jimsleeper.com » What Victor Davis Hanson and Vulcan Ideology Do to Ancient History and US Foreign Policy

What Victor Davis Hanson and Vulcan Ideology Do to Ancient History and US Foreign Policy

By Jim Sleeper – September 23, 2010, 5:35PM

In August, when PBS broadcast a shamefully worshipful, 3-hour “documentary” of Reagan Administration Secretary of State George Shultz’s supposedly heroic career, I posted “What Politics Does to History,” exposing the fraudulent scholarship of the man who’d written most of Shultz’s memoir and is now teaching students at Yale. At least, though, Charles Hill has had the wit to seek refuge in “literature” for his rather chilling take on history, as I showed also in Foreign Policy.

The historian Victor Davis Hanson is something else again, a magpie of misplaced, forced analogies from ancient to post-modern events. Hanson conscripts his studies of ancient Greek wars to the service of the Bush national-security agenda, which he’d love to revive. Now he’s done it again in Makers of Ancient Strategy, an anthology I’ve just reviewed for the new, fall issue of Democracy journal. And Hanson, true to form, is ranting about the review.

”When someone attacks me, I reply with twice that,” Hanson told the Boston Globe, which noted that he “has penned many a blistering response to a negative review. It’s not unlike the tactic Hanson recommends in war: ‘You do that a few times, and people stop attacking you.”’

Sorry, Victor, but the main reason people stop attacking you is that you discredit yourself without their having to bother. No sooner had Hanson submitted his counter-attack to Democracy, than he posted it, twice, perhaps expecting that this shock-and-awe approach would silence criticism.

It certainly pleased his site’s ditto-heads, but Hanson had no choice but to link the review he was attacking, and I invite anyone who can read without moving his or her lips to compare it to Hanson’s rant. The review shows that the man can’t separate his historiography of ancient wars from his Vulcan ideology, He can’t help trying to draft his scholarship — and, yes, some of history’s enduring truths — into his efforts to promote and then justify misadventures like ours in Iraq.

These are hard times for would-be warriors like Hanson, Charles Hill, and Martin Peretz, all of whom are scurrying to burnish their dubious scholarly credentials to cover their real-world blunders. But although I’ve caught Hanson trying to do that in his new anthology, some of its contributors — and, he now tells us defensively, its Princeton University Press readers — have higher standards than he does and didn’t let him get away with it entirely.

The result, as I explain in the review, is an anthology that makes Victor Davis Hanson look better than he is despite his efforts to sanitize his war-mongering solutions through scholarship. It’s all in the review; Enjoy!