Re Victor Davis Hanson: Caveat Emptor!


operation gets progressively

more gruesome
(and proportionately less newsworthy
in the eyes of the US
MSM). On Sunday, the IDF reported its

first fatality
; on Monday, three deaths in a
friendly fire incident were

.  This
absurd hundreds-to-one kill ratio obviously suggests we
are watching a massacre, not a battle.

Which means
classicist and
National Review
Victor Davis Hanson
will be scurrying out of the servants` quarters with
the apologia tray very soon.

However, judging
by the response to

my blog
posted on Sunday, a lot of well-informed
readers have VDH`s number.

fairness caveat: VDH does deserve credit for his unique
achievement in managing to get the
Wall Street
to run, not just a review [There,
But Only Halfway
, By Roger Clegg, June 19,
2003], but a

polite review
, of his moderately critical book on
immigration, Mexifornia).

Thanks, RH, for
producing, as I

for in my item last night, the vanished link
to Gary [“The War Nerd“]
Brecher`s superb polemic

Victor Hanson: Portrait of an American Traitor, The

July 28 2005.

There is a great deal of intelligent military analysis in
this essay—Brecher is a true scholar—but he is also a
first-class polemical writer:

On Hanson`s academic record, Brecher wrote:

“According to his official online bio, Hanson graduated from UC Santa Cruz in 1975. I
don`t know if you non-Californians understand what that
means. UC Santa Cruz is

the official sex-and-drugs campus
of the whole UC
system. It`s so hippie-cool and mellow it doesn`t even
give grades, which are just too bourgeois… graduating
from there is like telling your
future employers
you were stoned for four straight

“And Hanson graduated from there in 1975. I can only dream about what it
must`ve been like to be a student at
Santa Cruz
back then, at the
climax of the hippie days. I seriously doubt if anybody
on that campus was un-stoned from enrollment to
graduation, or un-laid for more than a week.”

More seriously, Brecher`s conclusion about Hanson:

“I don`t really think he`s insane – just a
traitor, a liar willing to keep shoving American troops
and money into a meatgrinder just so he doesn`t have to
admit he was wrong. Sooner or later we`re going to have
to face it: these

don`t care about

any more than

Stalin cared about Russia
. They`re not just wrong.
They`re traitors.”

And thanks, GM,
for drawing my attention to a later Brecher essay on

It`s All Greek to Victor Davis Hanson
, The American

December 19 2005

This essay is more focused on
Hanson`s historical work. Which does have some value,
unlike (most
) VDH`s public affairs commentary. But Brecher has
a devastating comment:

“Hanson ends with the most ridiculous claim of all:

and Athens
are `proud of our arts and letters even as we are more
adept at war.` Well, uh, no. I can`t believe a classics
professor actually wrote that. For one thing, Athenian
infantry wasn`t very good. The Thebans and Spartans were
better, as Hanson himself says several times in this
book. But more important, here`s a little list of
ancient Athenians who are

generally considered pretty darn good
at `arts and
letters`—Plato, Aristophanes, Sophocles, Euripides,
Demosthenes, Lysias, Thucydides, Xenophon, Aristotle … I
admit I had to look some of those names up, and I`m not
saying I read them—just know their names and a little
about their reps. But then I don`t put on airs about
being an expert on ancient Greece. The fact that Hanson
gets away with saying this is as clear an argument as
any against the tenure system in our universities.”

(Courtesy RH, it appears the whole War Nerd archive is


The full version of

The Case of Victor Davis Hanson: Farmer, Scholar,

by F. Roger Devlin,

The Occidental Quarterly
Winter 2003 tells a sad
story of a decline from scholarly grace in what is
probably the definitive version from the point of view
of Classicism.

“Victor Davis Hanson is a fine military historian of classical Greece.  He
knows so little of political theory that he cannot
distinguish imperial aggression from its
opposite…Hanson…conceives the September 11 attacks as a
tactical blunder in a conventional war….This very lack
of imagination makes Hanson useful to vested
interests…He has ignorant

bureaucrats at the Pentagon
imagining they enjoy the
authority of history for picturing themselves as
`vanquishers of tyranny.`  Our country may be no
safer, but Hanson`s own reputation has soared among men
unable to appreciate his standing as a scholar. 
Should his own understanding of terrorism improve, his
usefulness to his new friends will vanish precipitously.

 “Prof. Hanson has remained busy producing at least

one article per week for National Review Online.
He seems oddly out of place among the

professional libelers

callow minds
now posing as heirs to that once
respectable journal, but …the actual material he now
grinds out…contains little argument or analysis of any
sort.  Indeed, most of it is mere
cheerleading—intended to stir the reader`s enthusiasm
for whatever line the

Bush administration
is pushing at the moment.”  

Our old friend  from Scotland,

Martin Kelly
, was also in the field with

The Decline and Fall of Victor Hanson
originally on the old
web site.

“Being a fundamentally fascist philosophy,

needs to name

scapegoats and make enemies
…the worst of all neocons
are those who provide it with intellectual legitimacy.
For the succor and encouragement he has given the
philosophy, Victor Davis Hanson, the smartest neo of
them all, is the worst of the worst.”

Even earlier,
carried a powerful essay by Clyde Wilson (The
War Lover
17 2003) dealing with a symposium issue of The
American Enterprise
magazine on the occasion of the
release of Robert Maxwell`s film

Gods and Generals


concentrates on VDH`s contribution:
Class War
. It presented
`s March through

1864-5 as a glorious procession of valiant
freedom-loving democrats, sweeping away
and corrupt aristocrats
and lovingly liberating
. The problem for VDH`s account: both sides
were extremely literate and left huge quantities of
first-hand accounts. As

Professor Wilson

“You do not have to pay heed to a single
Southern testimony to understand what happened on Sherman`s March and why. It is all in the
letters and

of the participants. I urge anyone who lives
above the Ohio and Potomac
to go to your local historical society or state library
and read some of those letters and diaries for

Sherman`s March to the Sea
is probably the

greatest single stain
on the military honor of the
U.S. Army. The obvious parallel is the Red Army`s move
west 1944-5. Except there, the German Army was present
to defend its people—in contrast, the

Confederate Armies
were making a last effort to cut
off Sherman`s
communications in
. And, come to think of
it, Communist accounts of the event no doubt ran along
similar lines to Hanson`s.

account, in short, is, in Clyde Wilson`s genteel words

“…a fantasy of righteous virtue and intention
that badly distorts the weight of the evidence.”

Or, in my
non-academic translation, a lie.

Professor Wilson

“…why do so many Americans, or at least
American `spokespersons,` feel compelled to force our
history into a pattern of collective self-glorification?
All peoples tend to mythologize their important
experiences, but it would be hard to find one more
self-righteous and uncritical and so much in need of
cosmetology as triumphal American exceptionalism”

This is a deep
question. (Wilson
offers a hypothesis.) I prefer to ask: why does a man
who clearly had some intellectual capability and
presumably some integrity allow himself to be found
mixing and serving the drinks in these neoconservative
policy brothels?

Sadly, the
answer seems to be: because it pays.

Davis Hanson emerged from the relative obscurity of his
academic post at Fresno State University on

September 11, 2001
, to become something akin to
America`s `Historian-in-Chief`. Spurred by a legion
of eager editors
, Hanson has translated his
expertise in classical military history to the `War on
Historian in Chief

by Alan W. Dowd, American Legion Magazine,
August 28, 2005


(Favorite VDH
quote from this preening interview session:

“So when we ran such risks, when we
obliterated the Taliban in seven weeks and Saddam in
three, suddenly there was this spark in the Muslim world
and a sense that the autocrats and mass killers were on
the wrong side of history.”

Hanson is
clearly well aware of the fruits of agreeing with City
Hall. His

Wikipedia entry

[January 5, 2009] represents him complaining (in Who Killed Homer)

“Hanson blames the
academic classicists themselves for the decline

[in classical studies], accusing them of
becoming so infected with political correctness and
postmodern thinking, not to mention egoism and
money-grubbing (grants, visiting professorships,
conference-hopping, promotion based on unreadable
publications), that they have lost sight of what he
feels the classics truly represent

(Thanks, RC)

Every writer will understand all too well the temptation to jump at the
prospect of easy, reliable and effective publication. It
hurts to be exiled.

The key reason why
decided to publish
Obama book,
The Half
Blood Prince
, was because we knew orthodox
publishers would be highly unlikely to publish such a
radical and dissenting work. Not because it wouldn`t
sell—but because of political prejudice. Hanson`s
frailties are understandable.

And of course as a hired hand, he could still do good work. The problem is,
Hanson does not—at least in the sense of accurate and
well-grounded scholarship. What he does provide is
slipshod, inaccurate, dishonest, but highly convenient
intellectual refreshments to his masters.

And it looks like this January they will need it.

To the Public, as a Classicist might say:

Caveat Emptor!

Tell Victor
Davis Hanson
to improve his act.

(Thanks also to H.)