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The American Way of War

Victor Davis Hanson, California State University, Fresno
March 29, 2003

Americans enjoy a dual military heritage. The idea of large, conscripted armies of the moment reflects both our democratic heritage and the country’s skill at marshalling labor and capital on a grand scale ex nihilo. Yet we also maintain a parallel tradition of near constant overseas intervention by small specialized corps of professionals, from 19th century Marines to present-day special operations troops. How these two military traditions are both antithetical to and complementary of the American character will be explored as we deliberate if, why, and how we should proceed to attack Iraq.

Victor Davis Hanson is a military historian who is a Professor of Classics at California State University, Fresno. During the 2002-03 academic year, he is a visiting professor of military history at the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. He is the author of numerous books, including An Autumn of War: What America Learned from September 11 and the War on Terrorism; The Soul of Battle: From Ancient Times to the Present Day, How Three Great Liberators Vanquished Tyranny; Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power; The Other Greeks: The Family Farm and the Agrarian Roots of Western Civilization; Fields Without Dreams: Defending the Agrarian Idea; and Who Killed Homer?: The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom.

Readings

  • Robert B. Strassler, ed., The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to The Peloponnesian War (New York: Touchstone, 1996), pp. 176-183, 350-357
  • Paul Seabury and Angelo Codevilla, War: Ends and Means (New York: Basic Books, 1989), pp. 243-276
  • Lawrence Freedman, ed., War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), pp. 61-107
  • Victor Davis Hanson, An Autumn of War: What American Learned from September 11 and the War on Terrorism (New York: Anchor Books, 2002)

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