Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush, and was a presidential appointee in 2007–2008 on the American Battle Monuments Commission that oversees the cemeteries of and monuments of U.S. war dead abroad. Hanson is a student of current affairs, particularly regarding the U.S. in the Middle East, national defense issues and illegal immigration. He is also a fifth-generation farmer, growing almonds on a family farm in Selma, California, where he resides, and is a commentator on social trends related to farming and agrarianism.
Hanson, who is of Swedish and Welsh descent, grew up on a family farm outside of Selma, California in the San Joaquin Valley and has worked there most of his life. His mother, Pauline Davis Hanson, was a lawyer and a California superior court and state appeals court justice, his father was a farmer, educator and junior college administrator. Along with his older brother Nels, a writer, and fraternal twin Alfred, a farmer and biologist, Hanson attended public schools and graduated from Selma High School. Hanson received his BA with highest honors in classics and general college honors, Cowell College, from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 1975 and his PhD in classics from Stanford University in 1980. He is a Protestant Christian. He also won the Raphael Demos scholarship at the College Year in Athens (1973–74) and was a regular member of the American School of Classical Studies, Athens, 1978–79.
Hanson is currently a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and professor emeritus at California State University, Fresno, where he began teaching in 1984, having created the classical studies program at that institution.
In 1991, Hanson was awarded an American Philological Association's Excellence in Teaching Award, which is given annually to the nation's top undergraduate teachers of Greek and Latin, and he was named distinguished alumnus of the year (2006) at University of California, Santa Cruz. He has been a visiting professor of classics at Stanford University (1991–92), a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, California (1992–93), an Alexander Onassis traveling fellowship to Greece (1999), as well as Nimitz Fellow at UC Berkeley (2006) and held the visiting Shifrin Chair of Military History at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland (2002–03), and often the William Simon visiting professorship at the School of Public Policy at Pepperdine University (2009–15), and was awarded in 2015 an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from the graduate school at Pepperdine. He gave the Wriston Lecture in 2004 for the Manhattan Institute. He has been a board member of the Bradley Foundation since 2015, and served on the HF Guggenheim Foundation board for over a decade.
Since 2004, Hanson has written a weekly column syndicated by Tribune Media Services, as well as a weekly column for National Review Online since 2001, and has not missed a weekly column for either venue since he began. He has been published in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Times Literary Supplement, The Daily Telegraph, American Heritage, and The New Criterion, among other publications. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal (2007) by President George W. Bush, as well as the Eric Breindel Prize for opinion journalism (2002), and the William F. Buckley Prize (2015). Hanson was also awarded the Claremont Institute's Statesmanship Award at its annual Churchill Dinner, and the Bradley Prize from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in 2008.
Hanson’s Warfare and Agriculture (Giardini 1983), his PhD thesis, argued that Greek warfare could not be understood apart from agrarian life in general, and suggested that the modern assumption that agriculture was irrevocably harmed during classical wars was vastly overestimated. The Western Way of War (Alfred Knopf 1989), for which John Keegan wrote the introduction, explored the combatants’ experiences of ancient Greek battle and detailed the Hellenic foundations of later Western military practice.
The Other Greeks (The Free Press 1995) argued that the emergence of a unique middling agrarian class explains the ascendance of the Greek city-state, and its singular values of consensual government, sanctity of private property, civic militarism and individualism. In Fields Without Dreams (The Free Press 1996, winner of the Bay Area Book Reviewers Award) and The Land Was Everything (The Free Press 2000, a Los Angeles Times notable book of the year), Hanson lamented the decline of family farming and rural communities, and the loss of agrarian voices in American democracy. The Soul of Battle (The Free Press 1999) traced the careers of Epaminondas, the Theban liberator, William Tecumseh Sherman, and George S. Patton, in arguing that democratic warfare’s strengths are best illustrated in short, intense and spirited marches to promote consensual rule, but bog down otherwise during long occupations or more conventional static battle.
In Mexifornia (Encounter 2003)—a personal memoir about growing up in rural California and an account of immigration from Mexico—Hanson that predicted illegal immigration would soon reach crisis proportions, unless legal, measured, and diverse immigration was restored, as well as the traditional melting-pot values of integration, assimilation, and intermarriage.
Ripples of Battle (Doubleday 2003) chronicled how the cauldron of battle affects combatants’ later literary and artistic work, as its larger influence ripples for generations, affecting art, literature, culture, and government. In A War Like No Other (Random House 2005, a New York Times notable book of the year), a history of the Peloponnesian War, Hanson offered an alternative history, arranged by methods of fighting—triremes, hoplites, cavalry, sieges, etc.) in concluding that the conflict marked a brutal watershed event for the Greek city-states. The Savior Generals (Bloomsbury 2013) followed the careers of five great generals, arguing that rare qualities in leadership emerge during hopeless predicaments that only rare individuals can salvage.
The End of Sparta (Bloomsbury 2011) is a novel about a small community of Thespian farmers who join the great march of Epaminondas (369/70 BC) into the heart of the Peloponnese to destroy Spartan hegemony, free the Messenian helots, and spread democracy in the Peloponnese.
In addition, Hanson has edited several collected essays (Hoplites, Routledge 1991), Bonfire of the Humanities (with B. Thornton and J. Heath, ISI 2001), and Makers of Ancient Strategy (Princeton 2010), as well as a number of his own collected articles (An Autumn of War [2002 Anchor], Between War and Peace [Anchor 2004], and The Father of Us All [Bloomsbury 2010]). He has written a number of chapters for scholarly works such as the Cambridge History of War, and the Cambridge History of Ancient Warfare.
Hanson is the author of the 2001 book Carnage and Culture (Doubleday), published in Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries as Why the West Has Won, in which he argued that the military dominance of Western civilization, beginning with the ancient Greeks, results from certain fundamental aspects of Western culture, such as consensual government, a tradition of self-critique, secular rationalism, religious tolerance, individual freedom, free expression, free markets, and individualism. Hanson's emphasis on cultural exception rejects racial explanations for Western military preeminence and disagrees as well with environmental or geographical determinist explanations such as those put forth by Jared Diamond in Guns, Germs, and Steel (1997).
According to Hanson, Western values such as political freedom, capitalism, individualism, democracy, scientific inquiry, rationalism, and open debate form an especially lethal combination when applied to warfare. Non-western societies can win occasional victories when warring against a society with these western values, writes Hanson, but the "Western way of war" will likely prevail in the long run. Hanson emphasizes that western warfare is not necessarily more (or less) moral than war as practiced by other cultures; his argument is simply that the "Western way of war" is unequaled in its emphases on devastation and decisiveness, fueled by superior technology and logistics.
Carnage and Culture examines nine battles throughout history, each of which is used to illustrate a particular aspect of Western culture that Hanson believes contributes to the dominance of Western warfare. The battles or campaigns recounted (with themes in parenthesis) are the Battle of Salamis (480 BC; free citizens), the Battle of Gaugamela (331 BC; the decisive battle of annihilation), the Battle of Cannae (216 BC; civic militarism), the Battle of Tours/Poitiers (732; infantry), the Battle of Tenochtitlan (1521; technology and reason), the Battle of Lepanto (1571; capitalism), the Battle of Rorke's Drift (1879; discipline), the Battle of Midway (1942; individualism), and the Tet Offensive (1968; dissent).
Though Carnage and Culture appeared before the September 11 attacks of 2001, its message that the "Western way of war" will ultimately prevail made the book a bestseller in the wake of those events. Immediately after 9/11, Carnage and Culture was re-issued with a new afterword by Hanson in which he explicitly stated that the United States government would win its "War on Terror" for the reasons stated in the book.
The American military officer Robert Bateman in a 2007 article on the Media Matters for America website criticized the Hanson thesis, arguing if Hanson's point about Western armies preferring to seek out a decisive battle of annihilation is rebutted by the Second Punic War, where the Roman attempts to annihilate the Carthaginians instead led to the Carthaginians annihilating the Romans at the Battle of Cannae. Bateman argued that Hanson was wrong about Western armies common preferences in seeking out a battle of annihilation, arguing that the Romans only defeated the Carthaginians via the Fabian Strategy of keeping their armies in being and not engaging Hannibal in battle. In his first response, Hanson argued that Bateman was engaged in a "puerile, politically correct" attack on him, and accused Bateman of being motivated by current left-wing politics rather a genuine interest in history. In a second response, Hanson called Bateman's use of personal, adolescent invectives such as "pervert", "feces", and "devil", as unprofessional and "unhinged", and had no role in scholarly disagreements, accusing Bateman of being poorly informed of history and geography, as well as engaging in conduct unbecoming a U.S. Army officer. Hanson declared that Bateman was incorrect about the Battle of Yarmouk arguing that the Golan Heights were at the edge of the Eastern Roman Empire, instead of being in the center as Bateman argued, and claimed that the Romans lost because of divided leadership rather than as a result of superior Islamic generalship as Bateman had contended.
In his final responses, Hanson argued that Bateman was unfamiliar with any foreign language, did not understand the practice of translation or scholarly citation, and was utterly confused by basic issues of geography and history.
Hanson co-authored the book Who Killed Homer?: The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom with John Heath. This book explores the issue of how classical education has declined in the US and what might be done to restore it to its former prominence. This is important, according to Hanson and Heath, because knowledge of the classical Greeks and Romans is necessary to fully understand Western culture. To begin a discussion along these lines the authors state, "The answer to why the world is becoming Westernized goes all the way back to the wisdom of the Greeks—reason enough why we must not abandon the study of our heritage".
Hanson and Heath, in their populist argument for a return to undergraduate teaching, fault the academic classicists themselves for the decline, accusing them of becoming so infected with political correctness and postmodern thinking, not to mention egoism and money-grubbing (grants, visiting professorships, conference-hopping, promotion based on unreadable publications), that they have lost sight of what Hanson and Heath feel the classics truly represent. They say it this way, "the study of Greek in the last twenty years became a profession, a tiny world—but a world of sorts nonetheless—of jets, conferences, publicity, jargon, and perks."
The political scientist Francis Fukuyama, reviewing Who Killed Homer? favorably in Foreign Affairs, noted,
The classicists Victoria Cech and Joy Connolly have found Who Killed Homer? to have considerable pitfalls. Reviews of the book have noted several problems with the authors' perception of classical culture.
Per Victoria Cech, Director of Grants & Program Development,
Per Joy Connolly, Professor of Classics at New York University,
Hanson is a registered member of the Democratic Party, but he is also a traditional conservative who voted for George W. Bush in the 2000 and 2004 elections.
He has been described as a neoconservative by some commentators, for his support of maintaining U.S. troops to rebuild society after successful military interventions, and has stated, "I came to support neocon approaches first in the wars against the Taliban and Saddam, largely because I saw little alternative." In 2005, Hanson wrote of why he did not find the Democratic Party populist or reflective of its prior concerns. "The Democratic Party reminds me of the Republicans circa 1965 or so—impotent, shrill, no ideas, conspiratorial, reactive, out-of-touch with most Americans, isolationist, and full of embarrassing spokesmen."
More recently, Hanson has appeared to reject the term neoconservative, writing in a 2016 column "Hillary’s Neoliberals" that the term neoconservative was coined in the 1970s to describe liberals who moved right on social issues and on maintaining deterrence during the Cold War. Hanson has critiqued the decision of several neoconservatives to declare their support for Hillary Clinton as preferable to Donald Trump on grounds that Clinton has a long history of abuse of office, and is mired in scandal over violations of national security statutes as well as influence peddling between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department. Hanson has attacked these neoconservatives as "neoliberals" who were never entirely proper conservative, arguing that these people had joined the Republican Party out of distaste for the Democratic Party, which had nominated as the presidential candidates George McGovern in 1972 and Jimmy Carter in 1976 as opposed to converting to conservatism. Hanson ended his column that there were now two emerging factions in America — the proverbial ordinary Americans supporting Trump vs. the elites of both the Democratic and Republican parties supporting Clinton. Hanson wrote: "A mostly urban, highly educated, and high-income globalized elite often shares more cultural and political affinities with their counterparts on the other side of the aisle than they do with the lower-middle and working classes of their own parties. Just as Hillary Clinton may feel more comfortable with the old neoconservatives, Trump supporters have little in common with either Clintonites or neocons. Clinton versus Trump is a war of NPR, CBS, and the New York Times against the National Enquirer, conservative talk radio, and the Drudge Report. Clinton supporters such as former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, onetime Bush officials Hank Paulson and Brent Scowcroft, and billionaire Meg Whitman certainly have nothing in common with Republican Trump supporters such as Mike Huckabee and Rush Limbaugh. Culture, not just politics, is rapidly destroying—but also rebuilding—traditional political parties."
Hanson was a defender of George W. Bush and his policies, especially the Iraq War. He was also a vocal supporter of Bush's Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Hanson wrote of Rumsfeld that he was: "a rare sort of secretary of the caliber of George Marshall" and a "proud and honest-speaking visionary" whose "hard work and insight are bringing us ever closer to victory".
On the issues pertaining to the constant political turmoil in the Middle East, Hanson emphasizes the lack of individual and political freedom, as well as transparency and self-critique, in many Middle Eastern nations as a major factor retarding economic, technological and cultural progress. He further relates the root cause of radical Islamic terrorism to insecurities resulting from a failure to achieve parity with the West, and a reactionary need to regain honor and pride.
Hanson believed that the Iraq War, given the repeated serial violations by Iraq of UN sanctions, congressional mandates, and the threats that Saddam Hussein posed, in a post-9/11 climate, to the long-term security of the Middle East, was a necessary and worthwhile undertaking—and was, after a flawed occupation, eventually a laudable success that had led to a workable government in 2009 and relative calm in Iraq: analogous to the foundations of the successful American occupation of South Korea in the latter 1950s that led to the democratic society of today. However, he stated in 2008 that he, "...disagreed with many of the decisions made about the Iraq war," such as the dissolution of the old Iraqi army.
Hanson argued that the "surge" of 2007-08 had largely won the Iraq War by the beginning of 2009, and that rise of the Islamic State terrorist group which seized control of much of Iraq in mid-2014 was the result of what Hanson sees as the unwise withdrawal of all American troops from Iraq in December 2011, which he blames on the Obama administration. Hanson argued that if only American troops had stayed in Iraq after December 2011, then the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki would have been less sectarian and the Islamic State group would have never emerged. Hanson argued that the December 2011 withdrawal from Iraq was motivated to help improve Obama's chances of reelection in 2012, an act that he compared to being equivalent to the United States pulling its troops out of South Korea in 1955, arguing if only the Americans had stayed in Iraq, then that nation would have evolved into a Near Eastern version of South Korea.
In 2004, Hanson gave a mostly favorable review to the book Colossus by the British historian Niall Ferguson, where Ferguson argued that the United States should be an imperial power in the sense of preserving the post war order of global free trade, communications, and commerce, and the principal problem with Americans was that they were unwilling to embrace global leadership in the same way that people in 19th century Britain did. Hanson found much to approve of in Ferguson's book, writing: "In reality, we should be natural imperialists, given our wealth and expertise. Americans are also endowed with an exceptional moral sense. We are a generous people, whose checkered imperial interventions in the past rarely proved profitable or exploitive." Hanson agreed with Ferguson that the principle problem with Americans was an unease at playing the role of an imperialistic power, argued that post-1945 histories of Germany and Japan proved the beneficial results of American occupation and predicted that Iraq under American occupation would become just as much a prosperous and democratic society as Germany and Japan are. Hanson praised Ferguson for his defense of the British Empire as a benevolent force and his thesis that the United States should play the same role in the world as the British Empire, writing: "Does Ferguson propose a new American liberal empire? In fact, he does almost, but not before noting that the British Victorians themselves got a bad rap as exploitive colonialists. In fact, the record of the 18th and 19th centuries prove exactly the opposite: Former and once-prosperous colonies, following autonomy, quickly turned into self-induced miseries, while Britain itself thrived as never before once free of these costly obligations. Empire turns out not to be a means of making money, but instead an idealist pursuit to keep sea lanes open, bullies at bay and nations trading rather than fighting. The world has been lucky to have the Americans fill this vacuum, inasmuch as the British once did a pretty good job of it as well." Hanson, well before the immigration and financial crises of the EU, also praised Ferguson for his very negative picture of the European Union as an unsustainable entity whose nations were in demographic decline that were going to all go bankrupt as a result of excessively generous welfare states, and whose people were all wimpy cowards unable like the tough and hardy Americans to stand up to Islamic terrorists.
In his article Israel did it, Hanson asked why Israel, during the 2006 Lebanon war, was being blamed for responding to attacks by Hezbollah. Hanson who tends to be critical of the Middle East policies of the administration of Barack Obama and has cited the Obama administration of distancing itself from Israel, despite its exceptional position as a tolerant Western nation in the Middle East, and of preferring the Palestinian Authority and Hamas despite being anti-Western.
Hanson has often argued that in a 21st-century multiracial America there is little overt racism on the part of whites, and that generic complaints of racism too often are automatic from an often privileged African-American elite that uses such charges of racism to advance careerist concerns not often synonymous with those in the inner city. In reference to the Gates affair in which the Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates was arrested in his home when a white policeman responded to a report of a possible break-in, Hanson argued that the policeman's actions were understandable given that "...African-American males commit crimes at rates both higher than the general population’s, and at levels higher than other minority groups that likewise struggle with poverty and systemic unfairness."
In a 2012 column entitled "The New Racial Derangement Syndrome", Hanson argued again that class considerations now more often trump racial differences, and that racism in modern America is not confined to any one particular group, citing various statements by prominent African-Americans such as Morgan Freeman, Samuel L. Jackson, Jamie Foxx, Chris Rock and Rob Parker that he saw as racially chauvinistic and often blatantly anti-white, and thus as signs of a new "racialist derangement" sweeping across black America that had set back considerable progress in making racial considerations prior to 2009 incidental rather than essential to an American citizen’s identity. In a 2015 column entitled "The Weariness of the Whiners", Hanson illustrated the paradoxes of race and class, by illustrating the talk show hostess Oprah Winfrey claim that she was a victim of racism when a clerk at the Trois Pommes boutique refused to display a $38,000 handbag to her. In a 2016 column "The New Segregationism", Hanson lamented growing racial polarization, mostly on the part of elites who take refuge in racial chauvinism when their own careerist concerns are unmet. He used as an example of what he sees as the unlikelihood of the claim that there is anti-black racism in modern America in the complaint by the actor Will Smith that he was not nominated for an Oscar.
Hanson has been critical of the group Black Lives Matter, which he maintains is a group based on "racial chauvinism" and "whining" which has told a "series of lies"—beginning with the “hands up don’t shoot” untruth in the Ferguson shooting of Michael Brown—about the supposedly statistically-proven epidemic of police killings of black men, the majority of which Hanson argues were found to be justified on the basis of current police practice and protocols. Hanson has claimed that responsibility for declining racial relations often rests with Barack Obama, whom Hanson suggests has deliberately inflamed racial tensions between whites and blacks, with a series of gratuitous and racially charged commentaries, dating from the 2008 campaign to editorializing about the Trayvon Martin killing case, as a way of securing the votes of black Americans for the Democrats. Hanson has faulted Obama for having "...systematically adopted a rhetoric and an agenda that is predicated on dividing up the country according to tribal grievances, in hopes of recalibrating various factions into a majority grievance culture. In large part, he has succeeded politically. But in doing so he has nearly torn the country apart. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to suggest that no other recent president has offered such a level of polarizing and divisive racial bombast."
Hanson has also been consistently critical of unchecked and unmonitored illegal immigration into the United States from Mexico and the Central American republics, which he sees as threatening to overwhelm the United States with millions of Spanish-speakers who make assimilation difficult and some of whom he charges have criminal records and do not establish a record of work history. In a 2014 column "1984 Redux: Orwellian Illegal Immigration" Hanson wrote that Hispanic groups that use the name La Raza are racialists who have "hijacked" America's immigration policy to permit non-diverse, illegal, and unrestricted illegal immigration into the United States to further demographically-based political agendas, and who have made often false claims of suffering continual racial prejudice from a supposed prejudiced white majority, while arguing that Latinos as members of La Raza should keep themselves separate from the rest of Americans. Hanson has condemned groups such as the National Council of La Raza as he argued that term La Raza has an unfortunate history as a "racialist term," whose origins he claims go back to fascist Spain of General Francisco Franco and Benito Mussolini’s fascist Italy, and those Mexican-American leaders who self-identify with the Francoist term La Raza are themselves guilty of operating as racial separatists. In this regard, Hanson has voiced qualified support for Donald Trump's plans to deport illegal immigrants from the United States, after offering a chance for green card residence to those who were vetted and found to have no criminal record, no history of public support, and residence of some duration. Blanket deportation policy, Hanson argued, would be as "unworkable", as is the present open-borders status quo.
Hanson is also opposed to the unvetted, and often illegal mass influx of mostly young male refugees from the war-torn Middle East into Europe, alluding to the resulting tensions in EU society by using premodern/postmodern allusions to H.G. Well's 1895 novel The Time Machine that the millions of Muslims fleeing to Europe are the "Morlocks" (i.e. a fierce underclass) who will devour the Europeans who are "Eloi" (i.e. largely defenseless and overly refined creatures). Hanson wrote that: "Europe’s immigration policy is a disaster—and for reasons that transcend the idiocy of allowing the free influx of young male Muslims from a premodern, war-torn Middle East into a postmodern, pacifist, and post-Christian Europe." Hanson has called the German Chancellor Angela Merkel "unhinged" for welcoming about a million refugees fleeing from the Syrian Civil War into her nation without plans to assimilate or integrate such numbers, instead of sending them to their countries of origin. Hanson has denied that all Syrians fleeing into Europe are refugees from the civil war, writing that uncharacteristically most refugees are "...young, single men from the Middle East who pour into Europe not as political refuges but as opportunists eager for European social largesse". Hanson wrote "Merkel's disastrous decision to open the borders of Germany—and with them Europe’s as well—is proving both selfish and suicidal."
Along the same lines, Hanson has argued that history proves that multi-cultural societies have too often proved disastrous failures, and that only way of preventing a society from collapsing into tribal bloodbaths is a "common culture, one that artificially suppresses the natural instinct of humans to identify first with their particular tribe". As an example of what he sees as a law of history, Hanson wrote: "The Italian Roman Republic lasted about 500 years. In contrast, the multiracial Roman Empire that after the Edict of Caracalla in AD 212 made all its diverse peoples equal citizens endured little more than two (often violent) centuries." Along the same lines Hanson wrote in the 2016 column "Diversity: History’s Pathway to Chaos" that: "Emphasizing diversity has been the pitfall, not the strength, of nations throughout history". Hanson charged that the current celebration of diversity was destroying America and ended with the statement if the celebration of diversity did not end: "Otherwise, we will end up as 50 separate and rival nations—just like other failed states in history whose diverse tribes and races destroyed themselves in a Hobbesian dog-eat-dog war with one another." In a 2013 column entitled "Western Cultural Suicide", Hanson wrote: "Multiculturalism—as opposed to the notion of a multiracial society united by a single culture—has become an abject contradiction in the modern Western world... Western hosts lost confidence in the very society that gives us the wealth and leisure to ignore or caricature its foundations. The result is that millions of immigrants flock to the West, enjoy its material security, and yet feel little need to bond with their adopted culture, given that their hosts themselves are ambiguous about what others desperately seek out".
Writing about the murder of a British soldier by two Nigerian Muslims on the streets of London in May 2013, Hanson wrote the murder reflected what he viewed as cultural decline, stating: "In Britain, as in the West in general, deportation is a fossilized concept. Unity is passé. Patriotism is long suspect. The hip metrosexual cultures of the urban West strain to find fault in their inheritance, and seem to appreciate those who do that in the most cool fashion—but always with the expectation that there will be some poor blokes who, in terms of clean water, medical care, free speech, and dependable electricity, ensure that London is not Lagos, that Stockholm is not Damascus, and that Los Angeles is not Nuevo Laredo." Through acknowledging that in the early years of the American republic that to be American was to be white, Hanson argued that the "ultimate logic" of the American constitution led to the United States becoming a society where "multiracialism under one common culture" was the norm, but unfortunately in the late 20th century "multiculturalism, in which each particular ethnic group retained its tribal chauvinism and saw itself as separate from the whole" become the new norm.
In July 2013, the Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech when he mentioned that as a black man the need to deliver "the Talk" to his children, namely he would have to inform his children that some, mostly white people who were going to hate them not because what they did, but simply because of their skin color. In response to Holder's speech, Hanson wrote a column titled "Facing Facts about Race" where he offered up his own version (and others’) of "the Talk", namely the need to inform his children to be careful of young black men when venturing into the inner city, who Hanson argued were statistically more likely to commit violent crimes than young men of other races, and that therefore it was understandable for the police to focus on groups with the highest statistical crime rates, which turn out to be young black males.
Hanson wrote his father once had been robbed by young black men, and had given him "the Talk" warning his son to exercise caution in known crime-ridden areas and to note that African-American male youth have a far higher incidence of assault than other groups; and Hanson added that having been robbed himself by black men, he had given "the Talk" warning his children to avoid situations when in dangerous areas and to exercise caution there when encountering groups of young African-American men when alone, whom Hanson argue were statistically more likely to have had criminal records. Hanson therefore criticized Holder and Obama for suggesting that racism may have been a factor in the trial of Hispanic George Zimmerman who had been charged and acquitted of murder with the shooting death of Trayvon Martin—and especially for intruding in an ongoing criminal case before a jury had even been selected. Hanson argued that Zimmerman was later found by a jury of his peers to be justified in shooting Martin in self-defense, and he suggested that Obama was alluding to racism being a factor in the case, to distract attention from his then unpopular presidency.
Referring to the concurrent case at the time of two Vietnamese-Americans killed by a black convicted felon, Hanson wrote: "The world will long remember Trayvon Martin, but few people—and certainly not Barack Obama or Eric Holder, who have a bad habit, in an increasingly multiracial country, of claiming solidarity on the basis of race—will care that Khin Min and Lina Lim were torn to pieces by bullets and a knife. Few will care that they died in a vicious assault that had nothing to do with stereotyping, Stand Your Ground self-defense, weak gun laws, insufficient federal civil-rights legislation, or any of the other causes of interracial violence falsely advanced by the attorney general—but quite a lot to do with an urban culture that for unspoken reasons has spawned an epidemic of disproportionate violent crime on the part of young African-American males."
In response to "Facing Facts About Race", the American writer Ta-Nehisi Coates accused Hanson of racism and stupidity. Referring to Hanson's "Talk", Coates wrote: "Let us be direct—in any other context we would automatically recognize this "talk" as stupid advice. If I were to tell you that I only employ Asian-Americans to do my taxes because "Asian-Americans do better on the Math SAT," you would not simply question my sensitivity, but my mental faculties. That is because you would understand that in making an individual decision, employing an ancestral class of millions is not very intelligent. Moreover, were I to tell you I wanted my son to marry a Jewish woman because "Jews are really successful," you would understand that statement for the stupidity which it is...There is no difference between my argument above and the notion that black boys should be avoided because they are overrepresented in the violent crime stats. But one of the effects of racism is its tendency to justify stupidity."
The Anglo-American journalist Andrew Sullivan called Hanson's column "spectacularly stupid", writing: "Treating random strangers as inherently dangerous because of their age, gender and skin color is a choice to champion fear over reason, a decision to embrace easy racism over any attempt to overcome it". The American journalist Arthur Stern called "Facing Facts About Race" an "inflammatory" column based upon crime statistics that Hanson never cited, writing: "His presentation of this controversial opinion as undeniable fact without exhaustive statistical proof is undeniably racist." The Anglo-American journalist Kelefa Sanneh in response to "Facing Facts About Race" wrote that Hanson was wrong to claim that white and Asian-Americans were all victims of black criminals, writing: "It’s strange, then, to read Hanson writing as if the fear of violent crime were mainly a “white or Asian” problem, about which African-Americans might be uninformed, or unconcerned—as if African-American parents weren’t already giving their children more detailed and nuanced versions of Hanson’s “sermon,” sharing his earnest and absurd hope that the right words might keep trouble at bay."
The Anglo-American journalist John Derbyshire, who was fired from the National Review for writing a similar column in 2012 titled "The Talk: Nonblack Version", came to Hanson's defense, praising him for "spot-on observations" about race relations in modern America, through he argued that his column was much superior. In "The Talk: Nonblack Version", Derbyshire, who had earlier been criticized by Hanson on his advocacy for racial stereotyping well beyond the context of traveling in high crime areas, went well beyond what Hanson had advocated, telling his children not to live in cities with black mayors, never to help a black person in distress, to avoid all public gatherings with large numbers of black people and only have a few black people as friends to avoid allegations of prejudice. Contra Coates, Derbyshire argued in support of Hanson that the best way to avoid being a victim of crime was: "..stay well clear of crowds of unfamiliar blacks. Might application of those rules leave someone with hurt feelings? Probably. So in this pan we have some stranger’s hurt feelings. In the other pan, we have our kids’ safety. What’s the beam doing, Ta-Nehisi?". Hanson in response to Sanneh's essay accused him of a "McCarthyite character assassination" and "infantile, if not racialist, logic".
Hanson has argued that the U.S. may be forced to take a much more confrontational stance towards Iranian violation of prior nuclear enrichment prohibitions, advocating, if necessary, unilateral responses to the country should it continue its aggressive acts of war. On the Hugh Hewitt show in August 2007, Hanson stated, "We really need to start doing some things beyond talking, and if that is going into Iranian airspace, or buzzing Iranians, or even starting to forget where the border is and taking out some of these training camps, we need to do that and send a message, because they’re a paper tiger. They really are." In a 2014 column Hanson faulted the Obama administration for engaging in "appeasement" of Iran and of fruitlessly attempting to negotiate an end to the Iranian program to acquire nuclear weapons, predicating if Iran continued enrichment unchecked that: "Accordingly, it is more than likely that in the next two years Iran will become a nuclear power."
Hanson has argued that China is an increasingly aggressive power that is set upon eventually dominating East Asia. In a 2014 column titled "Is China copying the Old Imperial Japan?", Hanson answered his question in the affirmative. Hanson maintained that economically successful Asian nations without the deterrent power of the United States are naturally inclined to expansionism. Hanson claimed that Japan, as a result of late nineteenth-century Meiji era reforms, had become powerful at the same time the United States had temporarily retreated into isolationism which allowed Japan to embark upon an imperialistic foreign policy; that the same thing was happening today with China and the United States under the leadership of Barack Obama. Along these lines, Hanson has cited China for attempting to create its version of "Greater East Asia co-prosperity sphere", which would incorporate all of East Asia.
Hanson has repeatedly accused President Barack Obama of engaging in "appeasement" of Russia. Hanson argues that Vladimir Putin is the embodiment of "eternal Russia", an aggressively expansionist and anti-Western nation whose people are innately anti-democratic. In a 2012 column titled "History Never Quite Ends", Hanson wrote: "From the czars to the Soviet Communists to Vladimir Putin’s cronies, there is something about constitutional government and liberal rule that bothers Mother Russia. The more that progressive outsiders seek to lecture or reform Russians, the more likely they are to bristle and push back with left-wing or right-wing nationalist strongmen. At present, we do not know whether there will be a Czar Vladimir, Comrade Putin, or Putin Inc. in charge, but we fear it does not matter much". Hanson depicts modern Russia in unflattering terms as "...a disaster of a declining population, corruption, authoritarianism, a warped economy, and a high rate of alcoholism." Precisely because Russia is so weak, Hanson claims that Putin is driven to aggression against his neighbors with the overwhelmingly support of the Russian people out of a sense of hurt pride and a desire to make Russia great again. In 2014, Hanson called Putin "evil", writing: "Putin is almost Milton’s Satan—as if, in his seductive evil, he yearns for clarity, perhaps even a smackdown, if not just for himself, for us as well. He is not the better man than Obama but, again like Milton’s Satan, the more interesting, if only because he reminds of us of our own limitations." In a 2015 column, Hanson wrote about what he views as the aims of Russian foreign policy that: "Russian president Vladimir Putin thinks he can reconstitute the empire of the czars and the later Soviet Union. American “reset” diplomacy green-lighted his annexation of the Crimea and his occupation of areas of Ukraine. Should Putin wish to absorb Estonia or other Baltic States, NATO probably would not stop him."
Hanson has often stated that Obama's much heralded "reset" of relations with Russia in 2009 had "empowered" Putin and was in this way Obama was thus responsible for outbreak of the war in Ukraine in 2014. In 2009, Hanson wrote about the "reset": "...former Soviet republics understand that Russia’s Putin has a de facto green light to “readjust” their present-day, “ad hoc” borders—with President Obama about as clear on any future dispute as candidate Obama was about Georgia." In 2014 Hanson predicted that Russia might very well invade Estonia in the near future, stating: "Future targeted states, perhaps like Estonia, should understand that they are slated to play the 1939 role of Poland after the earlier Anschluss and dismemberment of Czechoslovakia." In 2014, Hanson predicted that the Russian-dominated Eurasian Economic Union, which Hanson calls the "Russian Union" would continue to grow, writing: "Soon the Russian Union could dwarf the European Union, as the former consolidates and the latter threatens to fragment."
In 2015, Hanson wrote: "Obama’s reset was a green light for Putin. Who in the real world of serious diplomacy shows up in Geneva with a red plastic toy reset button, complete with a mistranslated Russian label? When Putin soon sized up the Obama administration’s appeasement around the globe—from fake red lines for Syria, to a scramble out of Iraq, to chaos in Libya—he moved into Crimea...As he swallows Eastern Ukraine, he now eyes the Baltic States. He does not quite have a map on his wall of a new czarist Orthodox state the size of the Soviet Union, but he does have a general sense that there are a lot more former Soviet republics to be had—and he is eager to poke here and there to find out which will be the easiest to grab next." In another 2015 column, Hanson wrote about he sees as Putin's mindset that: "Obama’s false step-over, red, and deadlines confirmed Putin’s impressions of the continued weak leadership of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry. He probably believes that he can do to Estonia what he has done to Crimea or Ukraine—and without too many more consequences. Putin is not greatly worried that the U.S. will re-energize NATO, rebuild its own nuclear deterrent, work with the Eastern Europeans on missile defense, or start exporting its plentiful natural gas to a Russia-dependent Europe. Right now Putin is digesting Eastern Ukraine and sizing up Obama’s responses to others’ aggressions. But next year, in the last twelve months of the Obama administration, we should expect him to move on another former Soviet republic, as well as to emphasize new partnerships with China, a few Eastern European or Balkan nations, or an ascendant Iran."
Hanson is opposed to the Russian intervention in the Syrian civil war, which he argues is a part of a bid by Putin to construct an anti-American Russian-Syrian-Iranian-Iraqi alliance that will dominate the Middle East and intimidate the Gulf states. Hanson has made the claim that the primary responsibility for the outbreak of the Second World War was not due to Adolf Hitler, but was rather due to the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and the French Premier Édouard Daladier who failed to maintain credible threats of deterrence. Hanson has argued Obama has likewise failed to maintain a credible threat of deterrence, and as such, the world is on the verge of another war comparable to the Second World War. Hanson has predicted that Putin will sometime in the near-future invade one or more of the Baltic states if the United States does not provide more deterrence to Russia.Warfare and Agriculture in Classical Greece. University of California Press, 1983. ISBN 0-520-21025-5. Rev. ed. 1998. online edition
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