Beware of Classicists Bearing Parallels
Re “Right Way to Farm the Classics,” Feb. 25: Victor Hanson’s work on Thucydides’ history of the Peloponnesian War is a distinct achievement. However, Hanson is missing the central point made by Thucydides: Democracies are vulnerable to demagoguery, and like Athens’ unnecessary invasion of Sicily in 415 BC, the U.S.’ rush to war in Iraq was propelled by exaggerations of its leaders. America’s power is unrivaled, but its power has limits; the resources that have gone into Iraq would have been better spent in Afghanistan and in diplomacy. The Iraq expedition has damaged our economy, credibility and security.
I was confused by your subheadline: “Hanson ... [an] expert on ancient Greek warfare, has won fans in the Bush White House by likening the U.S. to Athens.” I read the article in search of the punch line. Hasn’t Hanson let the White House know that Athens lost the Peloponnesian War? Didn’t its conflict with Sparta leave all of Greece so devastated that the Macedonians conquered the whole place a few generations later? Wouldn’t the White House be more interested in being like the side that “won” the war? Of course not; Sparta was a militarized, exploitive society ruled by a few rich landowners.... Oh. Never mind. I get it now.
Jay C. Smith
The only Hanson book I own is “Mexifornia,” perhaps the only popularly available critical explanation of illegal immigration’s adverse effect on California. A profile of Hanson is woefully incomplete without mentioning this important work.
William J. Becker Jr.