Command Failure in War: Psychology and Leadership

Command Failure in War: Psychology and Leadership

by Philip Langer, Robert Pois
     
 

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Why do military commanders, most of them usually quite capable, fail at crucial moments of their careers? Robert Pois and Philip Langer—one a historian, the other an educational psychologist—study seven cases of military command failures, from Frederick the Great at Kunersdorf to Hitler’s invasion of Russia. While the authors recognize the value of

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Overview

Why do military commanders, most of them usually quite capable, fail at crucial moments of their careers? Robert Pois and Philip Langer—one a historian, the other an educational psychologist—study seven cases of military command failures, from Frederick the Great at Kunersdorf to Hitler’s invasion of Russia. While the authors recognize the value of psychological theorizing, they do not believe that one method can cover all the individuals, battles, or campaigns under examination. Instead, they judiciously take a number of psycho-historical approaches in hope of shedding light on the behaviors of commanders during war. The other battles and commanders studied here are Napoleon in Russia, George B. McClellan’s Peninsular Campaign, Robert E. Lee and Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, John Bell Hood at the Battle of Franklin, Douglas Haig and the British command during World War I, "Bomber" Harris and the Strategic Bombing of Germany, and Stalingrad.

Indiana University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In a remarkable collaboration, historian Pois and educational psychologist Langer (both of the Univ. of Colorado, Boulder) demonstrate the explanatory role of psychology in the historical analysis of military failures. In eight case studies, ranging from Frederick the Great at Kunersdorf to Lee at Gettysburg, from Sir Douglas Haig in World War I to Hitler and his generals at Stalingrad, the authors analyze the psychological state of the defeated commanders. They do not attempt to apply an all-encompassing form of psychological dysfunction to all eight studies but instead draw upon different psychological approaches appropriate to the individual and circumstance. The authors do conclude that common to each leader's dysfunctionality was an inflexible adherence to old beliefs and mindsets. Less convincing is their suggestion that this same single-minded inflexibility, as practiced in the costly "wearing down" campaigns on the western front and the British Bomber Command's strategic area bombing of World War II, may have been an unavoidable necessity for achieving final victory. Nevertheless, this scholarly work is superior in its historical sources and more incisive in its varied psychological approaches than Norman Dixon's landmark On the Psychology of Military Incompetence. Recommended for larger public libraries and academic libraries supporting history and psychology programs.-Edward Metz, USACGSC Combined Arms Research Lib., Ft. Leavenworth, KS Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780253343789
Publisher:
Indiana University Press
Publication date:
05/28/2004
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
6.25(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.99(d)

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