In Carnage and Culture, Victor Hanson regularly warns his readers that he is not interested whether the primacy of the West on the battlefield is morally superior to, or far more despicable, than that of its Non-Western adversaries. Hanson's originality and genius lies in his systematic (to some readers ad nauseam) demonstration that the military superiority of the West mirrors larger social, economical, political and cultural practices that at first glance have not much relevance to the art and science of warfare. Unlike most historians, Hanson rightly believes that this superiority of the West is not merely due to superior weapons. Only the Western culture has had the discipline, morale and sheer technology expertise in perfecting its killing know-how over time as Hanson efficiently demonstrates through his narration and analysis of nine landmark battles. Hanson makes clear that he has not selected a few battles that by coincidence or sheer luck prove his point.
Hanson also drives the point home that he does not downplay the courage that adversaries of the Western armed forces have often displayed for naught on the battlefield. Sometimes, the West was outsmarted temporarily but ultimately regained its supremacy over its Non-Western enemies because of its cultural institutions. Hanson convincingly shows that not even battlefield inexperience, lack of courage, outnumbered troops or poor command has had any lasting impact on Western dominance in battle. Citizens systematically turn out to be history's deadliest killers. Reaction, innovation, initiative and individualism have often outweighed the merits of method, consensus and adherence to hierarchy and protocol.
Furthermore, Hanson states that the West was not naturally smarter than the rest of the world. Unlike some historians, Hanson rightly does not believe in a deterministic approach to Western military superiority based solely on biology, geography and guns. In his examination of the Battle of Tenochtitlan, Hanson however acknowledges that disease and hunger helped Hernan Cortes and his men finish the job and overcome the resistance of Amerindians. However, the victory of Spain over Mexicas was primarily due to the military brilliance, ruthlessness and courage of Cortes and his main lieutenants in 1520-1521.
Evolving capitalist and democratic institutions, free inquiry as well as rationalism, have often given Western capitalists and scientists a pragmatic and utilitarian umbrella protecting them from religious fundamentalists, state censors or stern cultural conservatives. The West has not hesitated to incorporate the best military practices of its adversaries into its wars of annihilation or improvise on the battlefield with deadly effect. Western military forces have almost always been interested first in the decisive crushing and destruction of their adversaries, and then in social recognition, religious salvation and cultural status.
Hanson shows that Alexander the Great discarded Western rationality in favor of Asian theocracy during his Asian conquests in the fourth century BC that ultimately resulted in plutocratic god-kingdoms, unstable Hellenism in Asia and the destruction of embryonic democracy in Greece. Unsurprisingly, the Roman Republic truthful to Hellenic politics, civic militarism and decisive shock-and-awe warfare destroyed these degenerated god-kingdoms across its way one after the other in the next three centuries. Other dynasts fell victim to this Western dual idea of free citizen/soldier in the following centuries without ever getting it before Rome crushed them decisively.
Despite the ultimate destruction of the long-lasting Roman Empire, this Western tradition of warfare was not lost in Europe. Islamic armies got a bitter taste of these warfare strategies and tactics at the decisive land battle of Tours-Poitiers in 732 and at the sea battle of Lepanto in 1571, despite their fighting spirit.
Hanson also reminds his audience that the West generally has a dislike of wars waged in jungles, stealthily at night and as counter-terrorists to combat enemies who avoid direct and open confrontation with it. The frightful losses inflicted on western civilians and soldiers are considered cowardly and do not reflect the open and direct warfare style that the West deems fair on the battlefield. Non-Western men and women have often joined Western armies to help neutralize other Natives due to a perceived fairness of Western conquerors.
Finally, Hanson observes that many adversaries of the West have realized that merely possessing Western weapons is not enough to ultimately be victorious. These adversaries have often made the historic error to assume that Western democracies, slow to anger, are somehow weak and timid.