

Peter Robinson: There was a-- Istanbul, and go ahead.

Victor Davis Hanson: There's a mound, there was a moat, another mound, and then the so-called outer wall. And then with turrets, 20 to 30 feet high. And then in between a killing space of a plaza where there's nowhere to hide, and then the massive inner walls of 40 feet, and gates where they could retreat in. And no one had ever taken that. The Fourth Crusade came in through a fluke on the seaside. But no army had ever. It was like a triangle. So there was sea on the Golden Horn, sea on the sea of Marmara. And then the exposed land had the Theodosian walls, five to six miles. And they camp out there, and they cannot take it. And with this reduce, they have these brilliant Genovese that are fighting for them, some mercenary. They call to Christendom, "Help us. We're your Christian brotherhood." And they said, "Nah, you're orthodox, and we're not going to help you." They said they were.

Peter Robinson: How many forces has Mehmet got?

Victor Davis Hanson: It's debatable, but he's probably got 250,000 and probably at least 100,000.

Peter Robinson: On land?

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes. The whole force is 250,000 and probably 100,000 on land. And he's got at least 10,000 cracked Janissaries, the mercenary elite. And they can't take the city.

Peter Robinson: So it says something about those walls, that 7,000 defenders can hold off 100,000.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes. And they have a massive, the so-called Hungarian cannon that was built by a Hungarian. And they have these huge cannon, and they knock down holes on the walls. At night, the civilians are all mobilized. And then Gustiani, the famous Genovese merchant, gets wounded. And he is the—

Peter Robinson: The leader of the defenders.

Victor Davis Hanson: And he, even though he's Italian, he's the spiritual anchor. And he, for some reason, they withdraw the contingent. And people say, "Oh my God, he's withdrawing." And they panic. And when they leave the outer wall, they don't do it in order to get into the inner wall. They leave the gates open. And then it's every man for themselves. And it's one of the most heart-wrenching descriptions in Byzantine literature. We have about 11 different sources in Italian, Turkish, Byzantine Greek. And it's a free-for-all. And they slaughter everybody. And 7,000 go into the great church that you can go to today at Hagia Sophia. They think the archangel is going to come down and save them. He doesn't. The Janissaries break in. And it's three days of absolute slaughter, wreckage, sort of like the Fourth Crusade. But the—

Peter Robinson: More deadly. These are being-- Civilians are being slaughtered.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes. And so at the end, after three days, Mehmet and the Sultan, his entourage, realized that we need somebody to run this city because we're not going to destroy it like Carthage or Thebes. We're going to take a new DNA and use it because it's a beautiful city. And we'll put Menoroth.

Peter Robinson: We could use those walls. We could use that church.

Victor Davis Hanson: We could use those walls. It's got the best location in the world. We need menorets on Hagia Sophia. We'll turn it into a mosque. So they get a few there. And within 50 years, they have wiped out what had one time been 20 million Byzantine Christian Greek speakers. In the ancient home, the Seljuk Turks who became Ottomans were not indigenous to that area. Something Mr. Erlian today does not understand. This was from time memorial a Greek-speaking area way back. Now it never would be again.

Peter Robinson: Cardinal-- St. John Henry Newman referred in this history, he referred to the Turks as the people who had destroyed half the civilized world. He was very conscious that Byzantine culture represented half of Christendom up until it was gone. Okay. But what is the legend that you referred to at the very beginning?

Victor Davis Hanson: Constantine didn't die.

Peter Robinson: That the last emperor—

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes.

Peter Robinson: -was turned into marble.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes, he's marbleized. And he went into a secret chamber in Hagia Sophia. And he was lifted up into heaven. And he's in suspended animation. And in 1928-21, there was the Megala Iida, the idea that after World War I, Greeks had bet on the winning side and Turks had been on the losing side and they were going to reform. And they got almost to Ankara. And then—

Peter Robinson: The Greeks did.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes. And maybe he was going to come out of marbleization and they would have Constantinople as the spiritual, political, religious home of Hellenism again. And then, of course, they were betrayed by the Europeans. They cut off and they were slaughtered.

Peter Robinson: So we have-- and that is an extinction. Well, I suppose the most dramatic way of describing how completely it ended, we still have Orthodox. We still have the Orthodox Church.We still have devout Greeks who remember that day and shake young Victor awake and saying, you must remember this day with us. You must go to Orthodox Mass. But Hagia Sophia, which was for centuries the largest church in Christendom, is now a mosque.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yeah. And today, if you or I were to walk along Ionia and see the ancient-- the richest part of Hellenism, the ancient-- or the pre-Socratic philosophers, the lyric poets were if we went to Didama or Pergamum or Ephesus or Miletus, it's Ottoman Muslim culture, Turkish. If we went to Constantinople, especially under Mr. Erdogan, it's—

Peter Robinson: There's no current leader of Turkey.

Victor Davis Hanson: There are Christian churches are being shut down. And this was a UN historical site, Hagia Sophia, the great cathedral. And now it is a mosque again under his leadership.

Peter Robinson: Well, it was a museum and now it's back to being a—

Victor Davis Hanson: He took it away from its UN status and made it into a mosque. And there are no Greeks to speak of who speak Greek and openly are Christian in all of what was a 20 million person. There is no such thing as Hellenism or Greek speakers outside of Cyprus and Greece except the diaspora, say, in Europe, the United States. He extinguished it.

Peter Robinson: This brings us to the last of these four, which I'm going to try to-- this is like turning an ox into a bullion cube here. We're engaging in an act of compression victory. Hernán Cortés lands in Mexico in 1519. He has 500 soldiers, about 100 sailors. The sailors climb out of their ships and march with him. He has 600 men, some horses, some guns. And two years later, he destroys the Aztec capital, 1521. And well, let me quote you. "Although they had become familiar with Aztec civilization over the prior two years, the Spanish almost immediately sought to obliterate its religion, race, and culture. In their view, they had more than enough reasons to destroy the Aztec empire." Close quote. Now, the book describes the way Cortés does-- he's a politician as well as a general. And he discovers that many of the subject tribes in the area hate the Aztecs. So he assembles a force that he can use against the Aztecs. The history here is rich and fascinating. It is an astonishing story of how this small Spanish force conquers Mexico.

But what I want to get to-- the Spaniards had more than enough reasons to destroy the Aztec empire. Could you explain that a little bit? This was not just raw hunger for land. It wasn't just gold lust. What else was going on?

Victor Davis Hanson: Unfortunately, for the Az-- Tenochtitlán, the historic capital, they had an empire of four million people. And they-- this was 1492 to 1519 was only 30 years, not even that. So they didn't really know what-- the Westerners didn't know what was in Mexico. They'd heard of this legendary—

Peter Robinson: 1492 being Columbus' first encounters, the new one.

Victor Davis Hanson: And Cortés was a minor official. He wasn't a general. He wasn't-- he was just-- he was an entrepreneur. And he got it in his head that he got temporary permission from the governor of Cuba to form this tiny force and go explore. But he knew that he wanted to do more than that. So he goes in, he marches, and he's entertained. They cannot-- they think he's-- it's debatable whether they really think he's a god. But they've never seen people with white skin. They've never seen people with armor. They think the horses and the man are one person. They're centaurs. They think the dogs are-- they've never seen these mass-steeped dogs before. They've never heard gunpowder before. They have no idea what steel is. Steel. They use obsidian blades. They don't know what Toledo steel is. They have no idea what the wheel is. They've never seen-- except in toys. So these guys come and they think they're gods. And then the more they see, they like to eat, they like to drink, they like to have sex. They bleed and they start to get wary. So there's a faction. And on the Nochetriste, the sad night of sorrows, they almost get completely slaughtered. And they're chased out. They come back with more soldiers. Never at one time did he ever have in one place more than 1,500 soldiers. Unfortunately for the Aztecs, they were not dealing with Plymouth Rock and pilgrims. They were dealing with the most warlike, deadly Europeans in the world. They were dealing with the Spanish who had just finished the Reconquista and fought for 300 years against Islam. They had been fighting during the Reformation field. They had been in Italy.

Peter Robinson: By the way, both of those are religious wars.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes. And the people who came with Cortez were some of the most brilliant-- Pedro Alvarado, people like that-- some of the most skilled soldiers. And they had horses. And they loved to fight. And they were accompanied by a zeal that was in reaction. It was just the very beginning of the Counter-Reformation. And they felt that their religion was going to be questioned unless they got souls. They come here and they say, oh my God, 25,000 people are being sacrificed, human sacrifices, on the Great Pyramid.

Peter Robinson: Now this, by the way, this has become a matter that intrudes into political correctness.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes.

Peter Robinson: And Lord knows I'm not an expert on this. But in my little lifetime, we were taught that the Aztecs engaged in widespread human sacrifice. Then we have a revisionist school that says, well, no, wait a minute. The only authority we have on that is the Spanish documents. And they clearly overstated what was taking-- And now it's my understanding that the archaeologists are discovering more and more and more evidence that it was indeed not just occasional human sacrifice, but a regular feature, a daily feature of-- I mean, it's almost as if in the island of Manhattan every single day there were some human sacrifices at the top of the Empire State Building. Is that right?

Victor Davis Hanson: No, it's absent.

Peter Robinson: And you insist on that in this book.

Victor Davis Hanson: You look at contemporary archaeological reports that confirm what Bernal Diaz said or Prescott said in the 19th century great historian. But more importantly, there are pictorial skull racks that can be-- that they have numerical records. And we know that the lake that surrounds-- it's an island civilization, Tenochtitlán, was polluted because of a festival where they may have sacrificed 20,000 or 30,000 or 40,000 within a four-day period. It was something like Auschwitz. And they threw the bodies into the-- so I don't think anybody-- what they challenge is there are anthropologists that say, well, there was no large herbivores. So there was no source of protein for the sophisticated, systematic, centrally planned economy. And they were very architecturally advanced. And they needed, in this very urban society of a quarter million people. And the Spanish said it was more impressive than Venice. Venice at its height. It had a very sophisticated system of law.

Peter Robinson: But the Spanish are not saying these people are barbarians.

Victor Davis Hanson: No, they're not. They're saying that they are very sophisticated people, which means that we have-- they're even more dangerous because they have spread three or four things that we think are terrible. They're cannibals, and we know that they did eat portions of the sacrificial. They engage in ritual sodomy, which we don't think is permissible. And they sacrifice humans. And so it's our duty as emissaries of Christianity, defined as Catholicism of the Spanish Reconquista period, to kill people to save them. We've got to kill the people who are doing this. And then we're going to surround all of the people around the lake of the empire who resent being harvested. When they lose-- war is not fought to take land. War is fought to get captives, so-called flower wars. So you don't try to kill somebody. You knock them down and tie them up. And you drag them. And then the guy that has the most captives is very famous. And then they're brought up to Tempo Major, and they're sacrificed. And the Spanish find this horrific, but they also discover that it's in their interest, because they're not-- when you get Spanish Toledo steel, male helmet, especially if you're mounted, Toledo blade, arquebus, gunpowder—

Peter Robinson: They can't capture you.

Victor Davis Hanson: And they're trying to capture you. They're not trying to-- if they would just swarm them and cut their throat, they might have won. But they're trying to knock them down and tie. And then the final thing about it is they don't know who Cortez is. He's more gifted than Alexander in some ways. He's more gifted than Mehmet. He's probably more gifted than even Scipio. And nobody knows that he's never had any experience in this. And it turns out he is a natural military genius. And every time they should have been extinguished, they lose, they've got-- they're sick. He comes out.

Peter Robinson: He finds a way out.

Victor Davis Hanson: And he finds a way out. He's a military genius. And he's ruthless. And he—

Peter Robinson: So, Victor, on the Spaniards, wipe out the Aztecs. To what extent-- I'm just trying to think, to what extent is that an annihilation of the kind that takes place in the other examples? We have-- I have a Mexican friend who said, well, just look around Mexico City. You see very few people of Spanish descent and millions of people of Indian or Aztec descent. They didn't destroy them.

Victor Davis Hanson:  Aztec is a key word.

Peter Robinson: Oh, is that so? And then the other thing is there is-- I checked on this. I went online. There is still a duke de Montezuma in Spain today. They took the grandchildren of the last emperor of the Aztecs back to Spain.

Victor Davis Hanson:  They did.

Peter Robinson: And honored them by making-- ennobling them. OK, so what gets destroyed? What is ended?

Victor Davis Hanson:  Nahutul, the language exists in Mexico today. I have been in my hometown where people who have come from Mexico and Spanish speakers cannot understand them. So-- but Aztecs as a city, as a unique culture among indigenous people is destroyed. So when you talk to somebody and you say, well, if somebody says to you, the San Diego Aztecs, they never say to San Diego-- you know, the sports team, college team, they never say to San Diego Tlaxcalans or Toltecs. Why do they not do that?

Peter Robinson: They couldn't spell it apart from anything else.

Victor Davis Hanson:  Because first of all, we have a chronicle of this majestic civilization and how advanced they were, as I said, in architecture, town planning, sanitation, very sophisticated. But they don't want to talk about the downside of cannibalism, human sacrifice. But the point is, if we were transported to 1521, Cortes would have never been able to defeat them without the help of the Tlaxcalans. He had-- and their allies, he must have had at least-- he drew on an army of-- over that two and a half year period of over 200,000. And they probably lost—

Peter Robinson: Because the surrounding tribes are tired of being raided for captives who would be sacrificed.

Victor Davis Hanson: As soon as the word got out that Cortes was back again, that he was not annihilated, he came back. And this time he had brigandines or boats. And he would navigate in a combined amphibious and land attack on the causeways and by land. And he figured out how to beat them. And he gave them an ultimatum that I want to save your city and make it the capital of New Spain. But if you don't, I'm going to destroy it. That word went out. And all of a sudden, these fickle allies that sometimes had helped them, they-- they masked. I said, my God, you're going to destroy—

Peter Robinson: We have a moment here.

Victor Davis Hanson: And I can pay them back for all the things they did. And they ran wild. And in fact, he says in his letters and so does contemporary sources that he regretted that once he unleashed these people, they butchered and butchered and butchered and they destroyed Aztec's central civilization. So yes, there are people who survived the Holocaust, and that's what it was, but centrally planned civilization with a precinct class, an urban center, an-- no, it's now Spain and sp-- the Spanish build on top of it, right on top of Tenochtitlan. They used the very foundations of the destroy-- they destroyed it down to the foundations. It's gone. And there is no formal Aztec culture. There are indigenous people, of course, because they form about 1% of the population in what is Mexico, the Spanish.

Peter Robinson: And you can go to the Socoló in Mexico City today. And on the very side of the Templo Mayor, the great Aztec pyramid is a gigantic Spanish cathedral which says among any-- among other things what it says is, we won, we lost.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes. They were-- they were actually given special-- there were concessions given from the Spanish to the Flaxcawans, and they honored them. In other words, that you are not going to be subject to the same degree of subservience, of the scattered remnants of anybody who fought for the Aztecs.

Peter Robinson: I see. Last questions. You've got a number of themes of relevance to us today. One theme here is the capacity of the doomed for self-delusions. The Thebans failed to grasp the military revolution that's taking place under Philip. They failed to grasp, even though they have some intelligence, they have reasons to question their own judgment of Alexander's ability, they say no. The Carthaginians failed to grasp the change in Roman power and determination over two centuries. The Byzantines cannot bring themselves to imagine that a city that has lasted a thousand years could fall, let alone fall in a day. The end of everything, I'm quoting you, the gullibility and indeed ignorance of contemporary leaders about the intent, hatred, ruthlessness, and capability of their enemies are not surprising given unchanging human nature. At the beginning of the program, you talked about the plight of the Greeks, you talked about threats against Israel. What are Americans to make of this?

Victor Davis Hanson: Well, I think we should take these lessons very seriously, both from the point of the attacker and the attack, because you mentioned some of the commonalities. At the end of the book, I give you a kind of a common denominator blueprint. People who have not been defeated or accustomed to a position of superiority culturally, militarily, they think that they're invulnerable forever and they're not aware of insidious decline. The things that Alexander took is not the themes of the Pamanandas and yet the walls look as stout as they ever were and the people are the same, they think. Same thing with Carthage, the same thing with Constantinople. Nobody's ever, they said nobody's ever going to get through the walls. They tried just early, you know, 50 years early, they couldn't do it. We're invulnerable and people said, "Well, we're not the same people." They don't think that anybody would ever dream of extinguishing them. We've been here a thousand years. We're the children of Oedipus. To note, Shitlan, we've been here, this is the pinnacle of our civilization, etc. Constantinople, this is the city of Constantine and Justinian. We can't fall. So there's an unreality and then they have no idea who they're facing. They have no idea what's in the mind of Cortez. They have no idea.

Peter Robinson: Do we have any idea what's in the mind of Xi Jinping, of Vladimir Putin?

Victor Davis Hanson: We have no idea. We think that he, we think that Xi thinks as I think George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, all bipartisan. They all thought that he is so impressed with Western civilization. He's globalizing, he's changed his economy. Yes, he's rough around their edges but our leisure, our affluence, globalization will acculturate them and China will take their place among the family of nations.

Peter Robinson: Because of course they want to be like us.

Victor Davis Hanson: They don't understand that that is exactly what the Byzantines said about the Ottomans, that's exactly what people said about Alexander, that's exactly what they said about the Carthage. And these people don't understand, so in our, whether it's Putin, so when Putin says I'm going to use nuclear weapons if I lose. And there's been about 17 threats from high members of the Russian military, high members of the Russian parliament such as it is and Putin himself, tactical, nuclear, even. We say this is crazy. They would never do that. We never say, well if I was going to lose and be humiliated or if I wanted Ukraine the breadbasket of the old Soviet Union and ports on the Black Sea and a window right under Europe I'd be willing to do a lot of stuff for it. And I've done, so there's an unreality and then on the part of the attacker they need to understand what the attacker is capable of. I just add one quick thing. I also mentioned the serial threats that China has given Taiwan. And they even made a brief film about nuking Japan if it interfered, called in the war criminal.

Peter Robinson: The Chinese have.

Victor Davis Hanson: Chinese commerce.

Peter Robinson: And they've distributed that in China.

Victor Davis Hanson: And just like Er And just like Er Israel, he said I'm going to do the same thing to the Armenians and he just ethnically cleansed 100,000 of them. I'm going to do the same thing as my grandfathers. They had the solution. So these people are serious when they say this. But I had one line in the epilogue to that effect of what China and that's a very big market, the Chinese market. And I've had a lot of success with other books.

Peter Robinson: Victor, one other of the... But anyway, just to... Yeah, go ahead. I'm sorry.

Victor Davis Hanson: I was given notice by the Chinese publisher. I had to take out that line or there would be no book sales and everything would be cancelled, no Chinese translation in the epilogue.

Peter Robinson: So they are serious.

Victor Davis Hanson: So I didn't do it and there's not going to be a book in China. That book will never be in China.

Peter Robinson: Oh, well, all right. Yes. You don't think somebody will... Okay. That's a good conversation. Another of the themes that strikes me here, war changes things. I'm quoting you again, the end of everything. Once Alexander grasped the full extent of Theban hatred, he concluded that only destroying the city rather than merely capturing it would end Greek opposition to Macedonia. Cortes decided there was no way to root out the imperial system without knocking the Aztecs' infrastructure down upon them. Such revised decisions are common throughout military history. Near the end of World War II, US Army Air Corps General Curtis LeMay decided the only way to destroy Japan's dispersed manufacturing, which was deeply embedded within the neighborhoods of Tokyo, was to ignite the city and we get the fire bombing of Tokyo. Again, war changes things. So we are supplying the Ukrainians with weapons and materiel. We have two carrier groups in the Eastern Mediterranean to support the Israelis and we have our forces disposed, our naval forces disposed in the Pacific. We don't know where our attack submarines are because there's no reporting on that and there shouldn't be, but we're concerned about Taiwan. We're very concerned about Taiwan. What are the lessons of the end of everything for Americans as we face trouble, military challenges on three fronts?

Victor Davis Hanson: If we would look at ourselves dispassionately and not say we're Americans, we're always numbered countries. We would say the following. We've never had in terms of the percentage of GDP debt or in actual numbers except for a brief period in World War II, $35 trillion we owe and we are borrowing $1 trillion every hundred days. It's completely unsustainable. We've never had the military admit to us that it is short 40,000 troops and they don't know where to get them at a time when the American population has never been larger. We have ...

Peter Robinson: The Army missed its recruiting goals last year by 10%.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes.

Peter Robinson: And that was not the first year.

Victor Davis Hanson: We have had a porous border. We have never had no border at all. It ceased to exist. We've had 10 million people walk across without audit. We've never seen anything like it. We have the largest number of foreign-born residents, both in numbers, 50 million and in percentages of the resident population, 13. We've ever had at a time when we haven't lost confidence in the melting pot. Okay. We've had high crime areas before, high crime periods. We've never had a period in American history where our elites say that crime is not crime. It's a social construct and you have to let somebody, a violent criminal out the same day that he's arrested. That's a new theory, critical legal theory. Okay. We're a multiracial society and we're the only successful multiracial democracy. We know that it depends on relegating your tribal affiliations to the general idea of being an American. We are regressing into tribalism. So when you look at all of these challenges and you look at the symptoms, we have never done anything like Afghanistan. Just completely flee and leave $50 billion in weaponry to the terrorist organization that's selling all over the globe. Never had that before. We have never had since World War II a Verdun. We have passed the numbers of dead and wounded in Verdun. We're above 700,000 wounded, missing or killed Russians and Ukrainians and we're headed to Somme territory and nobody has any idea how to stop this. Russia is not going to be able to take all of Ukraine and we are not going to be able to get back the Donbass in Crimea. So it's going to continue. Nobody has an answer. Nobody takes serious that the Chinese would be crazy enough to go across the Taiwanese Strait and try to take that city. They say they can do it. So my point is, never have we been faced with such existential challenges in the post-war period. At a period when we are so weak, or at least we're not naturally weak, our constitution is there, our natural resources, we lead the world. But when you look at crime, when you look at debt, when you look at the border, when you look at our universities, which were the envy of the world, they were the engine that drove American culture and power and technology and they're in crisis. Science is in crisis.

Peter Robinson: So we're like the Thebans. We're not the same people.

Victor Davis Hanson: We're not the same people. We're not the same people that maybe we have it in us. We're not the same people who stormed Omaha Beach when the first 2,000 people were mowed down. They just kept coming.

Peter Robinson: Victor, I want to play a brief video excerpt.

Video Excerpt:

-You both work here.

-You're among the intellectuals who are offstage, the members of Congress are on stage, but they're always turning around saying, Blumenthal, did I get that right?

-Bridge, what about this?

-Is this town serious?

-Do you feel a sense of seriousness descending that is adequate to the moment?

-Absolutely not.


-We're in a world of warfare and we're not on a war footing.

Peter Robinson: Victor, Washington is, there's no sense of seriousness in Washington.

Victor Davis Hanson: No. We think that the most important thing is counseling student debt or inaugurating new woke programs, but it's going to take us seven years to replace the javelin anti-tank weapons. We're short 155 millimeter. That was our signature. We were the biggest producer of shells in the world.

Peter Robinson: Victor, can I ask one, the book is called The End of Everything and you describe four episodes, all of which take place, the most recent of which takes place about four centuries before the invention of nukes. So let me quote if I may, here's a quotation from Clausewitz, who saw the Napoleonic Wars as a young Prussian officer and meditated on military theory and the rest of his life. Here's Clausewitz. This has always bothered me. “If one side uses force without compunction, that side will force the other to follow suit. Even the most civilized of peoples can be fired with passionate hatred of each other. The thesis must be repeated. War is an act of force and there is no logical limit to the application of that force.” Thebes wiped out. Carthage leveled.

Constantinople civilization blotted out. His text gone. And now we have nuclear weapons.

Victor Davis Hanson: Among other things, we have AI, we have bio weapons apparently, an accidental release from the Wuhan lab.

Peter Robinson: So what I'm desperate to do here is to end on an upbeat if I can find one anywhere. Should we take encouragement from the long period of the Cold War? When we had nuclear weapons but managed to defeat Soviet communism without any use, without warfare, without a major war, without a major confrontation, should we be cheered by that?

Victor Davis Hanson: We should learn—

Peter Robinson: Or are we doomed?

Victor Davis Hanson: No, we're not doomed. We need to learn from wise men like Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, even to an extent Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and the rest of them.

Peter Robinson: They all had one thing-- You mentioned Ronald Reagan?

Victor Davis Hanson: Yeah, I'm getting to him.

Peter Robinson: Oh, all right.

Victor Davis Hanson: And in a period of doubt where people had questioned their so-called Neanderthal approach to human nature that they believed that deterrence and not dialogue or the UN kept the peace, along came Ronald Reagan. And he said-- he basically said the degree which we are safe is the degree to which we help our friends and tell our enemies to be careful because we will defend us and we're going to have the capability to do it. Deterrence, deterrence, deterrence, which is just a Latin word to scare somebody off from doing something stupid. And if you don't believe in deterrence, then as Vegeta said, if you want peace, prepare for war. If you want war, prepare for peace.

Peter Robinson: Victor, will you close our conversation by reading a passage from-- Victor Davis Hanson, the author of The End of Everything, reading a passage from The End of Everything.

Victor Davis Hanson: Well, thank you. I'm going to give you the degree that I can read well.

“The fate of the Thebans, Carthaginians, Byzantines, and Aztecs remind us that what cannot possibly happen can indeed on occasion occur when war unleashes timeless human passions and escalation rather than reduction in violence becomes a role of conflict.”

“In this regard, we should remind ourselves that we really do not know the boundaries of what may follow from the dispute in the Ukraine or a standoff over Taiwan or strikes on nuclear facilities in Iran.”

“Like their predecessors, modern attackers will on occasions insist on impossible turn.

They will sometimes become further enraged by prolonged and toxic resistance.”

“The targeted will believe that doom resistance may not be so impossible, that their defenses are underestimated while their enemies' powers are exaggerated, and that reason rules war.”

“And so they will hope that even their own defeat cannot possibly entail the end of everything.”

Peter Robinson: Victor Davis Hanson, author of The End of Everything. Thank you.

Victor Davis Hanson: Thank you very much for having me.

Peter Robinson: For Uncommon Knowledge, the Hoover Institution, and Fox Nation, I'm Peter Robinson.

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