Reviews and Comments about “Nothing Less than Victory”

A number of publications have seen it fit to review, or to comment about Nothing Less than Victory.

The Wall Street Journal noted my concern with how wars end, not only with the causes of wars (“Winning is the Only thing,” Wall Street Journal, Feb. 3, 2011, A13). “What distinguishes the latest volumes,” they write of my book and two others, “is their agreement that decisive military victory has become an increasingly discredited aim. . . . Where today’s writers disagree is about why this has happened. For Mr. Lewis, a classicist and a philosopher, this consensus reflects a willful misreading of the historical record and a misunderstanding of how victory shapes a lasting peace.” With this assessment I agree.

In Military Officer, the official magazine of the Military Officers Association of America (October 2010, p.23), William D. Bushnell writes:

“Soldiers and statesmen have long argued over how to both win a war and provide a lasting peace afterward. Historian John David Lewis offers a provocative answer–launch an aggressive offense focused on the enemy’s will to fight, not his capability.

“In this thoughtful and well-presented book, Lewis claims a defensive strategy only prolongs the carnage and results in stalemate and greater instability.”

Here are some other reviews of Nothing Less than Victory:

Michigan War Studies Review

US News and World Report, Washington Book Club

The Objective Standard

Five Books (5 Books on War and Foreign Policy: Interview)

Voices for Reason, The Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights

The Page 99 Test

National Review On-Line (Podcast)

Campaign for the American Reader

Times Higher Education

The Liberal Institute (Interview)

Learn about the magnificent drawing on the cover!

Read an excerpt (the Introduction)

Order Nothing Less than Victory from Amazon

More about Nothing Less than Victory

“John David Lewis has offered a superb appraisal of how ancient and modern wars start and finish. This chronicle of some 2,500 years of Western history is replete with a philosophical analysis of why nations fight, win—and lose. His insights and conclusions are original and fearless—as well as timely and welcome in the confused war-making of the present age.”

—Victor Davis Hanson, author of Carnage and Culture

Some New Work

OK, I am winning the war on cancer! So I am now focused on getting some writing done. In addition to two courses at Duke and one at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I am trying to keep the ink flowing (or the electrons as it were). Here are some of my latest efforts. As always, you can see a more complete picture by going to my CV (follow the tab above).


You’ll need a university library for these two articles:

“Constitution and Fundamental Law: The Lesson of Ancient Athens,” Social Philosophy and Policy 28.1 (2011).

“Xenophon’s Poroi and the Foundations of Political Economy,” Polis 26.2 (2010).


Here are two recent reviews, in the on-line journal Bryn Mawr Classical Review:

T. Rood, American Anabasis: Xenophon and the Idea of America from the Mexican War to Iraq (London: Duckworth, 2010), for Bryn Mawr Classical Review , 2011.01.33.

J. R. Hale, Lords of the Sea: The Epic Story of the Athenian Navy and the Birth of Democracy (NY: Penguin, 2009), for Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 2010.01 57.

Follow this link for all of my BMCR reviews, published under John Lewis as well as John David Lewis (just scroll down to my name):


On January 21 I did a lecture at Duke on “The Moral Character of Exchange in the Ancient World.” This is available as a podcast (audio only) in the post immediately before this one. Or, follow this link to the website of the venerable Professor Michael Munger:


You may also look forward to an essay in the forthcoming volume “Ayn Rand: A Companion to her Work and Thought (Blackwell), as well as to a chapter in a forthcoming second edition of the textbook Medical Ethics, edited by M. Baylon titled “There is No ‘Right’ to Health Care.” I am also working on Xenophon’s political tract “Ways and Means” (or, “Poroi,” also translated as “On Revenues”) with a view to its praise of productiveness–and capital investment–as the key to prosperity and success. This is unique in the ancient world, and not well understood today–if current government policy is any guide.

I am keeping myself busy at conferences as well. I have organized a conference on Values at Duke University. I will also be gracing other conferences with my presence, including UNC-Chapel Hill (on political authority), Wake Forest University (on the Fed), Christopher Newport University (on the classics and America), the Association for Private Enterprise Education (my presentation is on Rand’s We the Living), the Liberty Fund (a conference I initiated on the economist Jean-Baptiste Say), and of course at OCon 2011 (in Florida).

Who Did the Drawing on the Cover of “Nothing Less than Victory”?

Where did the cover of “Nothing Less than Victory” come from? Who did this wonderful drawing?

The answer is: William Tecumseh Sherman, When he was an 18 year-old cadet at West Point Military Academy.
“Theseus Killing the Centaur” is preserved in the West Point Military Museum, West Point, New York.
I appreciate their assistance! Here is the drawing, as found in the museum:

Association for Private Enterprise Education Annual Conference

What better way is there to return to academic conference life than to visit Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, as part of the Association for Private Enterprise Education?

The highlight for me was to see the magicians Penn and Teller win the Thomas Jefferson Award. Their Las Vegas act–and their Showtime television show “Bullshit” pull no punches about the role of reason in human life. They have taken on the federal government’s increasing grabs for power, demonstrating how the Bill of Rights is incompatible with the Transportation Security Administration. They also go out of their way–with humor, but also with a deadly serious mission–of showing their audiences that all claims to paranormal activity, extra-sensory perception, mind-reading and the like are “lies and immoral.”

So I went to see their Vegas show. The mix of humor with a serious message began with their bringing a full-size, real airport metal detector on stage, and having an audience member walk through it. “Beep beep beep!” The cause? A copy of the bill of rights slipped in his pocket, written on metal, which is incompatible with TSA (“The right of the people to be secure . . . against unreasonable searches and seizures,” from the Fourth Amendment).

I ended up on stage myself, selected to read a joke from a book circulating through the audience. Before the show, a yellow envelope was on stage, and audience members were invited to sign it. Dozens did so. Later, I am brought up on stage with the book, and asked to open it at random, and to read a joke of my choosing to the audience. Don’t worry about the punchline, said Penn–the audience will say it at the right time. I began reading–and as I did, out of my eyesight, Penn opened the yellow envelope, took a white banner out of it, and held it up behind my back–so the audience could read the punchline. I have no idea how they did it–but I know, and their honesty leads them to pound this point home–that it is a trick, and not some supernatural ability.

At the conference I made two presentations. The first, in a History of Thought session, demonstrated how Jean Baptiste Say, the early 19th century economist, upheld the method of induction in his Treatise on Political Economy. For Say, “general truths” (also called principles) are derived from an understanding of the causal relationships between facts. He does not think one gains the truth by counting up hundreds of facts–that, he claims, is the province of Statistics–but rather in grasping the origin and consequences of these facts by grasping their causal relations.

My second presentation was in a session dedicated to Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, dealt with the purpose and values of an independent contractor. A relatively minor character, the electrician Mike Donnigan, embodies the mastery of his craft, and the drive to do excellent work, that is central to a producer in the capitalist system. Donnigan is one of Howard Roark’s closest friends, because of their shared values. He also shows how, contrary to critics, moral praise is not reserved for heroic, world-scale creators, but is open to anyone who thinks and acts productively, to the limits of his abilities.