An Autumn of War: What America Learned from September 11 and the War on Terrorism

An Autumn of War: What America Learned from September 11 and the War on Terrorism

by Victor Davis Hanson

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On September 11, 2001, hours after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, the eminent military historian Victor Davis Hanson wrote an article in which he asserted that the United States, like it or not, was now at war and had the moral right to respond with force. An Autumn of War, which opens with that first essay, will stimulate readers across the political spectrum to think more deeply about the attacks, the war, and their lessons for all of us.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400031139
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/13/2002
Edition description: 1 ANCHOR
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 495,938
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Victor Davis Hanson was educated at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, and received his Ph.D. in Classics from Stanford University. He farmed full-time for five years before returning to academia in 1984 to initiate a Classics program at California State University, Fresno. Currently, he is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

Hanson has written articles, editorials, and reviews for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Daily Telegraph, International Herald Tribune, American Heritage, City Journal, American Spectator, National Review, Policy Review, The Wilson Quarterly, The Weekly Standard, and Washington Times, and has been interviewed on numerous occasions on National Public Radio and the BBC, and appeared with David Gergen on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. He writes a biweekly column about contemporary culture and military history for National Review Online.

He is also the author of some eighty scholarly articles, book reviews, and newspaper editorials on Greek, agrarian, and military history, and contemporary culture. He has written or edited eleven books, including The Western Way of War, The Soul of Battle, and Carnage and Culture. He lives and works with his wife and three children on their forty-acre tree and vine farm near Selma, California, where he was born in 1953.

Read an Excerpt



(The destruction of the World Trade Center; the attack on the Pentagon; the explosion of four jet airliners; President Bush's promises of a worldwide war on terror; dispatch of American carriers to the Indian Ocean; initial criticism of proposed American response both at home and abroad)

During the three-week lull between September 11 and our military response in early October, it was not clear when and if America would strike back. Despite our president's immediate and firm assurance that we would battle terrorists across the globe for years to come, critics both here and abroad immediately questioned the morality of our tactics in bombing the terrorist enclaves in Afghanistan and the military feasibility of finding the al-Qaeda camps—and then destroying them without either killing scores of innocent civilians or causing such disruption as to precipitate wide-scale starvation and disease.

In addition, we did not know exactly the number of our own dead, as casualties on September 11 were at first feared to be in the tens of thousands, before generally being reduced to a round figure of between seven thousand and three thousand killed—a total by January 2002 that would be generally recognized as around three thousand fatalities. Both friends in Europe and neutrals and enemies in the Middle East demanded "proof" that bin Laden had, in fact, masterminded the attacks. Yet throughout these dark days, the Taliban and al-Qaeda alike promised annihilation for any Americans foolish enough to enter Afghanistan and raised the specter of further terrorist attacks here and abroad against the United States.

In the numbing aftermath of September 11, Americans were presented with a daily variety of myths—military, cultural, and political—designed to temper our military response. I was chiefly worried that we were awash in a sea of false knowledge concerning everything from the military history of Afghanistan, the lessons of Vietnam, misinformation about the Northern Alliance, half-truths about the effectiveness of our air forces, the purportedly hopeless struggle against a "new" form of terror, the reasons for al-Qaeda's assault, and the nature of American foreign policy in the Middle East.

September was perhaps the most hectic and depressing month in our nation's history. In the following nine essays, composed in those times of chaos and uncertainty, I employed occasional parody, posed counterfactual scenarios, and drew on classical history—as well as the careers of General Sherman and Winston Churchill, the 2,500-year Western military tradition, the heroism of the New York policemen and firefighters, and our struggle against the Japanese during World War II—all to argue that we had no choice but to counterattack long and hard in Afghanistan.

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