The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern

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The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern. By Victor Davis Hanson. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2010. 260 pp. $25.

Inspired by a quote from the ancient philosopher Heraclitus - that war is "the father, the king of us all" - Hanson's latest book offers many insights into the nature of war, especially within the context of contemporary America's outlook on armed conflict in general and vis-à-vis the Middle East and Islam in particular.

Hanson, a military historian and essayist, begins his analysis by explaining how and why military studies in American schools have all but disappeared. The situation might not be so troubling if it was not accompanied by the fact that there is virtually no study of Islamic war doctrine (codified in Shari'a or Islamic law) at the same time the United States is engaged with an enemy that draws heavily upon those very principles. As former Pentagon official William Gawthrop put it, military analysts "still do not have an in-depth understanding of the war-fighting doctrine laid down by Muhammad, how it might be applied today by an increasing number of Islamic groups, or how it might be countered."1

Hanson contends that "the American public, not the timeless nature of war, has changed." As a result of political correctness, Utopian pacifism, and unprecedented affluence, Americans have come to view war as an aberrant phenomenon to be avoided at any cost. The result, he argues, is "ever more contempt and audacity on al-Qaeda's part" - whichlikens U. …