Book Review: The Father Of Us All

The Father Of Us All:  War And History – Ancient and Modern, by Victor Davis Hanson

It is one of the most notable and strange aspects of my reading of the author’s works that I have liked him least when he was talking about what he considered to be his specialty, namely the classical history of Greece (and to a lesser extent Rome) and its implications for present society.  A great deal of that difficulty comes from the author’s obviously Greek boosterism [1], which I am at best ambivalent and at worst hostile to.  Indeed, even though I am a scholar of military history, there is a great deal of disagreement there too, because the author holds to the unscriptural view that the Bible is a pacifist document, rather than one which recognizes the need for force but which commands believers to be peaceful insofar as it depends on them.  Sometimes it does not, which is the author’s own point regarding the need to preserve military strength despite our own desires to be peaceful.  The author’s persistent and willful misunderstanding of the biblical record and law and approach makes this book less enjoyable to read than it would be otherwise.

In terms of its contents, this book is divided into four parts and thirteen chapters that are based in large part on various book reviews and editorials that the author wrote during the first decade of the twenty-first century.  After a short preface, the author talks about the orphaned status of military history as a discipline (I) because of its unfashionable nature, discussing the worth of studying war (1), some classical lessons on the wars fought after September 11 (2), and the relevance of of the film 300 to today (3).  He then discusses war writing (II) with chapters on Xenophon’s Anabasis and how it has been treated by contemporary scholars (4), discusses The Old Breed as a classic in war memoirs, looks at the importance of the conflict between Athens and Sparta, and discusses the similarities between the Western effort at Lepanto and today.  Several chapters examine the encounter between the postmodern and the premodern (III) in looking at the contemporary absence of decisive battle (8), the importance of men to the polis (9), and some qualities that mark the American way of war (10).  Finally, the book concludes with a discussion of how Western wars are won and lost (IV) with chapters on the importance of fighting for victory (11), the strange relationship between war and democracy (12), and an identification of the enemy (13) before an epilogue and index that takes the book to almost 250 pages in length.

Ultimately, my impressions are mixed on this book.  As is often the case, Hanson has some sound insights to make on the harm that leftist behavior has on the well-being of the West as a whole, and points out the parasitic nature of the anti-patriotic and intensely self-critical aspects of academic discourse and the mainstream press.  The author shows himself to be deeply interested in the contemporary portrayal in books and movies of the classical history he has studied and taught for so long.  He demonstrates an interest in military history and its uncomfortable relationship with both the academy and the political philosophy of democracies in both Athens and the present-day United States.  Yet the author persistently and maliciously fails to comprehend the proper relationship between Athens and Jerusalem, and in his desire to bolster his own field of the classics, he lumps biblical culture and the godly perspective with the Oriental heathens of Egypt, Persia, and Mesopotamia, to the extent that it limits his own insight into matters of morality and wisdom.  For all of his pretensions to wisdom and insight, the author ultimately ends up being a blind guide seeking autonomy for mankind rather than repentance and reconciliation.  For it is God and not warfare that is the father of us all.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American History, Book Reviews, History, Military History and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Book Review: The Father Of Us All

  1. Pingback: Things Remembered This September 11 | Edge Induced Cohesion

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