Loose Talk About the End of Everything

After a recent summit between new partners China and Russia, General Secretary Xi Jinping and Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin issued an odd one-sentence communique: “There can be no winners in a nuclear war and it should never be fought.”

No one would disagree, even though several officials of both hypocritical governments have previously threatened their neighbors with nuclear attacks.

But still, why did the two feel the need to issue such a terse statement—and why now?

Rarely has the global rhetoric of mass annihilation reached such a crescendo as the present, as existential wars rage in Ukraine and Gaza.

In particular, Putin at least believes that he is finally winning the Ukraine conflict. Xi seems to assume that conventional ascendant Chinese military power in the South China Sea has finally made the absorption of Taiwan practicable.

They both believe that the only impediment to their victories would be an intervention from the U.S. and the NATO alliance, a conflict that could descend into mutual threats to resort to nuclear weapons.

Thus the recent warnings of Xi and Putin.

Almost monthly, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un continues his weary threats to use his nuclear arsenal to destroy South Korea or Japan.

A similarly monotonous, pro-Hamas Turkish president, Recep Erdogan, regularly threatens Armenians with crazy talk of repeating the “mission of our grandfathers.” And he occasionally warns Israelis and Greeks that they may one day wake up to Turkish missiles raining down upon their cities.

More concretely, for the first time in history, Iran attacked the homeland of Israel. It launched the largest wartime array of cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and drones in modern history—over 320 projectiles.

Iran’s theocrats simultaneously claim they are about ready to produce nuclear weapons. And, of course, since 1979, Iran has periodically promised to wipe Israel off the map and half the world’s Jews with it.

Most ignore these crazy threats and write them off as the braggadocio of dictators. But as we saw on October 7, the barbarity of human nature has not changed much from the premodern world, whether defined by savage beheading, mutilations, murdering, mass rape, torture, and hostage taking of Israeli elderly, women, and children.

But what has radically transformed are the delivery systems of mass death—nuclear weapons, chemical gases, biological agents, and artificial-intelligence-driven delivery systems.

Oddly, the global reaction to the promise of Armageddon remains one of nonchalance. Most feel that such strongmen rant wildly but would never unleash weapons of civilizational destruction.

Consider that there are as many autocratic nuclear nations (e.g., Russia, China, Pakistan, North Korea, and perhaps Iran) as democratic ones (U.S., Britain, France, Israel, and India). Only Israel has an effective anti-ballistic missile dome. And the more the conventional power of the West declines, the more in extremis it will have to rely on a nuclear deterrent—at a time when it has no effective missile defense of its homelands.

In a just-released book, The End of Everything, I wrote about four examples of annihilation—the classical city-state of Thebes, ancient Carthage, Byzantine Constantinople and Aztec Tenochtitlán—in which the unimaginable became all too real.

In all these erasures, the targeted, naïve states believed that their illustrious pasts, rather than a realistic appraisal of their present inadequate defenses, would ensure their survival.

All hoped that their allies—the Spartans, the anti-Roman Macedonians, the Christian nations of Western Europe, and the subject cities of the Aztecs—would appear at the eleventh hour to stave off their defeat.

Additionally, these targeted states had little understanding of the agendas and capabilities of the brilliantly methodic killers outside their walls—the ruthless wannabe philosopher Alexander the Great, the literary patron Scipio Aemilianus, the self-described intellectual Mehmet II, and the widely read Hernán Cortés—who all sought to destroy utterly rather than merely defeat their enemies.

These doomed cities and nations were reduced to rubble or absorbed by the conquerors. Their populations were wiped out or enslaved, and their once-hallowed cultures, customs, and traditions lost to history. The last words of the conquered were usually variations of, “It can’t happen here.”

If the past is any guide to the present, we should take heed that what almost never happens in war can certainly still occur.

When killers issue wild, even lunatic, threats, we should nonetheless take them seriously.

We should not count on friends or neutrals to save our civilization. Instead, Americans should build defense systems over the skies of our homeland, secure our borders, ensure our military operates on meritocracy, cease wild deficit spending and borrowing, and rebuild both our conventional and nuclear forces.

Otherwise, we will naively—and fatally—believe that we are magically exempt when the inconceivable becomes all too real.

Victor Davis Hanson’s The End of Everything. How Wars Descend into Annihilation was just released by Basic Books.

Get the news corporate media won't tell you.

Get caught up on today's must read stores!

By submitting your information, you agree to receive exclusive AG+ content, including special promotions, and agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms. By providing your phone number and checking the box to opt in, you are consenting to receive recurring SMS/MMS messages, including automated texts, to that number from my short code. Msg & data rates may apply. Reply HELP for help, STOP to end. SMS opt-in will not be sold, rented, or shared.

About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004, and is the 2023 Giles O'Malley Distinguished Visiting Professor at the School of Public Policy, Pepperdine University. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush, and the Bradley Prize in 2008. Hanson is also a farmer (growing almonds on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author of the just released New York Times best seller, The End of Everything: How Wars Descend into Annihilation, published by Basic Books on May 7, 2024, as well as the recent  The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, The Case for Trump, and The Dying Citizen.

Photo: The sacking of Thebes, Greece, in 335 BC by Alexander The Great, aka Alexander III of Macedon. From Hutchinson's History of the Nations, published 1915. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Notable Replies

  1. A timely and very sobering reminder that while history may not repeat itself, as Twain quipped, it does rhyme.

    Recently, I saw a graph that listed the life span of several great nations and empires. Though the start and end dates were debatable, it was still uncanny how the average length of dominance for these nations was about 250 years.

    United States of America
    1776 - ??

  2. My dad spent most of his Air Force career in nuclear missiles----the Matador, Mace-B, Minuteman I and Minuteman III—and being around him and his friends would listen to stories of how close we came at various times to nuclear annihilation due to political threats and human error. I’ve found it to be a grave mistake to underestimate the stupidity of man. And when coupling the chance of stupid act with feckless leaders, the chances of a nuclear exchange grow, not shrink.

    At the moment we seem to be caught between two imminent dangers—nuclear immolation and economic meltdown. And I think it 50/50 which one will happen first.

    When we have the likes of Victoria Nuland advocating for US supplied missiles striking Russia proper, Dr. Strangelove is ahead by a nose. But economic meltdown is gaining. Various publications are becoming more forthcoming on the increased risks of collapse due to the debt bomb of Commercial Real Estate, and sadly, there are no quick fixes. It took bad policy decisions coupled with greed to get this point 17 years after the last economic collapse.

    I’ve never been more pessimistic about our future than now.

    Edited: Oh, while it’s still behind Tucker Carlson’s paywall, I expect it to be released to YouTube in a week or so----the Carlson interview with J. Michael Waller is a must watch. The closer we are getting to a Trump victory, the more Leftist political actors are preparing litigation and outright insurrection to prevent his holding of office even if fairly elected.

    Rome survived about 30 civil wars during its time, but I think our political structure doesn’t make us as resilient. CW2 might be the end.

  3. Some people have come to see that Biden was put in the WH to further the interests of this country only to the extent that it benefits the Democrat Party. They are charter members of the ‘it will never happen here crowd’ and believe that self-preservation puts a brake on Democrats’ worst excesses as demanded by the left. But almost to a man and woman, Democrats are as dedicated to creative destruction as their leftist allies, who are completely know-nothing and nihilistic. The Democrat Party made its Faustian bargain with these criminals and intends to stick to it because it’s the only thing it has left that has a slim chance of preserving what they have.

  4. Avatar for task task says:

    I ordered the book and heard enough to realize this article was going to appear so I thought about it for a few days. Although I fundamentally agree with the author I can also see alternative scenarios emerging.

    Two nuclear bombs were dropped on Japan because it not only enabled America to win the war but also because there was no threat of mutual destruction. Today that concept, especially since technology has created new extremely powerful nuclear WMDs, is the only thing which has prevented their employment. We do, however, worry about rogue nations, such as Iran, because some of their leaders really think they could survive an Israeli counter strike. In my opinion they would and Israel would be destroyed. But would it stop at that point. From what I can surmise the international community would probably do nothing. In fact they would probably be relieved.

    Let’s consider American socialists, i.e., the Democrats, who are are genuinely very useful idiots for both the CCP and the Globalists. They hate America and have every intention of destroying her while not paying attention to what will be the aftermath. This is how fascists, socialists and communists are always voted in. After the population is dumbed down and everyone is on the government dole they vote for the colorful allure of the propagandists. At that point America will not be a threat. It will be on the side of its current enemies.

    When America is weak you can assume that more sensible nations will look to achieve goals that require them to risk war. They look at the cost benefit ratio. That is why Putin invaded Afghanistan. America is certainly a nuclear power like no other however will it use its arsenal even in a war it is losing? Probably not. In fact there are political pundits, such as Thomas Friedman, who think fascist China would run America quite well. Plus look where the money is. American companies are heavily invested in China.

    On the other hand we cannot ignore that the Globalists who seem to want a restart and to begin anew with a very reduced human population as a startup point. Nuclear war is something, despite the stammering of international leaders, they appear to be to encouraging. And they are prepared with elaborately designed bunkers.

    Human beings are strange animals. They are psychologically no different than they were 20,000 years ago. They have not changed yet the technology they have created has. Only mankind can create such incredible technology. No other life on earth can do anything remotely similar. What we do with such technology, under the auspices of such a very old and almost primitive psychology, is what Steinbeck capsulated in the title of his well know novel, “Mice and Men”. We now all realize that the best laid plans of mice and men can, and often do, go astray.

  5. The multi-billionaires aren’t building bunkers as vacation spots. They are planning what’s coming—out front and in public. Too many people hide their heads in the sand because that cannot wrap their heads around that kind of evil as a very real concept.

Continue the discussion at community.amgreatness.com

3 more replies


Avatar for afhack73 Avatar for Maximus-Cassius Avatar for system Avatar for task Avatar for Everett_Brunson