In This Review

The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern
The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern
By Victor Davis Hanson
Bloomsbury Press, 2010, 272 pp

For Hanson, war is a constant that will never go away. As a classicist with an interest in the contemporary, he sees continuities in why and how wars are fought. This is something that should be taken seriously, he believes, because it usually matters who wins and because the pain and suffering that wars inevitably cause is likely to be greater if generals and their political masters are clueless about its conduct. In the first, and best, essay in this lively collection, Hanson deplores the tendency of universities since the Vietnam War to treat war studies with the same distaste with which they treat war, as if oncologists should be viewed with suspicion given their fascination with cancer. Acknowledging his rather old-fashioned focus on strategy and battle, he is somewhat bemused by academic writing on war that is concerned with such matters as gender and identity. He makes his point by citing the responses of students taught in a night class at Fresno State, in California, whose down-to-earth responses to Thucydides ("I bet he killed a few to write like that") he clearly prefers to the postmodern analyses of the Ivy League. As with any collection, the pieces are uneven, but the writing is always elegant and erudite.