Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Author Archives: 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.

Are Wars Caused by Accidents?

by Victor Davis Hanson// National Review


History shows that a lack of deterrence, not loose rhetoric, spurs aggression.


As tensions mount with North Korea, fears arise that President Trump’s tit-for-tat bellicose rhetoric with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un might lead to miscalculations — and thus an accidental war that could have been prevented.


Is there evidence in history that wars break out largely because of an accident or over a misplaced word? Seldom.


Enemies Fight, but Neutrals, Rivals, and Friends Rarely Do

The precise timing of particular outbreaks of war, of course, can depend on unique factors. A sudden perception of a loss of deterrence can cause an army to mobilize. So can almost anything, from the introduction of a new weapon to a change in government.


Yet the larger events that originally drove two sides to fight are rarely, if ever, accidental in the manner of car wrecks.


Enemies go to war; rivals, neutrals, and friends rarely do. There is little chance that an accidental foreign incursion across the Canadian or even the Mexican border will result in war. The apparently accidental, but quite lethal, 1967 Israeli air attack on the USS Liberty did not result in a U.S. retaliatory strike on Tel Aviv, much less escalate to a general war. Yet a similar Soviet strike might have.


In general, the best deterrent policy in dealing with multiple aggressors is Teddy Roosevelt’s dictum to speak softly and carry a big stick — because loud speech is sometimes misinterpreted as a compensatory effort to disguise military incapability, and thus paradoxically it can lead to a fatal loss of deterrence.


Next best perhaps is speaking loudly while carrying a big stick. Intemperate words are not fatal if ultimately reinforced by overwhelming force.


Most dangerous is speaking loudly (and especially sanctimoniously) while carrying a twig — basically what we have seen in the past eight years with Russia, Iran, and Syria. Read more →

How Silicon Valley Turned Off the Left and Right

by Victor Davis Hanson// National Review


After years of regulation immunity and radical profiteering, Silicon Valley mega-corporations are alienating their friends on both sides of the political aisle.


When Left and Right finally agree on something, watch out: The unthinkable becomes normal.


So it is with changing attitudes toward Silicon Valley.


For the last two decades, Apple, Google, Amazon, and other West Coast tech corporations have been untouchable icons. They piled up astronomical profits while hypnotizing both left-wing and right-wing politicians.


Conservative administrations praised them as modern versions of 19th-century risk-takers such as Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. Bill Gates, the late Steve Jobs, and other tech giants were seen as supposedly creating national wealth in an unregulated, laissez-faire landscape that they had invented from nothing.


At a time when American companies were increasingly unable to compete in the rough-and-tumble world arena, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook bulldozed their international competition. Indeed, they turned high-tech and social media into American brands. Read more →

From An Angry Reader:

Dear Mr. Hanson,

I’m a black Ivy-League educated liberal raised in NC and something in me snapped last week.

Have no fear, I’m still in the liberal camp, but it perturbs me greatly to see all the hoopla over Confederate memorials.

This is so not important on the list of what my community needs or wants. I dare say that this is not even the focus of the blacks of Black Lives Matter. It’s more white liberals looking for a convenient way to make them not racist. How dare they! Charleston was different. THAT CITY was looking to heal after a horrific event and the removal of statues there seemed justified. But let’s face it, a white liberal hates nothing more than to be called racist and after Trump’s crazy remarks last week, they were looking for an easy scapegoat.

I’m a progressive and want better education and health care for all, state-sponsored.

My cheeky idea of dangerous white nationalism is the playground of the PUBLiC school on Greenwich Avenue in NYC, where only white kids play at lunchtime. Imagine, in the most liberal of liberal cities, an all white elementary school.




Victor Davis Hanson’s Reply:

Dear Not Really Angry Reader Warner,

You do not sound like a “black” liberal, but a thoughtful empiricist person for whom race is a second or tertiary consideration. Be careful, once the liberal facade cracks, like Humpty Dumpty it cannot be put back together again. You are on your way to the Enlightenment of judging the world in the manner you see and hear it.

I take it you object to liberal virtue signaling and prefer to judge actions, not rhetoric.

If so, I sympathize with you, because the liberal elite mindset is about symbolic, not real action. It is easy to decapitate statues, not so easy to be a DC grandee politician or reporter and put your children in the public schools rather than in private and often mostly exclusive academies, easy to be Mark Zuckerberg demagoguing a border fence, not so easy to leave his estates unwalled; easy to “celebrate diversity,” but apparently not so easy to prefer living with the “other” of less economic means. So yes, I get your point that kindred liberals are hypocritical.

But erasing the past was not the fault just of “white liberals.” Black liberals were at the forefront too; those calling for the poor USC mascot to be renamed were mostly African-American students. Perhaps the general explanation is that white privileged liberals, whose lives are mostly apartheid in nature, feel guilty, but not so guilty to live the lives they advocate for others. So to assuage guilt and to justify their continued privilege they blame distant, poorer whites for “white privilege” as if minorities at their workplace or at the university will deem them “correct whites” and leave them alone or even praise them.

In general, class is a far better bellwether in 2017. Privilege is predicated on opportunity: a black Ivy League professional has far more opportunities than does a white working-class tire changer in southern Ohio; just as an inner-city African-American lacks the chances of a white or Asian Google techie.

It is past time to forget statue smashing and race mongering and get back to judging people on the basis of character content.



From An Angry Reader:

Dear Professor Hanson,

You are a hypocrite.

You endlessly, in your writings and talks, decry people who say ‘if it ain’t perfect it ain’t good’, and yet you constantly moan about Obama just because he ‘wasn’t perfect’ and did some crooked things. You, sir, are a hypocrite. You could at least admit that both parties stink and that all politicians are liars.

By the way, you need to stop moaning about how ‘the elite’ should do more ‘hands-on’ work (I will soon start calling you Victor ‘Hands-on’ to reflect your obsession). Have you ever thought that maybe nobody wants to do those grueling back-breaking jobs for a dollar an hour, and that maybe some people want to get away from that life? Do you really think Donald J Trump, your hero, ever did a single day of hard basically unpaid work like that? Who would want that life if they could get a decent wage—or better rich—without breaking their back? Do you really expect kids to aspire to be fruit-pickers when they could be lawyers earning 200k a year working 5 days a week? I call BS.

Maybe you’re right in principle, but nobody is as principled as you who could or would want to do that. Also, lots of people in inner cities want to do that kind of manual labor or farm-work, but have no access or ability to do it because unlike you they don’t have a farm of their own. How the h*ll can they do what you want them to do when they don’t even have the social mobility to have access to the countryside? Heck, most people struggle just to pay the rent in the inner cities nowadays; most people are slaves to the state. I would rather be a real slave than have the fake urban ‘freedom’ (i.e. prison) that modern scum politicians have created for us.

Dan Smith,



Victor Davis Hanson’s Reply:

Dear Angry Reader Dan Smith,

Calm down; your anger clouds all reason. Most politicians, but not all, are liars. While I agree that both parties lie, at this particular juncture in American history, nevertheless the two parties are not morally equivalent.

nstead they represent vastly different world views: identity politics versus the melting pot; illegal massive immigration vs. legal, measured, diverse, and meritocratic immigration; more taxes and larger government vs. lower taxes and less government; a therapeutic foreign policy vs. deterrence; less defense spending vs. more of it; curbs on expression vs. free speech. The antitheses are really quite endless.

Obama did not grow the economy (sluggish and always less than 3%). His rhetoric divided the nation. The world abroad fell into chaos. The debt doubled. Taxes rose. Health care deductibles, premiums, and copays skyrocketed. Programs like cash for clunkers, “shovel-ready” jobs, or Solyndra-like subsidies were embarrassing. The border was left open. Eric Holder was cited for contempt by Congress. Corruption—at the IRS, Secret Service, GSA, VA, and EPA—was commonplace. Reporters had their communications tapped. Unmasking and leaking were normative. Need I go on? Obama was an iconic president—fine; but there was no record of accomplishment and a great deal of deliberate polarization.

Donald Trump is not my hero; did I write that? He is a corrective to the Obama years. Few others were willing to take up that role.

Stopping illegal immigration and pro-growth policies might give entry-level workers clout with their employers, and allow wages to rise. The proponent of open borders is the proponent of low wages. “Fruit pickers” could once again be summer job seekers and entry level employment that soon led to higher paying and more skilled work, especially if labor is not cheap and accessible through illegal immigration. I think my writings have supported the idea that muscular labor should be more highly rewarded.

Do you not see that the opponent of illegal immigration wishes wages to rise and inner-city youth to be in demand as workers?

In a full-employment economy, employers could not ignore inner city youths, but would work with them to reenter the work force. I don’t see at all the morality of importing a half-million foreign nationals to work when we have millions of Americans who are not employed and have dropped permanently out of the work force.

Finally, no one is a perpetual victim. We all face constant pressures and personal tragedies. Claiming always of a stacked deck and blaming others or cosmic forces in general guarantee personal failure.

I’d like to engage your questions, but there are few coherent inquiries here.

Victor Hanson


Two First Quarter Cheers For Trump’s Principled Realism


Image credit:

Poster Collection, US 05889, Hoover Institution Archives.

The content and trajectory of Donald Trump’s foreign policy have defied the expectations of many of his supporters as well as his critics across the political spectrum. The President has moved a long way from his campaign positions of denigrating the value of America’s democratic alliances and renouncing America’s role as the world’s default power essential to deterring hegemonic threats in vital geopolitical regions. The President has fired Steve Bannon, the paladin of a sizable segment of Trump’s core constituency clamoring for American strategic retrenchment different in rationale, but similar in outcome to Obama’s Dangerous Doctrine that weakened America. Instead, Trump’s core national security team—Secretary of Defense James Mattis, UN Ambassador Nicki Haley, and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster—consider America’s military, political, and economic power indispensable to deterring and defeating global threats menacing to America’s enlightened self-interest.

What Trump calls “Principled Realism rooted in shared values” has not crystallized into a doctrine. Moreover, the president’s volatility and unpredictability—partially cultivated but also intrinsic—make any prognostications about President Trump an endeavor marinating in conditions and caveats. Yet Trump’s actions speak louder and more favorably about the substance of his national security policy than his often contradictory and confrontational words on the subject. Several core premises suffuse Trump’s principle realism.

To read more:

The Need For Missile Defense

by Victor Davis Hanson // Defining Ideas

America’s great advantage when it entered world affairs after the Civil War was that its distance from Europe and Asia ensured that it was virtually immune from large sea-borne invasions.

The Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans proved far better barriers than even the forests and mountain ranges of Europe. At twenty-eight years old, Abraham Lincoln succinctly summed up America’s natural invincibility in his famous Lyceum Address of January 27, 1838: “All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.”

In an age before air power, missiles, and napalm, Lincoln understood that no great power had the expeditionary power to invade and hold the vast North American continent.

So Americans began to assume that while they might fight frequently abroad and send expeditionary armies and naval forces around the globe, the fight would never come to them at home. America’s security cocoon was reinforced after the mid-nineteenth century when there was no longer any danger from either a neighboring Canada or Mexico.

The rare times in our history that enemies breached our natural defenses and hit our cities caused national hysteria—and yet never approached the magnitude of a serious invasion.

The small British expeditionary army that left the West Indies to burn the White House in August 1814 was under orders not to venture inland, but to conduct raids of terror and then leave. The Japanese never managed a serious attack. Their pathetic efforts at launching armed balloons to hit the west coast or to shell shoreline facilities by submarines inflicted almost no damage. Such pinpricks only further reminded the world of innate U.S. defensive advantages.

To read more:

Of Allies And Adversaries: Donald Trump’s Principled Realism

By Josef Joffe

Image credit: Poster Collection, US 06304, Hoover Institution Archives.

I. U.S. Doctrines from Washington to Obama

Foreign policy doctrines are as American as apple pie, and as old as the Republic. Start with George Washington’s Farewell Address: The “great rule” in dealing with other nations was to extend “our commercial relations” and “to have with them as little political connection as possible.” So stay out of Europe, and keep Europe away from us.

Echoing Washington, Thomas Jefferson promulgated the “no-entangling alliances” doctrine. John Quincy Adams decreed: “America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy.” James Monroe told off the Europeans: Stay out, the Americas are for the Americans, North and South. Teddy Roosevelt doubled down by proclaiming the right to intervene in Latin America.

Harry S. Truman went global. The U.S. would support “free people who are resisting … subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” So did Dwight D. Eisenhower: He would commit U.S. forces “to secure and protect” all nations against “overt armed aggression from any nation controlled by international communism.” John F. Kennedy famously declaimed: “We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

Read more:

A Lying Quartet

By Victor Davis Hanson
American Greatness

Rarely has an intelligence apparatus engaged in systematic lying—and chronic deceit about its lying—both during and even after its tenure. Yet the Obama Administration’s four top security and intelligence officials time and again engaged in untruth, as if peddling lies was part of their job descriptions.

So far none have been held accountable.

Those exemptions are likely because, in hubristic fashion, all four assumed their service to progressive noble agendas would justify any odious means felt necessary to achieve them. Read more →

The Progressive Octopus

Politics lost, culture won.

By Victor Davis Hanson
National Review

It is the best and worst of times for progressives and liberals.

Politically, their obsessions with identity politics and various racial and gender -isms and -ologies have emasculated the Democratic party: loss of governorships, state legislatures, the House, the Senate, the presidency, and the Supreme Court.

Democrats, for the time being at least, are now reduced to largely a coastal, big-city party. It can certainly pile up lots of blue electoral votes. And, thanks to California, Democrats can capture the popular vote, without necessarily winning presidential elections.

The old liberal idea that the new demography is progressive destiny did not work out as planned. When the Blue Wall crumbled; Hillary Clinton lost a sure-thing election. Large Latino populations in red Texas and blue California are not likely to turn either one into a swing state. Inner-city voters so far have not transferred prior record levels of turn-out and bloc voting to candidates of the Hillary Clinton sort. Identity politics did not ensure that the white liberals who created it were always exempt from the natural boomerang of their own ideology. Read more →

The Strange Case of Confederate Cool

by Victor Davis Hanson
National Review

Leftists love Johnnie Reb in movies and songs. But statues? Not so much.

How exactly did the Left romanticize the Lost Cause Confederacy, and by extension its secession and efforts to preserve slavery?

To use a shopworn phrase, “It’s complicated.” Read more →

%d bloggers like this: