Magazine | July 1, 2013, Issue


The Thousand Years’ Twilight

Victor Davis Hanson has added intriguing and refreshing historical references to the pages of NR for a number of years. As Michael Knox Beran implies at the conclusion of “Wisdom in Command” (June 3), his review of Mr. Hanson’s latest book, The Savior Generals, there is not much new under the sun, and we would do well to study history in order to better understand our current challenges.

I look forward to reading The Savior Generals, but I have a small bone to pick with the review. Mr. Beran paints a picture of the Eastern Roman Empire as a decaying, near-failed state, with General Belisarius fighting nobly to salvage Rome’s past glory as twilight descends upon its ragged and cash-strapped remains. Although there is much to criticize and dislike about Roman imperial culture (both eastern and western), the end was not even close for the eastern regime in the middle of the sixth century. In fact, Belisarius and his fellow generals aggressively reasserted control, in the name of Justinian I, over Rome itself, Italy, and much of the Mediterranean rim across North Africa and into the Iberian Peninsula. This does not seem like a technocratic repairing of the breaches in Byzantium’s defenses, as Mr. Beran portrays it.

The fortunes of the Roman Empire, under its eastern rulers, waxed and waned several times in the ensuing centuries, until the empire met its final end in Constantinople in the middle of the 15th century, 900 years after Belisarius and Justinian and a few short years before Columbus arrived on our shores. Quite a lengthy twilight!

Jerry K. Seelen

Hingham, Mass.

Confederate Hypocrisy

Rich Lowry’s “Defending Lincoln” (June 17) was both thorough and powerful. Here are two more examples of note that underscore the hypocrisy of both Confederate defenders and Lincoln critics.

First, the Confederacy passed the first of its three conscription acts a year before the Union did the same, leading Georgia governor Joseph E. Brown to state, as noted in Shelby Foote’s The Civil War: Fort Sumter to Perryville, that no “act of the Government of the United States prior to the secession of Georgia struck a blow at constitutional liberty so fell as has been struck by the conscription act.”

Second, as Foote wrote, “five days after the inaugural in which he excoriated Lincoln for doing the same thing,” Confederate president Jefferson Davis suspended habeas corpus in Norfolk, Va., then did the same two days later in Richmond. Davis also suspended it in East Tennessee. The provision to suspend habeas corpus in the Confederate constitution (Section 9.3) exactly matches the phrasing in our constitution (Article 1, Section 9). So to charge one president as a dictator is to charge the other.

Greg Buete

Ellenton, Fla.

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

In This Issue


Politics & Policy

One-Party Taxmen

What if I were to tell you that the IRS tea-party-targeting scandal all started with the great 19th-century railroads? Or with the conscience of a largely inconsequential, ornately mustachioed Gilded ...
Politics & Policy

Bureaucratic Rot

‘The fish rots from the head down” is a popular saying these days, mostly among people who do not fish and who, apparently, have never met a fish. “The fish rots ...
Politics & Policy

The debate over Internet sales taxes, when all distractions are stripped away, isn’t about the Internet or taxes. It is about federalism. Confusion over what federalism means explains the conservative ...
Politics & Policy

The Cincinnati Myth

When news broke that the Internal Revenue Service had, over the course of nearly two years, actively discriminated against conservative groups applying for tax exemption, subjecting them to intrusive questions ...


Politics & Policy

Men’s Rising Earnings

Assessing the severity of economic problems often requires choosing between different sets of analyses that reach disparate conclusions. While much lip service is paid to “evidence-based policymaking,” all too often ...

Books, Arts & Manners

Politics & Policy

Epic of a Nation

From Boethius to Bonhoeffer, many authors have written their most famous books in prison. In rare individuals down the ages, the predicament of incarceration seems to have unleashed great creativity. ...
Politics & Policy

Genius for Friendship

Someone should tell the story of this odd couple, because many today would find it hard to believe. Politics often feels like an ideological blood-sport, with pundits mercilessly bludgeoning one ...
Politics & Policy

No Green Light

The Bling Ring, the latest film from Sofia Coppola, marks something of a departure for its director. After several movies that have looked at the celebrity lifestyle from the inside ...


Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ The good news: The NSA doesn’t know you’re reading this. The bad news: The IRS does. ‐ The latest Republican fashion on immigration is to declare broad support for the ...
The Long View

G-Mail Inbox

GMAIL INBOX Hi! Totally weird coincidence! You and I were in the same homeroom sophomore year! I was the quiet kid in the back? Tyler? Do you remember? Probably not. You were ...
Politics & Policy


HEELS UPON THE TILE When I consider your devoted eyes, devoid of any vice I could reject, alive with avid interest, subtly flecked, and focused on my face with slight surprise, it seems as though ...
Politics & Policy


The Thousand Years’ Twilight Victor Davis Hanson has added intriguing and refreshing historical references to the pages of NR for a number of years. As Michael Knox Beran implies at the ...

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