It's not hard to understand how Hanson has become an intellectual bulwark of administration foreign policy, given his conviction that nothing less than the future of Western civilization depends on our cleareyed recognition of the menace posed by militant Islamic forces.
"We haven't had enemies this antithetical to the United States in a long, long time," Hanson said several days later over coffee in San Francisco, where he was a guest speaker at the Commonwealth Club. "Take your pick of the Western agenda. Women's rights? They want to go back to the Dark Ages. Homosexual rights? They want to kill them. Democracy? They don't believe in it. Religious tolerance? You're dead if you're not a Muslim. Technology? They don't like it."
Pentagon officials who like Hanson's broad grasp of history vie for his time. On a recent afternoon in Fresno, an Air Force colonel with the Defense Intelligence Agency huddled with Hanson for several hours in the historian's small office, which is decorated with a marble bust of Julius Caesar and a huge map, in German, of ancient Greece.
"These guys like to expand their analysis using history through the ages," Hanson said after the meeting, which he said touched on topics ranging from European politics to the Korean peninsula.
Hanson is also a regular consultant to the influential Pentagon Office of Net Assessment, which has emerged as a key administration intelligence gathering and planning agency under Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and his senior deputy, Paul D. Wolfowitz. This week, Hanson was back in Washington to speak before the Board of Overseers of the Hoover Institution, the conservative Palo Alto think tank where Hanson is a resident fellow. His theme, "This War Is Not New," was the same as that of the Cal State Fresno class. Sharing the podium were Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Karl Rove, President Bush's main political advisor.
It is an enviable position for someone who never served in the military or trained in the science or tactics of warfare. Hanson's influence on the administration probably comes more in setting a tone or providing a historical justification for tough decisions than it does in the details of policy.
"Victor Hanson is a brilliant classicist with a real emotional insight into antiquity," said Stephen Peter Rosen, director of the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University, who has attended Office of Net Assessment sessions at the Pentagon with Hanson.
"Hanson has definitely carved out a niche," said William M. Arkin, a military analyst who writes often for the Los Angeles Times opinion pages. "In an era where many in the Pentagon think that the sword of Damocles is being held over our heads, here's a guy who can actually tell you who Damocles was."
Wednesday, February 25, 2004
The LA Times has a nice profile of Victor Davis Hanson and how he's become influential in conservative circles through applying the lessons of history to modern warfare.
Posted by Betsy Newmark at 6:15 AM