Thursday, May 20, 2004

Text of my reply to the post at Cliopatria

Since I'm not sure anyone is reading the comments, I thought I should reprint my reply to the recenting postings at Cliopatria:

Thanks for the interest. Some rather strong conclusions about the Big Tent and its contributors (of which I am one) have been made with what could only be superficial glances at our weblog. Whatever the merits of Stephen's specific post--and I'm sure he is perfectly willing to debate them--the Big Tent and the various ideas it espouses deserve more than outright dismissal.

For example, there is certainly room for discussion of the ideas of Alfred Thayer Mahan. There are many specifics to Mahan's thinking with which we, individually and collectively, disagree, but our nod to the naval thinker is more in the vein of our general belief in the ideas of Theodore Roosevelt's New Nationalism. Mahan represented one aspect of that thinking, the projection of naval power to protect U.S. interests (strategic, economic, ideological) overseas, and for that we chose him as the ideological symbol, of sorts, of the Big Tent. That does not mean we want to ignore coastal defense, dismiss commerse raiding, scrap carriers for battleships, or create colonies for coaling stations. Mahan's ideas are just one part of who we are.

As far as Victor Davis Hanson goes, we have exactly two links in the last fifty-two posts to his articles, opinion pieces, and responses to readers. That said, I think it is unfair to reduce everything Professor Hanson writes to "bell-ringing." He has been unflagging in his support of the military aspects of the war on terror, and for that we read his work and support him. Hanson is a complex and original thinker, and though I do not agree with everything he has to say--for example I think he credits William Sherman too much at the expense of U.S. Grant for the strategies and tactics that won the Civil War, and more generally he has not yet made the whole case for how his Western way of war made its way from Greece and Rome to the present--I still pay attention when he says it. I would hope that my skepticism will be made evident by my upcoming comparitive review of Hanson's Ripples of Battle and John Lynn's Battle this summer.

In any case, I think our independent thinking and skepticism will be made evident to anyone who reads closely what we write and link at the Big Tent. And we certainly appreciate the opinions of people who seriously question those writings and links.

And who knows, in the midst of one of those debates we might just find a new guru (kidding).

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