Liberal Frankensteins
From Greece to California, the liberal dream is dead.


Victor Davis Hanson

Either federal law will be enforced and immigration will return to an orderly, legal process — where merit, education, and skill sets are used as litmus tests for would-be immigrants without regard to ethnic or racial background — or else Arizona, New Mexico, and California will soon become a dysfunctional region, where one class flees and quite another enters, and soon even illegal aliens seek a new, more northern border to cross. Open borders, non-assimilation, ethnic separatism, and tribalism lead to the Balkans or Rwanda — not, as envisioned, to a society patterned after the boutique diversity of the faculty lounge.

The classically tragic notion that deterrence — based on military preparation, balance of power, and eternal vigilance — alone prevents wars is returning, as the postmodern idea that international good will and multilateral policing can ensure world peace has almost sputtered to an end. Colonel Qaddafi is not impressed by an indictment from The Hague, and so far he is not backing down in the face of the combined air power of France and Britain. Qaddafi fears no new Napoleon or second Wellington, and he will leave only if the United States, for either good or bad reasons, decides to lend Europe the military wherewithal to end the Libyan regime.

In the last hundred days, the world has seen not only how weak and divided are the European members of NATO, but also how the once-celebrated European notion of “soft power” means very little in the world of perpetually savage nations. What stops China from carving out a new co-prosperity sphere in Asian waters, Russia from reconstituting a hegemony over the former Soviet republics, Turkey from ending the notion that the Aegean is a Hellenic lake, a new alliance of radical Arab states from attacking Israel, a soon-to-be-nuclear Iran from threatening its Jewish and Arab rivals, and North Korea from invading the south is only lingering worries over a U.S. military response or an American-led alliance of resistance — not international sanctions or condemnation, a U.N. decree, an Arab League resolution, an International Criminal Court writ, an IMF or World Bank reprimand, a lecture from an EU grandee, or the EU rapid response force.

Back home, we have suffered through decades of declining test scores and rising teachers’ salaries, and we now have a trillion dollars in college loan debt, more remediation for incoming college freshmen, weaker skills apparent in graduating college seniors, an omnipresent -studies curriculum, and a new national dialogue over whether college is even worth it — not just in terms of whether college degrees raise salaries sufficiently to justify huge loans, but whether the new therapeutic race, class, and gender curriculum is antithetical to classical liberal arts with their emphasis on reading, written expression, math, and science.

Modern university education has achieved the dubious result of turning out a self-described sensitive, caring mind that has never been more ignorant of the past and the present. The modern therapeutic university has managed all at once, with its various “centers,” reduced teaching loads, empty faculty research, and legions of new administrators, to put tuition costs beyond the reach of most Americans, to spark an entire new competing industry of no-frills, private, for-profit certificate-granting trade schools, and to end the old idea that a student’s B.A. degree was synonymous with competency or a faculty member’s Ph.D. with wisdom.

We live in an age in which advocates do not believe in their own advocacy: A “planet is doomed” Al Gore refuses to fly economy; a statist John Kerry won’t pay taxes on his yacht unless he is caught; an anti-war Barack Obama won’t honor the War Powers Act he once deified; and the liberal congressional and media establishment will not put their children in the D.C. schools that are the reification of their own ideology.

In short, the generation that came of age in the 1960s succeeded in bringing to life the Frankenstein’s monster it designed in its own image — but suddenly it seems terrified of the very thing it created.

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institutionthe editor of Makers of Ancient Strategy: From the Persian Wars to the Fall of Rome, and the author of The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern.


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