Victor Davis Hanson

The Putin Way

Putin is following a blueprint that dates back to Philip of Macedon.

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online


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About victorhanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture. He recently published an historical novel The End of Sparta (2012), a realistic retelling of Epaminondas invasion and liberation of Spartan-control Messenia. In The Father of Us All (2011), he collected earlier essays on warfare ancient and modern. His upcoming history The Savior Generals(2013) analyzes how five generals in the history of the West changed the course of battles against all odds. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 and the Bradley Prize in 2008. Hanson, who was the fifth successive generation to live in the same house on his family’s farm, was a full-time orchard and vineyard grower from 1980-1984, before joining the nearby CSU Fresno campus in 1984 to initiate a classical languages program. In 1991, he was awarded an American Philological Association Excellence in Teaching Award, which is given yearly to the country’s top undergraduate teachers of Greek and Latin. Hanson has been a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, California (1992-93), a visiting professor of classics at Stanford University (1991-92), a recipient of the Eric Breindel Award for opinion journalism (2002), an Alexander Onassis Fellow (2001), and was named alumnus of the year of the University of California, Santa Cruz (2002). He was also the visiting Shifrin Professor of Military History at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland (2002-3). He received the Manhattan Institute’s Wriston Lectureship in 2004, and the 2006 Nimitz Lectureship in Military History at UC Berkeley in 2006. Hanson is the author of hundreds of articles, book reviews, scholarly papers, and newspaper editorials on matters ranging from ancient Greek, agrarian and military history to foreign affairs, domestic politics, and contemporary culture. He has written or edited 17 books, including Warfare and Agriculture in Classical Greece (1983; paperback ed. University of California Press, 1998); The Western Way of War (Alfred Knopf, 1989; 2d paperback ed. University of California Press, 2000); Hoplites: The Ancient Greek Battle Experience (Routledge, 1991; paperback., 1992); The Other Greeks: The Family Farm and the Agrarian Roots of Western Civilization(Free Press, 1995; 2nd paperback ed., University of California Press, 2000);Fields without Dreams: Defending the Agrarian Idea (Free Press, 1996; paperback, Touchstone, 1997; The Bay Area Book reviewers Non-fiction winner for 1996); The Land Was Everything: Letters from an American Farmer (Free Press, 2000; a Los Angeles Times Notable book of the year); The Wars of the Ancient Greeks (Cassell, 1999; paperback, 2001); The Soul of Battle (Free Press, 1999, paperback, Anchor/Vintage, 2000); Carnage and Culture (Doubleday, 2001; Anchor/Vintage, 2002; a New York Times bestseller); An Autumn of War (Anchor/Vintage, 2002); Mexifornia: A State of Becoming (Encounter, 2003),Ripples of Battle (Doubleday, 2003), and Between War and Peace (Random House, 2004). A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War, was published by Random House in October 2005. It was named one of the New York Times Notable 100 Books of 2006. Hanson coauthored, with John Heath, Who Killed Homer? The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom (Free Press, 1998; paperback, Encounter Press, 2000); with Bruce Thornton and John Heath, Bonfire of the Humanities (ISI Books, 2001); and with Heather MacDonald, and Steven Malanga, The Immigration Solution: A Better Plan Than Today’s (Ivan Dee 2007). He edited a collection of essays on ancient warfare, Makers of Ancient Strategy (Princeton University Press, 2010). Hanson has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, International Herald Tribune, New York Post, National Review, Washington Times, Commentary, The Washington Post, Claremont Review of Books, American Heritage, New Criterion, Policy Review, Wilson Quarterly, Weekly Standard, Daily Telegraph, and has been interviewed often on National Public Radio, PBS Newshour, Fox News, CNN, and C-Span’s Book TV and In-Depth. He serves on the editorial board of the Military History Quarterly, and City Journal. Since 2001, Hanson has written a weekly column for National Review Online, and in 2004, began his weekly syndicated column for Tribune Media Services. In 2006, he also began thrice-weekly blog for Pajamas Media, Works and Days. Hanson was educated at the University of California, Santa Cruz (BA, Classics, 1975, ‘highest honors’ Classics, ‘college honors’, Cowell College), the American School of Classical Studies, Athens (regular member, 1978-79) and received his Ph.D. in Classics from Stanford University in 1980. He divides his time between his forty-acre tree and vine farm near Selma, California, where he was born in 1953, and the Stanford campus.

17 Thoughts on “The Putin Way

  1. thomas on March 24, 2015 at 9:31 am said:

    Putin may want more territory and reconstitute the old Soviet Union. Despite claims, no documented satellite evidence of actual invasion. At least he has “national pride” for his country and its people. America “needs an enemy” to blame. What do we have? A self serving narcissistic leader wanting political power to reverse our country’s heritage and founding principles, to our destruction? Our aims, as I and many others observe, are to maintain our monetary hegemony and corporate business, and bankster domination. What we do is invade other countries economically , disrupt them politically, and call it ” spreading freedom and democracy” across the world. TO THE DESTRUCTION of other nations and economies , hidden in the MSM by as you have said “keeping up with the Kardasians”, our Twerking world, LGBT rights, police condemnation, creation of racial strife,and group animosity. Look at ourselves, and quit ” the pot calling the kettle black” .
    Looking back at history , many of your observations began as a revolt against the “elite” of the day, or in present times the “1 % ers, and political elite”

    • Methinks, Thomas, you daren’t believe in the goodness of good? The evils you bespeak is simply the 2nd Worldview of Controlling (i.e. Progressivism run amok!) The solution you perhaps deny, that there is a 1st Worldview of Liberty. The problem is, the manifesting of a champion of Liberty comes quite rarely in history… how often a Reagan, a Lincoln, a Founding Father? Not often enough, perhaps because the goodness of good is disbelieved, and it is in the end a cheap solution to critique 2nd World Controllers.

      We need to believe in Liberty, that is is just, and worth living and dying for. And in champions of Liberty.

  2. As usual, professor Hanson, your thoughts line up with the deepest understanding of humanity’s reality: The good can be very good, through self-discipline’s restraint; the bad can be very bad, astonishingly so.

    It’s fascinating how the David Stockman style of libertarian economists seem to be effusively praising every tyrannical move of Putin, claiming the only thing for the US military-statesmen to do is give way! Reminds me of how John Adams had to spur his fellow leaders to grab a sword and help beleaguered Boston!

    And how the Russian Orthodox Church blows a great historic opportunity to shame Putin, rather than go-alonhg-get-along with Russian statecraft evil.

    Our next president needs to have a lot of heart, but also…titanium Avenger-Class balls. Clint Eastwood for President? Maybe Rand Paul, with Clint as V.P.?

  3. WRFREE on March 24, 2015 at 9:46 am said:

    Thank you Professor Hanson for this insightful commentary on the ‘Putin Way’. Required reading for those perhaps who just have a difficult time ‘getting him’. He is a man for whom the past has taught him well in pushing Russian ‘agendas’ throughout history and more importantly to win with those agendas.

    The recent Russian travels of those with no passports into Ukraine and the grab of Crimea does indicate how Putin has learned to take advantage of global instabilities and check off as ‘accomplished’ the things that in his eyes needed to be done to aggrandize the Russuan state.

    Historically, we saw this in ’56 when the Soviets barged over the borders into Hungary and crushed a popular uprising there. At the time the Suez was in tumult enabling the Soviets to get off lightly with censure for their crass invasion. Today we see that instability now again in the Middle East as well as in other areas of the world again paving the way for Russia to nick another of their goals through the posts. Russia has always thrived on chaos to get through its aims.

    Time for the West to wake up. For surely as the sun rises and sets Mr Putin will steal the eyes out its head if it isn’t looking. A thought to ponder.

  4. dupere on March 24, 2015 at 6:30 pm said:

    2016 presidential and senate elections. If the Kardashian ass-party wins, give it five to ten years and the West implodes. Europe/Middle East— lost to the powers of domination. North America is isolated as one country. Hard to believe? It almost happened in the 1940’s. The difference between now and then is the axis powers are much, much stronger today. Technology gains—-first-strike moves with geographical advantage. On our side, the Selfie-president is cooing in Beyonce’s ear while he sabotage’s border security and military readiness. Truth is stranger than fiction. Old-age can be a blessing.

  5. dupere on March 24, 2015 at 7:32 pm said:

    “”” Jodi, iraqi reserves and ghawar””” . Marching for oil, water, food….

  6. Alexander III on March 24, 2015 at 8:48 pm said:

    Reminds me of Nixon’s secret plan to end the Viet-Nam war. Send Henry K. over and tell the enemy that Nixon was mentally unstable and capable of launching a nuclear holocaust if some accommodation was not reached.

  7. Richard Saunders on March 25, 2015 at 1:50 am said:

    Russian foreign policy has been the same for 500 years: control buffer states to the west to protect against invasion, exploit the resources of the East, secure a warm-water port. Why is everyone surprised when Putin ACTS LIKE A RUSSIAN!

  8. I receive my consolation from the breathtakingly convincing delivery of the “if it’s not good for everyone, there won’t be a deal” Iran treaty speech by Obama, even though, or perhaps because I can find not a syllable of truth in the speech.

  9. My physics professor was simply out of the loop, living a life in a transitioning world of understanding. Newtonian and Einsteinian physics were not the final laws of reality. His career had been compartmentalized. All his career accolades hanging on the wall behind his desk did not enable him to calculate the reality of time-travel nor conceive how to locate the entry portal of a stargate near Earth. Yet he was brilliant, friendly and I loved him for all he taught me nonetheless. He of course lived inside the box of his own making and could not see his own limitations.

    The core of our current national hatred for Putin is behind schedule. …”The hostility toward Russia goes back to the Wolfowitz Doctrine:”…. Says Dr. Paul Craig Roberts.

    “Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.”

    The Wolfowitz Doctrine IS very much at the core of our foreign policy. In essence Wolfowitz expresses in our current foreign policy, the outward expression of our inner selves, an animalistic instinct that drives male adult bears to eat baby cub bears. There has got to be a better central theme to the continuation of our National purpose behind our existence than the berserk animalistic lusts for domination of others.

    The doctrine culminates in a barbaric First Strike Policy, in which the EU is our vassal state and Russia and China are both scheduled for termination. Nothing need stand in the way of this end result, not even WWIII. BRING IT ON!

    These two polities, Putin resisting NATO as the untrustworthy infiltrator for the U.S. foreign banking hegemony on the left against a nazified military-industrial complex driving a continuous stream of neocon, Wolfowitz Doctrine backed chaos tactics among their proxy vassals from the right, create the reality box of fear we are constantly instructed to accept.

    With all our combined career accolades hanging on the walls behind our desks we are told, do not leave this box, that to leave this box is pure fantasy.

    Then the stars in the heavens slowly changed configurations. Hearts and minds began changing and leaving the box. As they left, they each began to see and experience new physical laws outside the box that enabled them to speak a fuller truth, see a bigger universe, and dare to trust in love. And that made all the difference.

    • zoomie on March 25, 2015 at 8:13 am said:

      sounds like you could easily lose your head

      • Indeed you may be right but that does not seem to end my existence. My world views where altered significantly as a result of a UFO encounter as a US Marine combat jet fighter pilot in 1965 after I encountered a 3000′ (+-) diameter high altitude airborne craft. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy, perhaps.

  10. zoomie on March 25, 2015 at 8:09 am said:

    japan has an earthquake, the backup diesel generators designed to keep 4 reactor cores cool are swamped and fail. there’s no history of any geological earthquakes in germany, but they turn off their nuclear power plants and how many months later was crimea was back in the bosom of mother russia ? i don’t know if it is true, but I have read – on line – that putin’s university thesis was how to use russian energy as a way to blackmail europe. nine years ago Mark Steyn wrote a book, ” America Alone “, detailing the suicide going on in eurabia. it’s speeding up. maybe it can be arranged to get the persians and the arabs to start lobbing nukes at each other too.

  11. 1. I think it’s unfair to compare Putin to Napoleon. The latter was a military genius and a polymath. By contrast, Putin is an ex-KGB bureaucrat who is probably out of his depth in his current role.

    2. Putin appears to be in an awkward position on the domestic front, given the recent collapse in oil prices & the constricting effects of economic sanctions. HIs general response seems to be straight out of the Brezhnev era playbook – blame all economic problems on the malicious actions of the West & rattle the sabre occassionally in the name of ‘restoring’ nationalist glory. Both these things are intended to distract the attention of the general populace in the hope that it may reduce the grumbling. Putin’s problem is that the soviet era tactics for managing popular opinion may not longer work anymore. You see, back in the old days, the state monopoly on the media made the propaganda campaigns more effective and, in any event, popular opinion could be largely ignrored by the politburo within certain limits.

    Where is this all heading? Probably, Putin will have to do a (secret) deal with OPEC to cut oil production slightly, so as to increase prices. If oil prices were to recover to around the $100 mark in the next year or so, that would take a lot of pressure off the Russian economic situation. It would give him the flexibility, as you suggest, to sit and wait for the West’s resolve to dissipate.

  12. David Park on March 25, 2015 at 7:12 pm said:

    Victor knows what every worshipper of common sense knows: human nature doesn’t change, ignorance of history thrives on stupidity, and power despises a vacuum. If you didn’t care for the U.S. and its policies running certain parts of the world, you’re really going to suffer serious heartburn when the replacement world power and its philosophy take over.

  13. I do enjoy the manner in which you have presented this particular situation plus it does present us a lot of fodder for consideration. However, because of what precisely I have personally seen, I really trust as the actual feed-back pile on that people today continue to be on point and not get started upon a tirade of some other news du jour. Anyway, thank you for this fantastic point and whilst I can not necessarily go along with this in totality, I regard the viewpoint.

  14. Jeff Stanley on April 30, 2015 at 9:56 pm said:

    I don’t think of VDH as a crazed neo-con, but speaking of unhinged, what a rant. I’d love to see a debate between the esteemed host and Peter Hitchens on the subject of Mr. Putin. Journalist versus historian. Hitchens would clean his clock.

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