- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 12, 2002

It is understandable, of course, but also in a way dispiriting to realize how many hundreds of thousands of words and vast hours of air time have been devoted to the September 11 attacks on the Unites States a torrent of words has spanned from the informed to the misinformed to the uninformed about this horribly momentous event.

Among the most thoughtful commentaries have been those by Victor Davis Hanson. He has been a voice of consistent and confident clarity, a trumpet amid tin whistles. On the first anniversary of the bombing of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, this collection of essays from the first four months of the terrorist onslaught, "An Autumn of War," is obviously timely and inspiriting as well.

"The terrorists acted against American because of who we are, not because of what we did … " he writes, addressing one of the genuinely enraging themes that have been given currency.

The majority of the articles in "An Autumn of War" appeared in National Review Online and the parent magazine, though he has published widely on the calamitous assault including in the Wall Street Journal, the Manhattan Institute's City Journal, the Claremont Review of Books, the Military History Quarterly. His last book, "Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power," was a powerfully informed essay combining the author's knowledge as a classicist and as a military historian.

Mr. Hanson views this hard world from a tragic sense of life rather than the therapeutic one that has infested so many of our institutions. He is an eloquent advocate of Western culture, an advocacy that too often now is trumped by self-loathing and guilt among much of the American intelligentsia of campus and media. He knows that civilization and civic order are not necessarily the same.

The pieces in this book are chronologically arranged, September through December. In the initial weeks after the terrorist bombings, where it was thought U.S. casualties might be as high as 10,000 and President Bush had vowed he would battle terrorists across the globe for years, "critics here and abroad immediately questioned the morality of our tactics in bombing," Afghanistan enclaves that harbored and sustained the Islamic radicals.

Terrorist attacks on the United States were inevitable, went this chorus, because of our global "swagger" and power "as if people who practice neither democracy nor religious tolerance nor equality are our moral superiors," Mr. Hanson astringently observes. This is one of the "myths" that he challenges repeatedly, as well as the addled notion that if the United States carries the war unrelentingly to the enemy, we shall mobilize the Arab world against us and risk greater loss.

Mr. Hanson makes the point, so often elided by pundits, that in the past two decades, no country has devoted resources and political capital to protect Muslims the Kuwaiti, Shiite and Kurdish victims of Saddam Hussein, the Afghani enemies of Soviet communism, or those civilians targeted in Bosnia and Kosovo.

But there is, not surprisingly, a hesitancy among us about undertaking so fraught a campaign against terrorism that could last years and demand sacrifice that a comfortable society is not used to. "This is understandable in an affluent democracy, which as the historian Thucydides tells us, is at first fickle and prone to self-doubt. Yet as he also reminds us, of both classical Athens and Syracuse democracies eventually prove the most resourceful and resolved in war, as they slowly marshal their enormous arsenal against the unfamiliar and answer the mythology of terror with the reality of power."

Mr. Hanson has no doubt about the heart and soul of this country. His cogent commentary should armor Americans in this imperative campaign particularly as the doubters, the skeptics and the timid are in fresh voice as a war against Iraq is debated.


Woody West is associate editor of The Washington Times.


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