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Victor Davis Hanson

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Victor Davis Hanson (born 1953 in Fowler, California) is a military (nominally Democratic) conservative historian, columnist, political essayist and former classics professor, best known as a scholar of ancient warfare as well as a commentator on modern warfare. He is also a farmer (growing raisin grapes) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism.


Early life, education and today

Hanson grew up on a family farm at Selma, in the San Joaquin Valley of California. His mother was a lawyer and judge, his father an educator and college administrator. Along with his older brother and fraternal twin, he attended public schools and graduated from Selma High School. Hanson received his B.A. from the University of California, Santa Cruz (1975) and his Ph.D. from Stanford University (1980).

Hanson is currently a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and Fellow in California Studies at the Claremont Institute. Until recently, he was professor at California State University, Fresno, where he began teaching in 1984, having started the classics program there.

In 1991 Hanson was awarded an American Philological Association's Excellence in Teaching Award, which is awarded to undergraduate teachers of Greek and Latin. He has been a visiting professor of classics at Stanford University (1991–92), National Endowment for the Humanities fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, California (1992–93), as well as holding the visiting Shifrin Chair of Military History at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland (2002–03). He was a visiting professor at Hillsdale College in 2004 and 2006[1].

Hanson writes weekly columns for National Review and Tribune Media Services, and has been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, American Heritage, City Journal, The American Spectator, Policy Review, The New Criterion, and The Weekly Standard, among others. In 2006, he started blogging at Pajamas Media.

Carnage and Culture

Dr. Hanson is most famous for his 2001 book Carnage and Culture in which he argued that the military dominance of Western Civilization, beginning with the ancient Greeks, is the result of certain fundamental aspects of Western culture. Hanson rejects racial explanations for this military preeminence. He also disagrees with environmental explanations, as put forth by authors such as Jared Diamond in Guns, Germs and Steel.[2]

According to Hanson, Western values such as political freedom, capitalism, individualism, democracy, scientific inquiry, rationalism, and open debate form an especially lethal combination when applied to warfare. Non-Western societies can win the occasional victory when warring against a society with these Western values, writes Hanson, but the "Western way of war" will prevail in the long run. Hanson emphasizes that Western warfare is not necessarily more (or less) moral than war as practiced by other cultures; his argument is simply that the "Western way of war" is unequalled in its devastation and decisiveness.

Carnage and Culture examines nine battles throughout history, each of which is used to illustrate a particular aspect of Western culture that Hanson believes contributes to the dominance of Western warfare. The battles or campaigns recounted (with themes in parenthesis) are the Battle of Salamis (480 BC; free citizens), the Battle of Gaugamela (331 BC; the decisive battle of annihilation), the Battle of Cannae (216 BC; civic militarism), the Battle of Tours/Poitiers (732; infantry), the Battle of Tenochtitlan (1521; technology and reason), the Battle of Lepanto (1571; capitalism), the Battle of Rorke's Drift (1879; discipline), the Battle of Midway (1942; individualism), and the Tet Offensive (1968; dissent).

Though Carnage and Culture appeared before the September 11, 2001 attacks, its message that the "Western way of war" will ultimately prevail made the book a best-seller in the wake of those events. Immediately after 9/11, Carnage and Culture was re-issued with a new afterword by Hanson in which he explicitly stated that the United States would win the "war on terror" for the reasons stated in the book.


Iraq War

Hanson believes that the Iraq War is a good and worthwhile undertaking and that it has been, with some reservations, a laudable success. Hanson has been called a neoconservative,<ref>The Pericles of Petticoat Junction by James Wolcott</ref> and Hanson has applied the term to himself on his weblog in a recent blog defending Donald Rumsfeld.<ref>Works and Days: Rumsfeld, Webb - and Being Careful About What You Wish For by Victor Davis Hanson,, Nov. 8 2006</ref> Hanson has strongly hawkish, pro-Israel views on the Middle East. He believes that the lack of individual and political freedom in many Middle East nations has retarded economic, technological and cultural progress and is the root cause of radical Islamic terrorism.<ref>It's not just about land by Victor Davis Hanson, Jewish World Review, 3 August 2006</ref>

American education and Classical studies

Hanson co-authored the book Who Killed Homer? with John Heath. This book explores the issue of how classical education has declined in America and what might be done to restore it to its former place. This is important, according to Hanson, because knowledge of the classical Greeks and Romans is necessary if we are to fully understand our own culture. Hanson blames the academic classicists themselves for the decline, accusing them of becoming so infected with political correctness and postmodern thinking that they have lost sight of what he feels the classics truly represent.


Hanson sees rural values as underpinning successful democracies, whether they be of ancient Athens or the modern United States. Although he reports that he is a member of the Democratic Party, he holds conservative or neoconservative views on many issues and has stated that he voted for George W. Bush in the 2000 and 2004 elections.<ref>Interview in The Naval Institute: Proceedings</ref> Hanson feels that the current Democratic party does not have a morally responsible approach to foreign policy and no longer addresses the concerns of ordinary Americans, writing: "The Democratic Party reminds me of the Republicans circa 1965 or so—impotent, shrill, no ideas, conspiratorial, reactive, out-of-touch with most Americans, isolationist, and full of embarrassing spokesmen."<ref>Question Log on Hanson's website, February 2005</ref>


Hanson cites the Theban general and statesman Epaminondas, the American generals Sherman and Patton, as well as Winston Churchill as his heroes. In the field of military history, Hanson cites John Keegan as being influential, and shares a mutual admiration with fellow classicist Donald Kagan and the historian Steven Ozment.






External links

Official sites

Media interviews

Educational institutions

Online articles

Opposing views

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This page was last modified 04:41, 13 November 2007 by Chad Lupkes. Based on work by dKosopedia user(s) Lestatdelc. Content is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

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