By Hillsdale College May 3, 2019
HUGH HEWITT: Morning Glory, America. Bonjour, hi, Canada. Greetings, everyone watching across the globe via hughhewitt.com. I am so pleased to always have my Hillsdale Dialogue complete the last radio hour of the week. The Hillsdale Dialogue, since 2013, bringing you the 30,000-foot view, both of history and of current events, the factual-based view, of the history-anchored view.
This week Dr. Larry Arnn is back with us. On Monday, I had his colleague Matthew Spalding join me to talk about the confirmation hearings and the hearings that General Barr was going to undergo in Venezuela—waited until the end of the week. I was hoping that we would be able to celebrate the return of freedom to Venezuela. But we are not able to do that.
Dr. Arnn, welcome back. Good to have you on the Hillsdale Dialogue, all things at hillsdale.edu. We are not yet celebrating the return of freedom to Venezuela.
LARRY ARNN: No, on it goes. It seems to have reached some kind of a pitch of decision making, but it's not there yet.
HEWITT: Now, I want to go back and play something I first played on Thursday's show. Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, was on Fox Business with Maria Bartiromo on Thursday. And he made clear that the United States is considering military action. And that's what I want to talk about with you today. So, if we can play cut number 19 from yesterday, the Secretary of State talking about what is possible.
MIKE POMPEO: That's right, Maria. He's always there until he's not. We don't know precisely when the moment is that he'll make the right decision for the people of Venezuela. He's shown an utter lack of regard or care for their decency, for their dignity. Our task is to continue to support all those who are supporting Juan Guaido.
It's not only the people in the National Assembly, but the Organization of American States, all the countries of the Lima Group, now 50-plus countries across the world, each of whom has recognized that the election that Maduro claims his power from was a fraud. It was a sham— that Juan Guaido, indeed, is the duly elected constitutional leader, and that we need free and fair elections. Our efforts are to drive towards that conclusion. I don't make predictions about how long it will take. We're going to continue with this until the Venezuelan people get the democracy that they're demanding.
MARIA BARTIROMO: Is the US's support going to include troops? Are the military troops in the US going to head there and support Guaido?
MIKE POMPEO: The president has been crystal clear and incredibly consistent. Military action is possible. If that's what's required, that's what the United States will do. We're trying to do everything we can to avoid violence. We've asked all the parties involved not to engage in that kind of activity. We'd prefer a peaceful transition of government there, where Maduro leaves and a new election is held. But the president has made clear, in the event that there comes a moment—and we'll all have to make decisions about when that moment is, and the president will ultimately have to make that decision—he's prepared to do that if that's what's required.
HUGH HEWITT: If that's what's required, Dr. Larry Arnn at Hillsdale College. We are going to talk about when the United States has done this before. But that is ringing a bell that had not been rung. Up until that time, they just kept saying all options were on the table. But then Mike Pompeo raised it a level when he said military action is possible. You know the Secretary of State. He does not use words loosely.
LARRY ARNN: I just think that guy's awesome. And one of the reasons is he does seem to make himself clear, doesn't he?
HEWITT: Yes. And so, when you heard that, what was your reaction in terms of, uh-oh, or go for it?
ARNN: Well, neither. My reaction is like him. So, first of all, military interventions—the United States has a very old history with them, and a very old reluctance about them both. And sometimes we've done that, and it's been successful. And I'm talking about cases, by the way, which happened when we were not directly attacked.
We got into the First World War because of unrestricted submarine warfare by the Germans, and they killed a bunch of Americans. Mostly, that was the direct cause of it. And we got into the Second World War because Japan attacked us, and then in an incredibly foolish act, Adolf Hitler declared war on us. And so there we were. Now we're in it.
But this is different because nobody is threatening American soil right now. And so, you have to think about that. And the place I start thinking about that is 1852, because Abraham Lincoln himself wrote some rules about when you should do this.
ARNN: Isn't that interesting?
HEWITT: Yeah, I did not know that.
ARNN: Yeah, I came across this a few years ago. So first of all, there was a man named Louis Kossuth. And he was a freedom fighter. There's a bust of him in the capital of the United States. He tried to bring freedom—and he did, for some considerable time, and led it—to Hungary.
So, he comes. He was exiled for a while. He went to Britain, and then he went to the United States. And he was a brilliant orator. Daniel Webster was actually moved to write a biography of him. And there's lots of superlatives used.
And then he went to Springfield, Illinois. And a Republican committee—he talked to a Republican group there. And a Republican committee passed a bunch of resolutions that were drafted by Abraham Lincoln. And I'll read what they are, because they're remarkably reserved.
First, it is the right of any people sufficiently numerous for national independence to throw off, to revolutionize their existing form of government, and to establish another one if they want. That means Guaido is fully justified by that resolution and by the principles of the United States. That it is the duty of our government to neither foment nor assist such revolutions in other governments. So that statement means we don't have a duty to do that. And as you'll see that I go down, there's some reluctance to do that.
HEWITT: Well, let's move through that. I wanted to point out you are an expert in many things, but two of them are Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln. I believe there is a distinction between the way the latter, the greatest man of the 20th century, thought about foreign military interventions, and the former, the greatest man of the 19th century. Am I correct?
ARNN: Not so much, I think. The point is they were both reluctant about it. We're finishing—God, if I ever finish it—the last document volume of the Churchill biography. I'm writing the preface right now. And there's just trouble in Suez everywhere, right? And that would lead—this is in years 1953, '54. And these radicals come in, a guy named Naguib, who was then replaced by Nasser, and they're threatening the Suez Canal. And Britain has treaty rights around the canal, and some in Egypt that are expiring.
And it eventually led to the 1956 war after Churchill had retired, where the United States split from Britain, France, and Israel. And that was just a disaster. But what Churchill wanted to do was something cheap to hold the canal, and not much more. And there's just lots of instances of that in Churchill.
And the reasons for it are, see, so I'm glad of what Trump is doing, myself, in Venezuela, and think he's doing it delicately, and think that delicately is right. Because just think of the possibilities here, right? First of all, Guaido seems to be popular. And because of the way that this thing is unfolding, and because of the broad international support there is for it, it looks like there's a chance that they could get a free government. That's what happened in Panama after we invaded Panama in the first George H. W. Bush Administration. And now Panama is a free country and it's got a freely elected government. And it didn't take very long.
Well, that's successful. And if that could happen in Venezuela, then God bless them. If it could happen without troops, better.
HEWITT: Better. Much better, because American lives will not be in harm's way. And nobody wants that to happen except, perhaps, some of the professionals themselves who are gunfighters, and they like a gun fight. That's what they train for, and they like to deploy. But that's not what we want.
HEWITT: Let me talk a little bit. I'm going to use a cheat sheet provided to us by the estimable Victor Davis Hanson on the, quote, "tough choices of overseas intervention." He wrote this originally for the Mercury News. And everything Victor writes—he is, of course, a fellow at Hillsdale College, hillsdale.edu—is worth reading. But especially when he dips into his immense credibility as a military historian, I pay very close attention.
And he wrote, quote, "As a general rule over the past 100 years, anytime the U.S. has bombed or intervened and then abruptly left the targeted country, chaos has followed. But when America has followed up its use of force with unpopular peacekeeping, sometimes American interventions have led to something better." And therefore, he contrasts the butcher and bolt, for example, Hillary Clinton strategy in Libya after the death of Gaddafi, and then the intervene and stay, Harry Truman, a Democrat—I used two Democrats there—sticking with South Korea and followed up by Eisenhower. Those are really the two models, are they not? And I believe they translate into Great Britain when it was the superpower of the world, butcher and bolt or intervene and stay.
ARNN: That's right. Britain faced the same troubles in Afghanistan that we face today. And Winston Churchill happened to have fought there in his first campaign. And he wrote a book about it, of course. And of course, the book was a bestseller. It's called The Malakand Field Force. And the last chapter of the book is called "The Riddle of the Frontier." It's about a riddle.
And here's a place where Britain has sovereignty in India, whether you like that or not. They had it for a long time. And they have to defend India. Mostly Indian troops, the great Gurkhas, especially, did that. So, the point is, how are you going to defend the frontier when these tribes come across? And the answer is, there is no good answer to that.
HEWITT: There is no good answer. But we're going to try and give you one as this week's Hillsdale Dialogue continues. Don't forget, all of these conversations are found at hughforhillsdale.com, and everything Hillsdale is found at hillsdale.edu. Stay tuned.
Welcome back, America. It's Hugh Hewitt with Dr. Larry Arnn, the president of Hillsdale College. It's the last radio hour of the week. That means, especially in this week of incredible drama in Venezuela, an important moment to go to 30,000 feet and look backwards. Dr. Arnn, before I do that, though, I want to go back to two weeks ago when I was quizzing you about your chapel at the Hillsdale College campus that is soon to be opened and dedicated. And it has a name, does it not?
ARNN: Christ Chapel.
HEWITT: Does Christ Chapel have windows that are dedicated by individuals?
ARNN: It has three.
HEWITT: They're already all taken.
ARNN: They are. Yeah, they're in there.
HEWITT: Can't you find some small windows for people?
ARNN: Yeah, we could put a—well, there's lots of really beautiful windows. The chapel has three stained glass windows. And it has clear windows in most places. And they're major architectural features of the chapel. They have great swoops of masonry above them on the inside. And those sort of form an arc that welcomes the light up to the ceiling and all over the building. And so, we're not going to make a lot more stained-glass windows in the chapel, but the clear windows can be named.
HEWITT: What about pews? Are you going to put little brass markers on pews?
ARNN: We are.
HEWITT: Those exist in some of the—you are doing that?
ARNN: We are doing it.
HEWITT: Oh, that is wonderful. I will have to go to hillsdale.edu and find out, because that seems to me to be an investment in eternity, not just in the education of young minds, but an investment in the eternity of souls. So, I am heartily approving of that. hillsdale.edu— do you have, like, a marker there for people to go to support the chapel pew?
ARNN: We do, yeah. Just the hillsdalecollege.edu/chapel.
HEWITT: All right.
ARNN: And you can find out all about that. I took two groups. So, we're finishing our year, and we're having senior dinner at the president's house. We've just had the last one of those. And the last two times, I made a terrible mistake. About 10:30 at night, I took a group over to walk through the chapel. And so now I'll have to do that ever after.
HEWITT: That's a terrible mistake.
ARNN: Just, you know, what was I thinking?
HEWITT: That was a precedent.
ARNN: But you know, it's breathtaking. And people take pictures. You can find some of them on social media. And there's a stream of the building of the chapel you can look at. But it's a very gorgeous, impressive building. And we're going to close the construction project a week from tomorrow, the night before commencement. And we're going to have a prayer service for the seniors and their parents, because it seemed a shame to me for them to endure the construction projects and not get to use it at all.
HEWITT: Bravo. hillsdale.edu/chapel.
Now, back to our Hillsdale Dialogue—the history of military interventions, primarily U.S. But I want to begin with a Brit intervention, the Falkland Island when Argentina took the British possession in 1982, and Margaret Thatcher got it back. Why is that sort of a model for the effective deployment of force abroad?
ARNN: Well, step one—it worked.
HEWITT: That's a good point!
ARNN: It turns out that matters. And also, it's unpredictable when you start. So first of all, she really didn't have a choice. Well, she had the choice of dishonor, and she was not up for that. That wasn't what she was like.
And so, Falkland Islands is an island off the coast of Argentina that's been in British hands for 4,000 years or something. And they have a freely elected government and control their local affairs. And they're just as happy as they can be. And they don't really want to be ruled by the Argentine Junta. And so, the Argentine Junta, darned if they didn't invade them. And that's a direct act of aggression over territory for which Britain is responsible.
And if you claim their loyalty and set them up so they can run their own affairs too, then you're responsible for their safety. It's like somebody invaded Hawaii. I know really great strategic thinkers at the time who said, if you add Hawaii as a state, you're going to have to defend it. And it's a long way away. And now, that became a controversy back in the days when Bill Clinton was dragging his feet about strategic missile defense, because the Defense Department under his direction published a Quadrennial Defense Review that said that North Korean missiles could not reach the United States. And the map they produced showed that it could reach Hawaii.
HEWITT: It did. And Hawaii matters to us. And when we come back, we'll talk about why Maggie Thatcher believed in her heart and acted with the resolve to take the Falklands back. Don't go anywhere, America. We're talking about, should the United States invade Venezuela? That's it. That's it. Put bluntly, should they do that? Stay tuned. It's The Hugh Hewitt Show.
Welcome back, America. I'm Hugh Hewitt. It's the last radio hour of the week. That's when we use elevated music, and we take elevated views of that which is going on, typically with Dr. Larry Arnn, President of Hillsdale College. He is my guest today. And we are looking at the very bald question, should the United States use military force to return freedom to Venezuela, with or without the assistance of regional allies, but certainly in support of Juan Guaido?
And we began with the Falklands. And Victor Davis Hanson told us, Dr. Arnn, as we were talking about before the break, it took 74 days. And it was not without grievous loss of life. But in the end, it was necessary for Margaret Thatcher to do.
ARNN: And she had to do it. And you know Margaret Thatcher, by the way, she faced facts, as Winston Churchill did, reluctantly, at the end of his life. Margaret Thatcher let some of the African countries go, and just got the deal she could get and got out. You know, those were places of turmoil. And they didn't all get free governments. Some of the worst are still going. But she thought that Great Britain, in its straits, could not defend those places. And so, she negotiated with the independence movements and she let them go.
Well, Falklands is different because they weren't agitating for independence. And they certainly were not agitating for falling under Argentina's control. So, she had to go. I mean, she could have dishonored the country. And that's not impossible, just impossible with her.
HEWITT: Now, that is different from Venezuela. We don't have to go. The misery is close. We see it amplified. It it's a slow rolling genocide, to quote John Bolton. It's more like Granada was in 1983 because there are between 45,000 and 50,000 Americans in Venezuela. And there were a lot of Americans in Granada in 1983 when Ronald Reagan pulled the trigger there. What do you think about that?
ARNN: And so, Granada and Venezuela have something in common. One of our most important sea lanes is out the Gulf of Mexico. And those sea lanes are narrow. And Venezuela is the southern edge of that. And so, if you think of the ultimate disaster that could happen, think of a Soviet, or worse, Chinese—and they kind of go together these days—navy stationed there and nuclear weapons there. And that's dangerous. And that would hamper our efforts to keep the sea lanes open around the world, which is one of the things that we do and ought to do.
HEWITT: And so that would incline us, would it not, to intervention?
ARNN: We're looking—and it's a council of prudence, right, and you're talking about unpredictable events. But in this case, if it's true—and it does seem to be true, because the number of people in the streets right now demonstrating to get rid of Maduro, the successor to Hugo Chavez, who was a very bad man. And the Venezuelan people are living in misery now. And they are broke. And yet they've got oil running out their ears. And so, that's a situation that calls out for fixing.
And the question of what we do is much affected by whether they can fix it. If we're helping them fix it, that's a very different thing than if we're going to go down there and try to run Venezuela, which we are not ever going successfully to do.
HEWITT: And if we do go in, I believe it will be with the intention of getting out in a heck of a hurry, except for Foreign Service, foreign aid, development assistance, brains, technology, but not with a military. And we're not going to disband the Venezuelan military. Do you agree?
ARNN: Yeah. I read today—and I'm no great expert on Panama, but because of Hugh Hewitt, my nemesis, I'm reading up on it. But Panama, apparently, doesn't have an army. And there are libertarians who've written, and that's why they get along so well with everybody. Try that for Belgium in 1938 and see how that goes.
HEWITT: You know what happened? They disbanded after we liberated them.
ARNN: They did?
HEWITT: They had an army. And it was a tool of oppression.
ARNN: That's right. And so, Venezuela, our interest— just remember, in a way, our imperial interest is like Great Britain's except more so. Ultimately, what we have an interest is in other people's governing themselves and trading and getting along with us, and if need be, form alliances with us against despotism. So, we're pushing on a string, right? We need them to do it. And so, it's always a judgment.
According to Lincoln, the first judgment is they have a right to govern themselves. We don't have a right to mess with them. He does say, Lincoln, and he says it in regard to Russia— he said, if a third power like Russia is intervening and we find it in our interest, then we can intervene. And if they ask us to intervene, we can intervene. And so, those conditions are met here.
And you know, I mean Russia's up to mischief all over the world. And China's up to mischief all over the world. And what an easy victory for them if they can establish a major base on our doorstep and impede our movements. And people will say, we do that to them, with Japan and Taiwan and the Philippines—Philippines, not so much anymore. And I answer to that, yeah. I like us better than I like them.
HEWITT: And I also would point out we have not yet decided to do this. And prudence is what drives that.
Now, let's contrast the prudent use of force, Granada, with the imprudent deployment of force by the same president, Larry Arnn, Granada versus Beirut, where American Marines, of course, were killed in large numbers because they were sitting ducks. What's the difference between those two uses of force by the same president?
ARNN: Well, the prudence is always different. Reagan's principles were the same all the time. And so, what differed were the circumstances. And he didn't judge them right in one place, and in another, he did.
The circumstances in Granada were—the Granada invasion, the origin of it, is in requests through ambassadors by several Caribbean countries that we come down there and do something about this, because there's Cubans all over Granada, and they're messing with us, too. And so, we had local people asking for help, and then Granadans asking for help. And it's close. And so, we went down there, and we did it. And we could see a military plan that started one day and ended a later day. And it was predictable that it would work. And that was good.
Now, our troops in Lebanon, they were in a big old barracks. It was actually an old office building. And they were just there. And what are they going to do? And you know, why are they there? They weren't doing anything, really, except staying in the barracks. And they patrolled a little bit.
Edward Lubeck said that there are hard policies in Lebanon, either of which is commendable and soft policies. And the hard policy he said was get out of there, or take a military force and take Damascus, Syria, where the problem is coming from. And the soft one is, put a bunch of troops there and let them sit around. And then darned if 240 some of them didn't get killed.
HEWITT: Yep. And I want to emphasize I'm very aware that at Heartbreak Ridge in Granada, Americans lost their life. Even though it was a successful military intervention, a lot of the American service people died there, as they probably would in Venezuela. But they died to accomplish a goal that did not happen in Beirut, Dr. Arnn. And to a certain extent, loss of life wrongly is judged not for the valor of the attempt, but by the success of the attempt.
ARNN: If you enter a violent place, habitually violent, for a long time—although back in the '50s and '60s, Lebanon was a great place and settled. But anyway, it had been in trouble for a long time. If you go into such a place with an object to get them to settle down, you might need to be there infinitely. When will that ever stop?
HEWITT: Unfortunately, in our lifetime, it isn't going to stop. And I doubt that it will in the next century as well. We come back from break, we're going to move forward to Tripoli in 1986, where we have been twice in the last 30 to 40 years, once successfully, one not. And we'll contrast the two. Don't go anywhere, America. It's Dr. Larry Arnn. The Hillsdale Dialogue continues, all things at hillsdale.edu.
Welcome back, America. It's Hugh Hewitt with Dr. Larry Arnn, President of Hillsdale College. All of our conversations dating back to 2013 available at hughforhillsdale.com. This week's will probably be listened to quite a lot because Dr. Arnn and I are reviewing when American military might has been used abroad in instances where we have not first been attacked.
The next instance, Tripoli 1986, we actually had been attacked by Gaddafi, but indirectly. And it was only on a suspicion that we acted. Would you contrast that, Dr. Arnn, the Tripoli bombing in 1986 ordered by Ronald Reagan, with the Libyan intervention in 2011, ordered by Barack Obama?
ARNN: Well, they both concerned Gaddafi, who is not a nice man. And Reagan nearly killed him, did kill a member his family. See, that's what he was trying to do. And that had an effect.
When we did the second bombing under Obama of Libya, they had forsworn support of terrorists, and seemed to be carrying that out. And they had given up their nuclear projects and revealed them to the world and abandoned them. And then we went and did that. And that broke the Gaddafi regime. And what ensued has been chaos.
And you know, if things are— you have to remember, by the way, the sort of strategic, grand, distant thing about all this is that we're trying to run a free country here. And to have a free country, you have to have room for private people to maneuver and live and own property. And they should own as much as possible. And war upsets that. Churchill warned about this all his life, right? If you get into a big war, or if you consider yourself in a state of perpetual war, then always, you're conscripting the society. And in a big war, you need to do that, because if somebody evil conquers you, you won't be very happy after that.
So, your strategic calculation for Americans, for any free people, any liberal society, is whatever you do in foreign policy, do it cheap. And that way— Churchill loved to say, "Money can fructify in the pockets of the people." So, the point is, if you've got some interest that's being harmed, and you can see some way that's affordable that's likely to be able to fix it, then it might be worth a try.
HEWITT: Now, out of those three Reagan examples, Granada, Beirut, and Tripoli, there emerged something known as the Weinberger Doctrine, which is the willingness to use military force in pursuit of discrete limited goals. That was then deployed by President George Herbert Walker Bush in Panama in Operation Just Cause in 1989. I think that most closely resembles— indeed, there are some pretty remarkable parallels—the situation in Venezuela today. Do you agree with me on that?
ARNN: I do. You know, indigenous people who want rid of that tyrant and want to elect themselves a government calling for help looks like—and see, I don't know about Venezuela. Venezuela is a bigger country.
HEWITT: Much bigger.
ARNN: And it's further way.
ARNN: And so military people are doubtless calculating about that urgently right now. And then the question, are there Russians there? Probably there are. Are we going to kill them? All of that comes into it too.
They have to think two things. They have to think three things, now I think of it. They have to think that Guaido is real and can set up a free government in Venezuela, which they have had in the past, by the way. That's not implausible. They have to think that there's no other way than military force. And they have to think that they can win and win in a way that works for us.
And so, if those calculations come into play, then that's when you use military force. And by the way, that seems to be exactly how they're thinking.
HEWITT: It does. And that brings me to my last question. Haiti, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Libya intervention in 2011 that we talked about— we haven't seen team Trump do any of these yet. What do you make of having an acting Secretary of Defense, but also Bolton and Pompeo and Vice President Pence around President Trump as he makes this decision? Do you think they will go for Weinberger Doctrine, or do you think they will go Bush Doctrine?
ARNN: Well, I would guess Weinberger. You have to remember that George W. Bush disavowed, in the debates with Al Gore, nation-building as a project. And then he did undertake it, changed his mind about that.
HEWITT: Yeah, 9/11 being the pivotal event.
ARNN: And I'm not sure that was a good idea.
HEWITT: 9/11 being the reason.
ARNN: Yeah, that's right. And I'm still— I'm not sure that was a good idea. Have we built some great, free nations that are stable? And the reaction on domestic politics— American people are impatient with things like this. And that's not because they're cowardly. They very much are not cowardly. That's because they want to live their lives. That's what the country is for. And so, you need to be able to show them, first, a good reason, and second, an excellent plan, and third, results.
HEWITT: Results. To quote Victor Davis Hanson at the end of this conversation with Larry Arnn, "The US military can ultimately accomplish any mission it is asked." That is true. Let's make sure the mission is defined. Dr. Larry Arnn, hillsdale.edu for all things Hillsdale. Thank you, my friend.
We will be back, America, on Monday. And maybe there will be planes in the air by then. I don't know but follow closely. We'll bring you up to date on the next Hugh Hewitt Show.