We of the Hoover Military History Working Group (MHWG) were stunned by the sudden loss of our colleague Angelo Codevilla, who was a charter member of the group, and a frequent incisive contributor to our online journal Strategika.
When the MHWG was formed some eight years ago, I was tasked with assembling a wide array of military historians, military analysts, former military officers, diplomats, intelligence officials, political scientists and historians. Our former director of the Hoover Institution, John Raisian, emphasized that we should strive to gather an eclectic group, one in which free expression and a wide variety of opinions and views would be aired. In the past eight years, no one has better represented the aspirations of the Hoover group than Angelo (who had years earlier been a Hoover senior research fellow). He was deeply learned, candid, unapologetic, often controversial, and drew on an encyclopedic array of historical, literary, and cultural knowledge. At breaks during our sessions, he would discuss Italian dialectical evolutions from classical Latin and then plunge right back into the formal sessions with warnings about the devolution in the Washington, DC intelligence bureaucracy over the last two decades.
Angelo remained always friendly and ready to continue our day’s controversies over dinner in companionship, in particular, with those with whom he most often disagreed. I cannot think of a single request to him to write that he refused—and we often overworked him in our desire for his opinion essays, longer historical backgrounder submissions, and short book reviews of military classics.
Angelo was a classical polymath, fluent in several languages, familiar with literature and history, a student of Western civilization and Christianity, a viticulturist (he and I frequently discussed the differences in winegrowing versus table grape and raisin production), and a patriot deeply concerned with the current troubled trajectory of America. In his last decade he increasingly focused on the nature of the American elites and felt much of the responsibility for American misdirection abroad and disunity at home was to be put at their feet. Or more specifically, he often questioned why they were considered elites at all, given the erosion in our marquee universities and the rise of nepotism and hand-washes-hand networking among our “meritocracy.”
Angelo won a wide audience with his 2010 The Ruling Class: How They Corrupted America and What We Can Do About It, which the late Rush Limbaugh heartily endorsed and wrote an introduction for a later edition. It was the one of the first critical analyses of an emerging affluent bicoastal, bipartisan, and globalized elite, different from its liberal predecessors in being far less broadly educated, yet more confident, and increasingly more deeply enmeshed in the corporate, media, academia, and technological octopus. But he may be best known for his coauthored classic handbook (with the late Paul Seabury) War: Ends and Means that still remains the best introduction to the origins, nature, and resolution of armed conflict.
Angelo Codevilla will be sorely missed by his Hoover Institution MHWG colleagues—and the nation at large is poorer for his absence. There were very few like him—and will be even fewer in the future.
Victor Davis Hanson, Chairman, the Hoover Military History Working Group.