A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought

One of my favorite authors, Victor David Hanson has just released his latest book on military history. I highly recomend his work for those with an interest in events that have shaped our modern world.

[quote] A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War
Reviewed by William Grimes The New York Times
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2005

What the First World War was for Europe, the Peloponnesian War was for the ancient Greeks. It was also their Napoleonic Wars and their American Civil War. The protracted, ruinous conflict between Athens and Sparta, which dragged on for nearly 30 years (431 B.C. to 404 B.C.), prefigured, in one way or another, nearly every major conflict to come, right up the present war on terror.

The “war like no other,” as Thucydides called it, continues to fascinate because it always seems pertinent, and never more so than in Victor Davis Hanson’s highly original, strikingly contemporary retelling of the superpower confrontation he calls “a colossal absurdity.”

In his capable hands, the past, more often than not, seems almost painfully present. Thucydides, the great historian of the war, is described as a kind of embedded reporter. The Athenians, relying on local populations under Spartan rule to greet them as liberators, never encountered quite the enthusiasm they anticipated, and the imperial assumptions behind “Athenianism,” which Hanson calls “the Western world’s first example of globalization,” suggest uncomfortable comparisons.

Hanson, whose books on classical warfare include “The Western Way of War” and “The Wars of the Ancient Greeks,” does not harp on this theme. He directs most of his attention to the war itself, the way it was fought and the profound changes in methods and psychology that took place over time.(rest of review at link)
iht.com/articles/2005/10/13/ … okfri.php#[/quote]

[quote]Marlboro Man Gets Smoked
Posted by James Wolcott

Victor Davis Hanson is the Marlboro Man of war apologists, a sun-bronzed rider of the purple sage whose stentorian words and battlefield vision have made many a chickenhawk less ashamed of himself as he shuffles around in his fuzzy slippers. The aria Hanson sings in article after article pays Wagnerian tribute to the Western Way of War, or why democracies are so admirably advanced when it comes to committing mass slaughter.

Even the Iraq debacle can not keep him from his appointed rounds from op-ed page to NRO column to Commentary essay to Weekly Standard book review, peddling military aggression for any panacea that ails the godly U S of A.

Finally, one man has had enough. A man who knows his military stuff. Whoever he is writes under the pseudonym Werther, and he torpedoes Hanson’s pretentions at Counterpunch that will bring a smile to anyone who has endured Hanson’s endless calls to arms. The title of the essay–“Victor David Hanson, Bard of the Booboisie”–pays homage to H.L. Mencken, and the essay itself does the master proud.

"Mr. Hanson, Cal State Fresno’s contribution to human letters, is the favorite historian of the administration, the Naval War College, and other groves of disinterested research. His academic niche is to drag the Peloponnesian War into every contemporary foreign policy controversy and thereby justify whatever course of action our magistrates have taken. One suspects that if the neo-cons at the American Enterprise Institute were suddenly seized by the notion to invade Patagonia, Mr. Hanson would be quoting Pericles in support.

"Once we strip away all the classical Greek fustian, it becomes clear that the name of his game is to take every erroneous conventional wisdom, cliche, faulty generalization, and common-man imbecility, and elevate them to a catechism. In this process, he showcases a technique beloved of pseudo-conservatives stuck at the Sean Hannity level of debate: he swallows whatever quasi-historical balderdash serves the interest of those in power, announces it with an air of surprised discovery, and then congratulates himself on his boldness in telling truth to power.

“This is a surprising and rather hypocritical pose by someone who reportedly sups at the table of Vice President Cheney. For Mr. Hanson is one of a long and undistinguished line of personalities stretching back into the abysm of time: the tribal bard, the court historian, the academic recipient of the Lenin Prize. Compared to him, politically connected scribes such as Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., resemble Dietrich Bonhoeffer.”

Werther proceeds to dissect the errors and blind spots of a recent Hanson essay about how weaselly liberalism is trying to undermine the heroic history of US involvement in WWII. And what is the ideological purpose of Hanson’s ham-handed argumentatives?

“Turning from Mr. Hanson’s preposterous history to his political agenda, it appears that his labored apologia to United States government policy 60 years ago serves as a defense of United States government policy now, anno 2005. Don’t let those ungrateful foreigners criticize us, he seems to say, after all, didn’t we win World War II? Aren’t all our wars just? What are all those Krauts and Frogs bitching about? How convenient when the invasion of Iraq (which Mr. Hanson fervently supports) has manifestly faltered and requires rhetorical support from an alleged man of learning, a species otherwise nowhere in evidence in the administration’s camp. How convenient, given that the Bush administration sought to rain on Russia’s 9 May 2005 victory parade and excoriate Yalta, in a manner not seen in official circles since the gin-fueled diatribes of Senator Joseph McCarthy.”

As Werther observes, the terrible thing about Victor Davis Hanson and his lyrical serenades to war is that there’s no escaping them.

“The concrete-like slab of The Washington Post Sunday edition thunked on our doorstep only a few hours ago, and with it the latest effluent from the Sage of Fresno himself as a featured op-ed: ‘Why We Need to Stay in Iraq.’ Note the sheer chickenhawk effrontery of that ‘we,’ and the almost ghoulish tastelessness of whooping it up for endless foreign deployments as the dead of New Orleans remain uncounted.”[/quote]

[quote=“whiskas2”]

[quote]Marlboro Man Gets Smoked
Posted by James Wolcott[/quote][/quote]

And just Who you ask is James Wolcott?

[quote]Born in the battle-torn suburbs of Baltimore, James Wolcott attended Maryland’s bitterly cold Frostburg State College for two years before hitting the interstate for New York City, where he was hired by The Village Voice against its better judgment, fired, and rehired.

For over a decade at the Voice he reviewed TV, books, and the punk scene, and now wishes he had kept a diary. Later a columnist on media and pop culture for publications such as Esquire, Harper’s, and New York magazine, he was lured to Vanity Fair by its then-editor, the late, sainted Leo Lerman. It’s been full pirate sail ever since.[/quote]

jameswolcott.com/about.php

Impressive credentials there. Yes sir! [i]Real[/i] impressive. He wouldn’t be able to get a job teaching kindy in Hualian.

Thanks for the suggestion, TainanCowboy.

The Landmark Thucydides : A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War, by Robert B. Strassler is my favorite edition of Thucydides (beating out even Thomas Hobbes’) and Victor Davis Hanson wrote the intro to it.

Two things in the review that you cite caught my attention.

[quote][In his capable hands, the past, more often than not, seems almost painfully present. Thucydides, the great historian of the war, is described as a kind of embedded reporter. The Athenians, relying on local populations under Spartan rule to greet them as liberators, never encountered quite the enthusiasm they anticipated, and the imperial assumptions behind “Athenianism,” which Hanson calls “the Western world’s first example of globalization,” suggest uncomfortable comparisons.[/quote] The first is presenting Thucydides as an embedded reported. Sounds silly as he was a general. The second (the rest of the quotation) is something that I’ve been thinking about for a long time.

Cheers.

It would seem that “embedded reporter” is a useful illustration of his role.

Ancient History Sourcebook:
11th Brittanica: Thucydides
fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/ … dides.html

Sources for Thucydides
perseus.tufts.edu/Thucydides/

Thucydides as Science
© Russell McNeil, Malaspina University-College, 1996
mala.bc.ca/~mcneil/lec18b.htm

From the Republic of Athens to the Athenian Empire: Athenian Hegemony and its Lessons for America.
grecoreport.com/thucydides.htm

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