In This Review

Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power
Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power
By Victor Davis Hanson
Doubleday, 2001, 492 pp.

This book is more than a contribution to the "decisive battles of Western history" genre, for the author has chosen the word "landmark" with care. He describes vividly more than two millennia of battles to underscore an overarching theme: the West's enduring military superiority. Not surprisingly for a prolific historian of ancient Greece, Hanson believes that the roots of Western military predominance lie with Hellenic culture and its legacies, particularly its brand of rational, purposive thought, which rejects excessive reliance on theology, custom, and tyrannical politics. The tradition of "civic militarism" -- that is, the West's ability to mobilize citizen soldiers and animate them with the discipline of collective endeavor -- has helped create an ascendancy that remains, in Hanson's view, secure. In the resurrected "clash of civilizations" debate, this work is for those who think "the West versus the rest" captures the issue. A powerful argument that the smart money remains with the West.