Top positive review
Lessons from War
Reviewed in the United States on August 20, 2018
Victor Davis Hanson starts his book by writing about the common attitudes of academics toward military studies – indifference and disapproval. Hanson asks the question why study war and answers, “Without standards of historical comparison, people prove ill-equipped to make informed judgments when the dogs of war are unleashed” (12). Hanson draws on the history of warfare as well as classical studies to write on how war is in the nature of humanity, from the beginning of civilization.
Many of the chapters relate warfare of the past, and the situations that provoked it, to the contemporary American situation in 2010. Chapter 2 is titled Classical Lessons and Post 9/11 Wars. Part 2 is actually on certain books about warfare, remarkable for what the contemporary can take from them, such as Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War and E. B. Sledge’s memoir of fighting the Japanese in the South Pacific in World War II (With the Old Breed).
What are some of the lessons or principals we can take from warfare?
“War is sometimes won or lost as much by confidence in one’s culture as by military assets themselves” (48). “War should be judged moral or immoral by the circumstances in which it breaks out and the conditions under which it is waged, rather than by the fact that violence is employed” (49). “Victory does not require achieving all of one’s objectives, but achieving far more than an enemy does of his” (183). “Again, what loses wars is not necessarily the inevitable mistakes but the failure to correct them in time – and the degree to which defeatism and depression (because errors occurred at all) are allowed to erode morale” (179).
In Part IV of the book Hanson writes more on contemporary culture and warfare, so this is not wholly a history book. I also recommend chapter one for those who may want to read on warfare but don’t know where to start, as Hanson suggests further reading on various ages of war, and various perspectives.