How Great Generals Win

( 3 )

Overview

"An astute military historian's appraisal of what separates the sheep from the wolves in the great game of war."—Kirkus Reviews

If a key to military victory is to "get there first with the most," the true test of the great general is to decide where "there" is—the enemy's Achilles heel. Here is a narrative account of decisive engagements that succeeded by brilliant strategy more than by direct force. The reader accompanies those who fought, from Roman legionaries and Mongol ...

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Overview

"An astute military historian's appraisal of what separates the sheep from the wolves in the great game of war."—Kirkus Reviews

If a key to military victory is to "get there first with the most," the true test of the great general is to decide where "there" is—the enemy's Achilles heel. Here is a narrative account of decisive engagements that succeeded by brilliant strategy more than by direct force. The reader accompanies those who fought, from Roman legionaries and Mongol horsemen to Napoleonic soldiery, American Civil War Rebels and Yankees, World War I Tommies, Lawrence of Arabia's bedouins, Chinese revolutionaries, British Desert Rats, Rommel's Afrika Korps, and Douglas MacArthur's Inchon invaders. However varied their weapons, the soldiers of all these eras followed a commander who faced the same obstacles and demonstrated the strategic and tactical genius essential for victory. "All warfare is based on deception," wrote Sun Tzu in The Art of War in 400 BCE. Bevin Alexander shows how great generals have interpreted this advice, and why it still holds true today.

Alexander demonstrates the strategic thinking and battlefield techniques of some of the greatest generals in history, including Genghis Khan, Napoleon, Sherman, and von Manstein, and shows how they applied principles of military strategy that have remained constant for 2,000 years.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Alexander ( Korea: The First War We Lost ) reveals how some of the great military men of history applied common-sense principles of warfare that ``nearly always will secure victory.'' Relying on deception, these generals usually won their campaigns with a surprise attack on the enemy's rear or flank. Leaving aside the killed-and-wounded advantage of such maneuvers, Alexander emphasizes the decisive psychological effect on enemy soldiers and their commanders. Generals whose deceptive, indirect, surprise tactics are considered here include Scipio Africanus (``The General Who Beat Hannibal''), Genghis Khan, Napoleon Bonaparte, Stonewall Jackson, William Tecumseh Sherman (``The General Who Won the Civil War''), Mao Zedong, Erwin Rommel and Douglas MacArthur. Alexander makes the interesting point that these principles are for the most part self-evident, yet most generals ignore them in favor of the direct frontal assault. He is surprisingly critical of the Confederacy's icon, Robert E. Lee, for his tendency to resort to direct (and costly) methods such as Pickett's charge at Gettysburg. He calls MacArthur ``a military Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, capable of both brilliant strategic insight and desolating error.'' This study is essential reading for students of military strategy and tactics. (Aug.)
Booknews
Alexander analyzes the mindset that distinguishes a great commander from a merely good one, and tells the stories of the most successful commanders of all time--among them Hannibal, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, Stonewall Jackson, Sherman, Rommel, and Mao Zedong. Includes maps and photographs. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393323160
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/1/2002
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 322
  • Sales rank: 620,072
  • Product dimensions: 8.18 (w) x 5.38 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

Bevin Alexander is the author of How Great Generals Win, Lost Victories, and Inside the Nazi War Machine. He lives in Bremo Bluff, Virginia.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2003

    An Inconsistent Read

    If the title of the book is to be believed, then I cannot fathom why Alexander chose to include MacArthur in his study of the winning ways of great generals. Clearly he dislikes MacArthur and finds him inconsistent at best. Alexander goes so far as to blame MacArthur for critical decisions that were the purview of President Truman and General Omar Bradley, head of the JCOS at the time MacArthur was making the most outrageous plans to invade North Korea. A general can decide anything he wants but when the President of the United States and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have to review and approve the plan, responsibility passes from the general in the field to the man who said it best himself, 'the buck stops here.' Alexander would have served us better had he deleted the MacArthur chapter altogether. I found it a rather long read for such a short book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2003

    a pleasant hors d'oeuvre, not an entree.

    The author acknowledges that his book is homage to B.H. Liddell Hart; unfortunately, that does not make it any less derivative. Alexander illustrates Liddell Hart's principles throughout the careers/campaigns of 'great generals', where Liddell Hart selected specific engagements, not necessarily generals [in On Strategy], to illuminate his own concepts. The author seems to regard Liddell Hart's ideas as to difficult for the average reader to grasp without Alexander's own amplification. Alexander's book has Liddell Hart's familiar flavor, but none of its nourishment. This book is a pleasant hors d'oeuvre, not an entree. Alexander has a better than average gift for the narrative, but he is given to frequent digression. For example, the intrigues of the Mongol Court make for an interesting topic, but aren't necessarily essential to understanding why or how Genghis Kahn was able to dominate Eurasia in his lifetime. This and similar flourishes too often pass for substance in the book. Alexander has written a book that will treat the casual reader of military history, but it will not satisfy a hungry student, or aspiring expert.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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