“What [Hanson] brings to the public discussion–along with an unusually vigorous prose style and a remarkable erudition–is a philosophy of war not meant for the weak—kneed or faint—hearted. Hanson does not celebrate war, but he accepts it as a fact of life, a part of the human condition that no amount of idealistic preaching or good intentions can will away.” –The New York Times Book Review
“Victor Davis Hanson is refreshingly unabashed about being an old-fashioned military historian . . . [and] he displays an exceptional chronological sweep.” --The Washington Post Book World
“What’s most impressive about Hanson’s work is his constant reminder that history is not just a faceless story of economic and social progress, but also one about the strength of individuals, brought to life here in masterly prose.” --The Christian Science Monitor
“His premise is fascinating and well executed. . . . A great little book. . . . Hanson is a superb storyteller and a clear and concise writer.” --The Washington Times
[Hanson] has written his new book decidedly under the shadow of a new kind of warfare: that launched on Sept. 11, 2001. He addresses particularly the question of whether suicidal zealots have an advantage over those who, like most Americans, engage in battle in such a way as to try to save lives while seeking victory. He expresses confidence that those who fight to live as well as to win have an advantage. They do so especially when they have at their disposal the military power of the United States: The historical record shows that Americans, when enraged, bring to conflict a devastating fury.
Russell F. Weigley
Hanson is a fierce, uncompromising polemicist, yet if that were all he was, he would scarcely stand out in the crowd of partisans who can see little right in the Clinton administration and little wrong in the Bush administration. But what he brings to the public discussion -- along with an unusually vigorous prose style and a remarkable erudition -- is a philosophy of war not meant for the weak-kneed or fainthearted. Hanson does not celebrate war, but he accepts it as a fact of life, a part of the human condition that no amount of idealistic preaching or good intentions can will away. We are doomed to conflict and bloodletting.
With this usefully idiosyncratic and provocative work, Hanson may succeed the late Stephen Ambrose as America's laureate of military history. But where Ambrose's tone is ultimately elegiac, reflecting on the deeds and character of a past "greatest generation," Hanson's is sharp edged and confrontational, linking past history and present policy. Even before the September 11 attacks brought him to national prominence as a commentator and analyst, Hanson's postulating of a "Western way of war" based on seeking decisive battle (not a given throughout the world) had gained wide attention. Ripples furthers this argument via three disparate battles, treated in reverse chronological order, taking the reader from more to less familiar territory to show its arc. On WWII Okinawa, the Japanese proved an inferior force could inflict significant damage by suicide tactics; U.S. forces responded by defining victory in the most extreme way possible: killing as many of the enemy as the could (rather than, say, seeking to gain a particular piece of ground). The Civil War's Shiloh set William T. Sherman on his path as a democratic war maker committed to both the defeat and the reconstruction of America's foes, while at the same time inaugurating the enduring Confederate myth of a "stolen victory" via Albert Sidney Johnston's death at the battle's climax. It also marked the beginning of Nathan Bedford Forrest's meteoric rise as symbol and avatar of the "unyielding South," which persisted long after 1865. The Battle of Delium, fought in 424 B.C. during the Peloponnesian War, was the first defeat Athens suffered that involved high casualties at the hands of Theban/Boeotian opponents, and it directly affected large numbers of thinkers, writers and statesmen-including Socrates, one of the survivors. The severity of the battle shaped the Western "decisive" approach that survives to the present. Hanson's conclusions show the threads of these battles in the garments of the war on terror. Some of his last points may seem forced to some readers, but he makes them with conviction and a genuine sense of wanting history to provide valuable lessons. (Sept. 16) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Each human life has an impact on others, creating ripples that eventually affect future generations. Here, Hanson (classics, California State Univ., Fresno; The Western Way of War) argues that the outcomes of certain battles have had far-reaching effects on American culture. He chooses the battles of Okinawa (1945, World War II), Shiloh (1862, U.S. Civil War), and the lesser-known Delium (424 B.C.E., Peloponnesian War) and shows their impact on how Americans fight, live, and think. As Hanson explains, the chance survival of certain individuals and the death of others had repercussions reaching into the 21st century. The book is well written, and the sections on Okinawa and Shiloh are clear and easy to read. The section on Delium will challenge those not familiar with the time period, but the arguments are lucid, and Hanson convincingly demonstrates that the impact of this obscure battle is the most profound of the three. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.-Lt. Col. (ret.) Charles M. Minyard, U.S. Army, Blountstown, FL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
A noted student of ancient warfare considers the long-term effects of three battles on the Western world. A battle, writes classicist Hanson (An Autumn of War, 2002, etc.), "is not merely a logical continuance of politics, but an abnormal event in which thousands of warriors . . . attempt to kill each other for a few hours, a dramatic and strange experience bound to change their lives and the fate of their families and friends for centuries thereafter." And so it does. One of his cases in point is the Civil War battle of Shiloh, when generals and privates alike learned the folly of charging in formation against enemies tucked away behind rocks and treesand from which William Tecumseh Sherman developed the doctrine of total warfare on the enemy’s economic base, a program followed by many generals since. Another is the Battle of Okinawa, when a massive American armada assembled to crush Japanese resistance close to home; Hanson likens the kamikaze pilots who flew their aircraft into American ships to the hijackers of September 11, 2001, all "fighters who deliberately seek death in battle," though he points to important differences between the two groups. Hanson’s third case is the disastrous Battle of Delium, when, in 424 b.c., Athens was bested by the rustic Thebans in a savage slaughter that, he argues, had important effects on both Western thought (inasmuch as Socrates was a survivor) and military culture. Davis considers all three battles at leisure, and the lessons he draws from them will be of much interest to students of warfare. Only the last chapter, which revisits recent events in the light of the past, and which takes unnecessary jabs at the cultural relativists whosupposedly allowed the disaster of September 11, seems rushed and undercooked. Overall, though, a worthyand timelyouting in military history.