Victor Davis Hanson

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Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian. He is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, and has taught at a number of other institutions, as well as having had a number of visiting professorships and guest lectureships.

He was also the visiting Shifrin Professor of Military History at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland (2002-3). He received the Manhattan Institute's Wriston Lectureship in 2004, and the 2006 Nimitz Lectureship in Military History at UC Berkeley in 2006.[1] He is an academic advisor to the Center for Security Policy.

In the context of the 2008 United States presidential election and the Iraq War, he sees a failure of the national leadership to communicate a clear conservative message, and to put the realities of war into historical perspective. He also uses classical metaphors, comparing the Iraq War to the Peloponnesian War. [2]

Politics

He is a conservative. Commenting on the 2008 election of Barack Obama, to avoid such a failure again, "explain why conservatism appeals to the innate values of most ordinary Americans and the squabbling about the proper message disappears."

The message being sent over the last year was about government without checks and balances, whether in the US, UN, or Europe, "naturally seeks to bully and stifle rather than empower the individual.... Conservatism also applies to bearing and comportment. There was something repugnant about greedy CEO and speculators on Wall Street wildly raking in hundreds of millions under the guise of “free-market conservatism” — as if Ace hardware store owners, truck drivers, and farmers would find them kindred spirits. Conservatism’s social message used to be something like “Don’t do all the things that you are otherwise free to do” or “Just because we don’t make all your appetites illegal, does not mean that some are not immoral.” "[3]

Military analysis

Douglas Feith quotes him as asking a question about the Iraq War, relating to the lack of major combat in the Sunni Triangle, which Hanson saw as due to the inability of the 4th Infantry Division to attack from Turkey.
Given the rapid American victory and the directive to avoid killing not merely civilians but enemy soldiers as well, was there, perhaps, an inescapable Catch-22 in Iraq — as if an enemy humiliated and fleeing, but never really conquered, could ever make an easy subject for radical reconstruction?[4]

Hanson sees a failure of the national leadership to put less-than-perfect war into historical perspective. "The more a president evokes history's tragic lessons, the better, reminding the public that our forefathers usually endured and overcame far worse." A nation that recognizes there will be mistakes, he believes, can still defeat Jihadism. He evokes Winston Churchill's 1930 comment: "Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter."[5]

He defends, however, George W. Bush's May 2008 speech to the Israeli Knesset, which compared negotiating with Iran to appeasement of Hitler: "nothing in the president’s speech was inaccurate, inflammatory, or hypocritical." [6]

Awards

He was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 and the Bradley Prize in 2008. In 1991, he was awarded an American Philological Association Excellence in Teaching Award, which is given yearly to the country's top undergraduate teachers of Greek and Latin.
 Hanson has been a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, California (1992-93), a visiting professor of classics at Stanford University (1991-92), a recipient of the Eric Breindel Award for opinion journalism (2002), an Alexander Onassis Fellow (2001), and was named alumnus of the year of the University of California, Santa Cruz (2002).

Education and life

Hanson was educated at the University of California at Santa Cruz (BA, Classics, 1975, ‘highest honors’ Classics, ‘college honors’, Cowell College), the American School of Classical Studies, Athens (regular member, 1978-79) and received his Ph.D. in Classics from Stanford University in 1980. Hanson, who was the fifth successive generation to live in the same house on his family’s farm, was a full-time orchard and vineyard grower from 1980-1984, before joining the nearby CSU Fresno campus in 1984 to initiate a classical languages program. He divides his time between his forty-acre tree and vine farm near Selma, California, where he was born in 1953, and the Stanford campus.

References

  1. Index, VDH Private Papers
  2. Gary Brecher (19 December 2005), "It's All Greek to Victor Davis Hanson", American Conservative
  3. Victor Davis Hanson (21 November 2008), "What Went Wrong? Well, it wasn’t conservatism.", National Review
  4. Douglas J. Feith (2008), War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism, Harper, ISBN 9780060899738, pp. 395-396
  5. Victor Davis Hanson (Winter 2007), "In War: Resolution", Claremont Review of Books
  6. Victor Davis Hanson (19 May 2008), "Appeasement and Its Discontents", National Review