BOOK REVIEWS: 1. An Autumn of War 2. No One Left Behind 3. The Secrets of Inchon 4. Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World's Greatest Outlaw 5. Judge Advocates in Combat: Army Lawyers in Military Operations From Vietnam to Haiti 6. Why Terrorism Works: Understanding the Threat, Responding to the Challenge 7. Raider: Soldier of Fortune or Unfortunate Subject?

Author:Major Todd S. Milliard
Pages:05
 
FREE EXCERPT

2002] BOOK REVIEWS 143

AN AUTUMN OF WAR1

REVIEWED BY MAJOR TODD S. MILLIARD2

We are at the precipice of a war we did not seek. We can grimly cross over it, confident in our resolve, more concerned about our poor dead than the hatred of enemies or the worries of fickle neutrals, assured that our cause is just, and reliant on the fierce men of our military who seek no quarter and need no allies in their dour task. Or we can fall into the abyss, the well-known darkness of self-loathing, identity politics, fashionable but cheap anti-Americanism, ostentatious guilt, aristocratic pacifism, and a convenient foreign policy that puts a higher premium on material comfort than on the security of our citizens and the advancement of our ideals.3

Readers that find troubling the notions of righteous democratic values, Western military superiority, and the justifiable destruction of evil men and their regimes should not read Victor Hanson's latest work, An Autumn of War. Written during the four-month period of disbelief following the al Qaeda suicide hijackings on 11 September 2001,4 An Autumn of War offers Americans confidence in and hope for their republic. Hanson accomplishes this feat by placing the nation's challenge to defeat terrorism in historical perspective, reminding readers that Western culture and ways of warfare have prevailed countless times in the past twenty-five hundred years. Supported by voluminous examples, both classic and modern, Hanson asserts that the United States, the "most powerful incarnation"5 of the

Western military tradition, will again prevail over its enemies through public resolve and military action.

A professor of classics at California State University, Hanson writes extensively on military history topics,6 including his previous book, Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power.7 An Autumn of War collects thirty-eight Hanson essays, each chronicling the historian's thoughtful responses to the September 2001 attacks and their aftermath. While replete with historical examples that support Hanson's arguments, the essays serve also as snapshots in time, preserving the visceral emotion that most readers experienced in the wake of the attacks. But Hanson is no populist or modern-day Grub Street hack;8 his assertions are persuasive because Hanson artfully weaves analogous historical examples through every page of An Autumn of War.

The book's introduction sets out four "themes"9 that provide a coherent backdrop to the diverse essays, which Hanson organizes into the book's four chapters. Hanson derives each theme from a lesson learned from history, and together the four themes comprise Hanson's thesis statement. Before each chapter, named after the four months of autumn, Hanson orients the reader with a brief overview of the month's events, and he reintroduces the theme or themes that place those events in historical perspective.10

Hanson's first and primary theme posits that Muslim fundamentalists targeted the United States, "the epitome of Westernism and modernism all in one, . . . because of who we are, not what we did."11 Muslim's relative lack of "consensual government, freedom, and material security"12 fuels this seemingly irrational fury toward the West, a collective hatred not limited to a few terrorists, but rather shared by millions.13 Arab governments have only compounded this disparity when compared to the United States, Hanson argues, by "failing to come to grips with the dizzying and sometimes terrifying pace of globalization and the spread of popular Western culture."14 In the context of this cultural inferiority complex of sorts, Hanson concludes, "September 11 must be seen as the opportunistic response of fundamentalists to funnel collective [Muslim] frustration against the United States."15

Hanson calls for a "Bush Doctrine" to counter this hostility on two levels, thereby addressing the overt actions of terrorists and the complicity of supporting nations. The doctrine would "state unequivocally that a terrorist attack on the citizens or the shores of the United States is defined as an act of war, and will bring immediate retaliation of all our forces, without qualification, against any state that hosts, aids, or comforts the perpetrators."16 Hanson also encourages President Bush to articulate a moral component of U.S. policy, which emphasizes democratic values for Islamic peoples as the highest ideal.17 While this suggestion sounds at first naive, especially when compared to the sophistry of modern diplomacy's me

sured words, it is the premise upon which the special U.S. relationship with Israel is built.

[Israel is] the Middle Eastern state most like ourselves in their commitment to a free society based on the rule of law and the consent of the governed. Our special relationship with Israel is open equally to any Islamic country that accepts the idea of democracy and the essence of freedom.18

Hanson clearly intends that this idealistic U.S. policy serve as a warning to Arab governments and as an incentive to their citizens. He urges, "The United States should declare that it supports the right of all Islamic

peoples to self-determination through consensual government, and, indeed, [it] shall work for the gradual evolution of democracy in countries where the impoverished have no voice or freedom."19 Hanson argues convincingly that staying true to these democratic principles during the War on Terrorism will be the cornerstone to an effective "war on all fronts," including the military, diplomatic, philosophical, and cultural.20

With his first theme, Hanson certainly opens An Autumn of War to criticism for "Islamophobia" or "Arab smearing."21 He even facetiously titles one essay in the book Pillars of Ignorance, 22 perhaps in parody of T.E. Lawrence's flattering account of the Arab revolt against Ottoman rule.23 Throughout its pages, An Autumn of War maintains that democracy is a rare phenomenon, a system of government inherently better for its citizens than the theocracies and autocracies of the Muslim world.24 Unlike Lawrence of Arabia and today's relativists, however, Hanson makes no attempt to equate the culture and governance of the Muslim world to the esteemed principles of Western democracy. Instead, he demonstrates that dictatorships have always been illegitimate, whether in the form of Germany's Nazi fascism, Eastern Europe's Soviet totalitarianism, or the Middle East's increasingly radical manifestations of Islam.25 Moreover,

Hanson sees little distinction between moderate and radical Middle Eastern regimes. Of modern Saudi Arabia, Hanson says simply, "the royal family . . . cannot act out of principle because no principle other than force [placed them] and keeps them in power."26

Hanson's second theme, more succinct if no less controversial than his first, asserts that today's popular yet unproven social theories have not altered the realities of war and human nature.27 Hanson thus prefers the Greek response to conflict: "war is terrible but innate to civilization,"28

and human nature remains "raw, savage, and self-serving just beneath the veneer of civilization."29 In this predictable light, history has shown that civilization-certainly not a natural occurrence as Hanson illustrates- must constantly struggle against savagery and chaos.30

Evil, a term disdained for its simplicity,31 manifests itself through "bellicose theocratic and autocratic nations," or non-state actors like the al Qaeda, which "rush to battle out of classical motives like Thucydidean fear, envy, and self-interest that in turn are fueled by a desire for power, fame, and respect."32 So "war is often fought rationally," Hanson says, but "the causes for its outbreak are seldom rational."33 If the reader accepts Hanson's notion that these evil motivations are inherent in man's nature, it is a short step to recognize war's inevitable recurrence. But war can also be fought without evil intentions, and Hanson reiterates the sometimes-forgotten, originally Greek concept that war is "not always unjust or amoral if it is waged for good causes to destroy evil and save the innocent."34

Hanson's third theme identifies a Western shortcoming, one distinctly at odds with Hanson's belief in the unchanging essence of war and human nature. This theme holds that democracy eventually creates a privileged class whose members espouse utopian pacifism from their insular position of security and relative comfort.35 These so-called cultural elites, "principled opponents of the use of force in response to violence,"36 alternately question and deny Western civilization's moral authority to act against Muslim fundamentalists and their supporting nations.37 While the equalizing lenses of multiculturalism38 and cultural relativism39 allow the cultural elite to refrain from such moral judgments, Hanson retorts that the "misery of the Middle East" is simply "the predictable result of widespread failure to adopt free institutions, democracy, open markets, and civilian

audit."40 While Hanson identifies the logical fallacies of using the pacifists' approach to defend certain Arab regimes, he cautions that "in a war with deadly adversaries like [al Qaeda] and their supporters, [such] utopianism is near suicidal."41

Hanson's fourth theme resonates best with military readers. It reminds Americans, especially those who would question the nation's ability to fight a seemingly "untraceable [and] . . . unstoppable" enemy,42 of

the "vast extent of their nation's military power."43 This final premise reiterates a theme that runs throughout Hanson's other military history writings.44

[T]he three-millennia story of Western civilization on the battlefield has proved to be one of abject terror for its enemies. Europe and its cultural offspring have across time and space fashioned a deadly form of warfare that transfers ideas of freedom, rationa

ism, consensual...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP