Tolstoy, as we mentioned in our post about War and Peace, thought that war was irrational and against human nature. Heraclitus, the pre-Socratic philosopher, thought that war was fundamental, and found in the conflict of elements the source of being. Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and military historian, takes the Heraclitean view and believes that war is central to human history.
The present volume is a collection of essays and reviews that have been reworked to form a more or less continuous volume.
Hanson opens with an essay on why we should study war and military history. The most pertinent reason being that war is a part of human history and that human passions drive us to war. He then moves on to a consideration of the film 300. Hanson acknowledges the differences between the film, which is based on a graphic novel, and Herodotus. The core of the story, and of the history, and of present day events, is the opposition of Western values, freedom, secularism in politics, and Eastern values of subordination and theocracy.
A second section is devoted to war writing including Xenophon’s Anabasis, and With the Old Breed by E. B. Sledge.
The third and fourth section are primarily devoted to 9/11 and its aftermath.
If you’re familiar with Hanson’s writing on war you’ll find that he doesn’t say anything new or surprising. Since it’s a collection of pieces that have appeared in print and on various blogs or online venues it may be familiar to you already. It’s a nice addition to your collection of books about history, and a good presentation of conservative arguments for the study of history and war and for Western values.
Next up is a book that my younger son gave me for Christmas, Ilium by Dan Simmons.