February 25, 2004

LA Times Interviews VDH

Memo from the Dean's Office

The article, "The Right Way to Farm the Classics" is an eye-opening interview with Victor Davis Hanson in many ways:

In April, amid the early stages of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Hanson used his column [At National Review Online P.] to hail the American advance on Baghdad as "unprecedented in its speed and daring" and predicted that its "logistics will be studied for decades." Vice President Dick Cheney enthusiastically quoted Hanson in a speech before the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

Hanson's absolute, unflinching belief in the cause and its ultimate success made him a favorite of Cheney, who urges Hanson's books on his staff and on reporters traveling with him for foreign trips.

I knew Hanson was good, but I didn't even suspect he was THAT popular with the Administration.

Pentagon officials who like Hanson's broad grasp of history vie for his time. On a recent afternoon in Fresno, an Air Force colonel with the Defense Intelligence Agency huddled with Hanson for several hours in the historian's small office, which is decorated with a marble bust of Julius Caesar and a huge map, in German, of ancient Greece.

"These guys like to expand their analysis using history through the ages," Hanson said after the meeting, which he said touched on topics ranging from European politics to the Korean peninsula.

Lucky devil!

Hanson is also a regular consultant to the influential Pentagon Office of Net Assessment, which has emerged as a key administration intelligence gathering and planning agency under Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and his senior deputy, Paul D. Wolfowitz. This week, Hanson was back in Washington to speak before the Board of Overseers of the Hoover Institution, the conservative Palo Alto think tank where Hanson is a resident fellow. His theme, "This War Is Not New," was the same as that of the Cal State Fresno class. Sharing the podium were Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Karl Rove, President Bush's main political advisor.

It is an enviable position for someone who never served in the military or trained in the science or tactics of warfare. Hanson's influence on the administration probably comes more in setting a tone or providing a historical justification for tough decisions than it does in the details of policy.

"Victor Hanson is a brilliant classicist with a real emotional insight into antiquity," said Stephen Peter Rosen, director of the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University, who has attended Office of Net Assessment sessions at the Pentagon with Hanson.

"Hanson has definitely carved out a niche," said William M. Arkin, a military analyst who writes often for the Los Angeles Times opinion pages. "In an era where many in the Pentagon think that the sword of Damocles is being held over our heads, here's a guy who can actually tell you who Damocles was."

Ancient Wisdom.

At a White House Christmas gathering, Bush approached him, asking, "How'm I doing?" Before the flustered Hanson could fully respond, he said, the president had assured him, "I'm not finished yet," and walked on to other guests. This pleased Hanson, whose historical heroes are decisive men ranging from the Athenian leader Pericles to Civil War Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, whose tactical brilliance at the Battle of Shiloh and brutal "March to the Sea" helped break the back of the Confederacy.

In Hanson's opinion, expressed in his recent military history "Ripples of Battle," Bush, despite intellectual shortcomings ("he lacked his predecessor's encyclopedic knowledge of names, places and dates"), was the right leader at the right time in responding to Sept. 11.

I'm sure the President's predecessor has such a good memory that he remembers every blowjob he's ever received in his life.

But not all is wine and roses...

Prominent colleagues in classics accuse him of putting scholarship in the service of neoconservative, bellicose politics.

"Hanson is a very skillful scholar who made some major contributions," said W. Robert Connor, a retired Princeton University classicist. "What makes me nervous is that over time, the political agenda in his work has become stronger and more evident. I worry that the scholarly talent has become subservient to the political."

As if it hasn't happened to Noam Chomsky who, I hear, hasn't done anything academically noteworthy recently.

Hanson's courses are popular with students.

Catfight Alert! It's one thing to be a good researcher. And it's another thing to be a good teacher. But to combine the two...

But fellow professors at Cal State Fresno have been bruised by Hanson's uncompromising attacks on modern education, particularly ethnic and gender studies programs that Hanson terms "therapeutic curriculum" and feels should be ejected from the university.

"Being on the wrong side of Victor Hanson is not somewhere you want to be," said Western Washington University English professor Scott Stevens, who spent six years at Cal State Fresno and says Hanson drove him away. "Everyone talks about the power of the left on campus, but Hanson led a powerful clique of antifeminist traditionalists who would really like to see the university return to some pre-'60s stage."

I apologize to cats for comparing them to this sorry sack of whiny, "I wanna eat my cake too" shit.

Hanson, 50, recently signed a contract with Random House for a book on the Peloponnesian War, to be titled "A War Like No Other." His $500,000 writing advance is unprecedented for a work of classical scholarship and more than he received for his previous 14 books combined.

Heh. Methinks the advance is bigger than ANY forwarded for a work of classical scholarship.

The War College congratulates Dr. Hanson on his contract, hopes he continues to write for National Review Online, and looks forward to the book when it comes out.

Hattip LGF.
(The link pointing to the article at Little Green Footballs seems to get you past the registration. If it doesn't let you through, Reader thom suggests some passwords.)

Posted by ptah at February 25, 2004 06:33 PM
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