Hanson's moral parallels between the ancient Greeks' fight for democracy and our own struggles in Afghanistan and Iraq have endeared him to the Bush administration and changed his life.
....In April, amid the early stages of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Hanson used his column to hail the American advance on Baghdad as "unprecedented in its speed and daring" and predicted that its "logistics will be studied for decades." Vice President Dick Cheney enthusiastically quoted Hanson in a speech before the American Society of Newspaper Editors.
.....Hanson's absolute, unflinching belief in the cause and its ultimate success made him a favorite of Cheney, who urges Hanson's books on his staff and on reporters traveling with him for foreign trips.
"We haven't had enemies this antithetical to the United States in a long, long time," Hanson said several days later over coffee in San Francisco, where he was a guest speaker at the Commonwealth Club. "Take your pick of the Western agenda. Women's rights? They want to go back to the Dark Ages. Homosexual rights? They want to kill them. Democracy? They don't believe in it. Religious tolerance? You're dead if you're not a Muslim. Technology? They don't like it."
Pentagon officials who like Hanson's broad grasp of history vie for his time. On a recent afternoon in Fresno, an Air Force colonel with the Defense Intelligence Agency huddled with Hanson for several hours in the historian's small office, which is decorated with a marble bust of Julius Caesar and a huge map, in German, of ancient Greece.
....Hanson is also a regular consultant to the influential Pentagon Office of Net Assessment, which has emerged as a key administration intelligence gathering and planning agency under Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and his senior deputy, Paul D. Wolfowitz. This week, Hanson was back in Washington to speak before the Board of Overseers of the Hoover Institution, the conservative Palo Alto think tank where Hanson is a resident fellow. His theme, "This War Is Not New," was the same as that of the Cal State Fresno class. Sharing the podium were Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Karl Rove, President Bush's main political advisor.
It is an enviable position for someone who never served in the military or trained in the science or tactics of warfare. Hanson's influence on the administration probably comes more in setting a tone or providing a historical justification for tough decisions than it does in the details of policy.
"Victor Hanson is a brilliant classicist with a real emotional insight into antiquity," said Stephen Peter Rosen, director of the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University, who has attended Office of Net Assessment sessions at the Pentagon with Hanson.
"Hanson has definitely carved out a niche," said William M. Arkin, a military analyst who writes often for the Los Angeles Times opinion pages. "In an era where many in the Pentagon think that the sword of Damocles is being held over our heads, here's a guy who can actually tell you who Damocles was."
.......Hanson first surfaced as a commentator on current events during a C-SPAN interview, and soon after launched his weekly column for the National Review, which quickly attracted the Bush administration's attention.
...."In the list of 10 reasons to go to Iraq," Hanson said, "I think WMD was about the 10th. I've told the administration that they made a mistake placing too much emphasis on it."
At a White House Christmas gathering, Bush approached him, asking, "How'm I doing?" Before the flustered Hanson could fully respond, he said, the president had assured him, "I'm not finished yet," and walked on to other guests.
....In Hanson's opinion, expressed in his recent military history "Ripples of Battle," Bush, despite intellectual shortcomings ("he lacked his predecessor's encyclopedic knowledge of names, places and dates"), was the right leader at the right time in responding to Sept. 11.
"The terrorist war proved that he [Bush], like the Greek iambic poet Archilochus' hedgehog," Hanson wrote, "knew one thing, but a big one: how to galvanize his people and lead them into battle against an evil enemy in the hour of his country's great peril."
Hanson's new celebrity has taken him places he never dreamed of going, from the flight deck of a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to a corner table at New York's trendy Alain Ducasse Restaurant, where he was recently treated to a $1,000 dinner by his literary agents.
...Hanson's courses are popular with students. But fellow professors at Cal State Fresno have been bruised by Hanson's uncompromising attacks on modern education, particularly ethnic and gender studies programs that Hanson terms "therapeutic curriculum" and feels should be ejected from the university.
"Being on the wrong side of Victor Hanson is not somewhere you want to be," said Western Washington University English professor Scott Stevens, who spent six years at Cal State Fresno and says Hanson drove him away. "Everyone talks about the power of the left on campus, but Hanson led a powerful clique of antifeminist traditionalists who would really like to see the university return to some pre-'60s stage."
..."In times of war, I find the wisdom of farmers to be greater than all the fancy academics I ever met. A farmer can sit on his Massey Ferguson tractor and say, 'Osama bin Laden is no damn good.' "
Implying, of course, that it shouldn't so return.