Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson / b. 1953 / Fowler, California, USA / Classicist, Military Historian, Farmer, Author, Political Commentator, Podcaster

Note: Sources of quotations are supplied where known; however, many sources are unknown, likely due to their multiple occurrence in Hanson’s very numerous writings and online essays, interviews, and podcasts.


Let me be blunt. . . . Academia does not attract the top brains in the country.

The Backwardness of Modern Progressives,” The Victor Davis Hanson Show, January 18, 2024.


In the face of adversity, the resilience of individuals and nations is often revealed.


Behind every American soldier, dozens of their countrymen tonight sleep soundly — and hundreds more in their shadow abroad will wake up alive and safe.

Even in its third century, America is still the most meritocratic nation in the world.

Americans spend more money on Botox, face lifts and tummy tucks than on the age-old scourges of polio, smallpox, and malaria.


[H]ow does a state manage to achieve, all at once, the highest basket of gas, sales, and income taxes, yet rate nearly dead last in roads and highways, or school performance tests, and have the nation’s greatest number of billionaires, and one-sixth of America’s welfare recipients, and the largest percentage of any state population below the poverty line.

The Decline and Fall of California: From Decadence to Destruction, ebook (2015).


This revolutionary idea of Western citizenship—replete with ever more rights and responsibilities—would provide superb manpower for growing legions and a legal framework that would guarantee that the men who fought felt that they themselves in a formal and contractual sense had ratified the conditions of their own battle service. The ancient Western world would soon come to define itself by culture rather than by race, skin color, or language. That idea alone would eventually bring enormous advantages to its armies on the battlefield.

Carnage and Culture Landmark Battles in the Rise to Western Power (2001).

In a 2017 poll taken by the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, most Americans appeared ignorant of the fundamentals of the US Constitution. Thirty-seven percent could not name a single right protected by the First Amendment. Only one out of four Americans could name all three branches of government. One in three could not name any branch of government. In a 2018 survey conducted by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, almost 75 percent of those polled were not able to identify the thirteen original colonies. Over half had no idea whom the United States fought in World War II. Less than 25 percent knew why colonists had fought the Revolutionary War. Twelve percent thought Dwight D. Eisenhower commanded troops in the Civil War.

The Dying Citizen: How Progressive Elites, Tribalism, and Globalization Are Destroying the Idea of America (2021).

Democratic citizenship requires knowledge of war—and now, in the age of weapons of mass annihilation, more than ever.

The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern (2010).


The great hatred of capitalism in the hearts of the oppressed, ancient and modern, I think, stems not merely from the ensuing vast inequality in wealth, and the often unfair and arbitrary nature of who profits and who suffers, but from the silent acknowledgement that under a free market economy the many victims of the greed of the few are still better off than those under the utopian socialism of the well-intended. It is a hard thing for the poor to acknowledge benefits from their rich moral inferiors who never so intended it.

Carnage and Culture Landmark Battles in the Rise to Western Power (2001).

History has shown that a government’s redistribution of shrinking wealth, in preference to a private sector’s creation of new sources of it, can provide more destruction than even the most deadly enemy.


Freedom is not free; it requires vigilance, sacrifice, and the defense of shared values.


Globalization has enriched the planet beyond belief, leading to ever-increased demands of perfection. And thanks to 24/7 communications, we all instantaneously know when these expectations aren’t met.


The study of history is not just about the past; it’s about understanding the present and preparing for the future.

A civilization that forgets its past is doomed to repeat its mistakes.

Evil is ancient, unchanging, and with us always. The more postmodern the West becomes — affluent, leisured, nursed on moral equivalence, utopian pacifism, and multicultural relativism — the more premodern the evil among us seems to arise in nihilistic response.

General George Patton and others lamented that the Second World War had broken out in 1939 over saving the free peoples of Eastern Europe from totalitarianism—only to end, through the broken 1945 Yalta accords, ensuring their enslavement by an erstwhile Soviet ally whose military we had supplied lavishly.

The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern (2010).

For a capitalist system to work, the state had to protect, not regulate or interfere with, free markets. Both for political and religious reasons, this the sultan could not do: The Ottomans had then no idea of the balance of trade. . . . Originated from an age-old tradition in the Middle East, the Ottoman trade policy was that the state had to be concerned above all that the people and craftsmen in the cities in particular would not suffer a shortage of necessities and raw material. Consequently, the imports were always welcomed and encouraged, and exports discouraged.

Carnage and Culture Landmark Battles in the Rise to Western Power (2001).

We forget that even worse choices than those have confronted us in the past—like sending billions of dollars of aid to Joseph Stalin to stop Adolf Hitler, just a few years after the former had slaughtered or starved to death twenty million Soviets, invaded hapless Finland, carved up Poland with Hitler, and sent strategic materials daily to the Third Reich as it firebombed London.

The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern (2010).

Military history reminds us that those who died on behalf of democratic freedom to stop totalitarian killing were a different sort than totalitarians who died fighting against it to perpetuate killing. The sacrifice of the former meant that generations yet born might have a greater likelihood of opportunity, security, and freedom; the latter fought for a cause that would have increased the suffering of future generations.

The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern (2010).

Given the Western ability to produce deadly weapons, its propensity to create cheap, plentiful goods, and its tradition of seeing war in pragmatic rather than ritual terms as a mechanism to advance political ends, it is no surprise that Mesoamericans, African tribes, and native North Americans all joined European forces to help kill off Aztecs, Zulus, and Lakotas.

Carnage and Culture Landmark Battles in the Rise to Western Power (2001).

The gradual decline of a society is often a self-induced process of trying to meet ever-expanding appetites, rather than a physical inability to produce past levels of food and fuel, or to maintain adequate defense.

Human Nature

[H]uman character is unchanging and thus its conduct in calamitous times is always predictable.

A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War (2005).

To assert that military history suggested that wars broke out because bad men, in fear or in pride, sought material advantage or status, or because sometimes good but naive men had done too little to deter them, was understandably seen as antithetical to a more enlightened understanding of human nature.

The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern (2010).

International Affairs

Apologizing for our past sins may reveal character and for a time lessen anti-Americanism abroad, but if it is done without acknowledging that the sins of America are the sins of mankind, and that our remedies are so often exceptional, then it only earns transitory applause—and a more lasting contempt that we ourselves do not believe in the values we profess.

The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern (2010).

Athens’s disastrous 415 B.C. expedition against Sicily, the largest democracy in the Greek world, may not prefigure our war in Iraq. (A hypothetical parallel to democratic Athens’s preemptive attack on the neutral, distant, far larger, and equally democratic Syracuse in the midst of an ongoing though dormant war with Sparta would be America’s dropping its struggle with al-Qaeda to invade India).

The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern (2010).

The United States is often criticized as interventionist, but in fact America’s traditional propensity has been more isolationist—willing to act forcefully in the world when absolutely necessary, but preferring to be unencumbered.

The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern (2010).

States are like people. They do not question the awful status quo until some dramatic event overturns the conventional and lax way of thinking.


Often the white elite signaled their disgust of the “white privilege” of the disintegrating middle class as a means of exempting their own quite genuine white privilege of insider contacts, professional degrees, wealth, inheritance, and influence.

The Case for Trump (2019).

In Trump’s mind, the problem with federal agencies was not just that they overreached and were weaponized, but that their folds of bureaucracy led to incompetency.

The Case for Trump (2019).

Popular Culture

Entertainers wrongly assume that their fame, money, and influence arise from broad knowledge rather than natural talent, looks, or mastery of a narrow skill.

Popular culture is simply a reflection of what the majority seems to want.


War seems to come out of nowhere, like rust that suddenly pops up on iron after a storm.

War is a tragic and often necessary part of the human experience, but it should never be romanticized or glamorized.

This bloody past suggests to us that enemies cease hostilities only when they are battered enough to acknowledge that there is no hope in victory – and thus that further resistance means only useless sacrifice.

But wars—or the threat of war—at least put an end to American chattel slavery, Nazism, Fascism, Japanese militarism, and Soviet Communism. It is hard to think of any democracy—Afghan, American, Athenian, contemporary German, Iraqi, Italian, Japanese, ancient Theban—that was not an outcome of armed struggle and war.

The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern (2010).

If Westerners deem themselves too smart, too moral, or too soft to stop aggressors in this complex nuclear age, then—as Socrates and Aristotle alike remind us—they can indeed become real accomplices to evil through inaction.

The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern (2010).

Victory may now require a level of force deemed objectionable by civilized peoples, meaning that some, for justifiable reasons, may be reluctant to pursue it. But victory has not become an ossified concept altogether.

The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern (2010).

Again, wars do not really end until the conditions that started them–a bellicose government, an aggressive leader, a national policy of brinksmanship–are eliminated. Otherwise, there remains a bellum interruptum, much like the so-called Peace of Nicias, when Athens and Sparta agreed to a time-out in 421 B.C., before going at each other with renewed and deadly fury in 415 B.C.

It was the horror of the two world wars—Verdun, the Somme, Hiroshima—that led to our own era’s questioning of the tragic view of war. Such a reaction was certainly true and understandable in a Europe that nearly destroyed itself in two devastating industrial wars within a roughly twenty-year period. Yet out of such numbing losses we may have missed the lesson of the horror. The calamity of sixty million dead was not just because nationalistic Westerners went to war in an industrial age of weaponry of mass annihilation, but rather because the liberal democracies were unwilling to make moderate sacrifices to keep the peace well before 1914 and 1939—when real resolve could have stopped Prussian militarism, and then Nazism without millions of the blameless perishing.

The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern (2010).

A public that’s illiterate about the conflicts of the past can easily find itself confused during wartime. Without standards of historical comparison, people prove ill-equipped to make informed judgments when the dogs of war are unleashed. Neither U.S. politicians nor most citizens seem to recall the incompetence and terrible decisions that, in December 1777, December 1941, and November 1950, led to massive American casualties and, for a time, public despair.

The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern (2010).

Military history teaches us, contrary to popular belief, that wars are not necessarily the most costly of human calamities. The allied coalition lost few lives in getting Saddam out of Kuwait during the Gulf War of 1991, yet doing nothing in Rwanda allowed savage gangs and militias to murder hundreds of thousands with impunity. Bill Clinton stopped a Balkan holocaust through air strikes, without sacrificing American soldiers. His supporters argued, with some merit, that the collateral damage from the NATO bombing of Belgrade resulted in far fewer innocents killed, in such a “terrible arithmetic,” than if the Serbian death squads had been allowed to continue their unchecked cleansing of Islamic communities.

The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern (2010).