The Generals: America Military Command from World War II to Today

Thomas E. Ricks, Author
Thomas E. Ricks. Penguin Press, $36 (576p) ISBN 978-1-59420-404-3
Hardcover - 861 pages - 978-1-4104-5470-6
Open Ebook - 576 pages - 978-1-101-59593-0
Paperback - 576 pages - 978-0-14-312409-2
Hardcover - 1 pages - 978-1-4708-1729-9
MP3 CD - 978-1-4708-1728-2
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Generations of inept, thoughtless, and unaccountable generals have authored disaster, according to this savvy study of leadership in the U. S. Army. Veteran defense journalist and bestselling author Ricks (Fiasco) contrasts the army of WWII, in which unsuccessful generals were often relieved of command, with later eras, in which officers were untouchable despite epic failures (few generals were relieved during the Iraq War, he notes). Nowadays, Ricks contends, citing an officer in Iraq, a private who loses his rifle, is punished more than a general who lost his part of a war." Combining lucid historical analysis, acid-etched portraits of generals from "troublesome blowhard" Douglas MacArthur to "two-time loser" Tommy Franks, and shrewd postmortems of military failures and pointless slaughters such as My Lai, the author demonstrates how everything from strategic doctrine to personnel policies create a mediocre, rigid, morally derelict army leadership. Ricks's preoccupation is America's difficulty coping with guerilla wars from Vietnam to Iraq, and the flip side of his critique of bad leadership is a belief that good officers with innovative, politically adroit counter-insurgency tactics might have won those conflicts. His faith in the ability of great generalship to redeem any misadventure can sometimes seem naïve. Still, Ricks presents an incisive, hard-hitting corrective to unthinking veneration of American military prowess. Agent: Andrew Wylie. (Oct. 30)
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