AN AUTUMN OF WAR by Victor Davis Hanson


What America Learned from September 11 and the War on Terrorism
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Essays originally published in National Review Online from just after 9/11 through January 2002, arguing that the war on terrorism is justly rooted in both American and classical ideals.

The classical connection will not surprise those familiar with the author’s previous work (Carnage and Culture, 2001, etc.), many of which highlight the ancients’ mastery of the arts of war and battle as the paramount hallmarks of classical culture. Since conservative thinkers must by definition be anchored somewhere in the past, even readers of a liberal bent may conclude that Hanson (Classics/California State Univ., Fresno) could have made a worse choice than ancient Greece, though they may well deplore the amount of time he spends flaying his fellow academics as “elitists.” The vast majority of Americans supported the US administration’s response to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, so these pieces primarily offer the comfort that what little dissent was registered stemmed, in the author’s view, from feckless or ultraliberal know-nothings. The author is at his best in hammering America’s own experiences (with emphasis on the exploits of prosecutorial warriors like Grant, Sherman, and Patton) into a paradigm for confronting state-supported terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism. This crusade is occasionally hampered by the wide factual latitude Hanson exercises even as he derides the “distortions” of the media. For example, he continually alludes to the World Trade Center fatalities as if no foreign nationals were included, using the estimate of about 3,000 casualties to support the need to avenge “more American dead than in every battle up to Shiloh.” In his Arab world of “no elected leaders,” Arafat is not present. The Islamic nations, the author believes, cannot cope with modernity and are incapable of providing participatory government because of their roots in a hopelessly antiquarian system. At the same time, noting that “dangerous ideas” are being fostered in American universities, he cautions us to “cast them aside and look to our past.”

A victory-or-death view of America’s mission against terror.

Pub Date: Aug. 13th, 2002
ISBN: 1-4000-3113-3
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Anchor
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2002


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