Napoleon's Glance: The Secret of Strategy

Napoleon's Glance: The Secret of Strategy

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by William Duggan
     
 

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When Napoleon’s Glance was first published last spring, former NATO secretary general and now putative presidential candidate Wesley Clark declared, “This is a very important book.” In Napoleon’s Glance strategist William Duggan shows how Clark, along with ten other important figures in the fields of politics, war and culture, owed their

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Overview

When Napoleon’s Glance was first published last spring, former NATO secretary general and now putative presidential candidate Wesley Clark declared, “This is a very important book.” In Napoleon’s Glance strategist William Duggan shows how Clark, along with ten other important figures in the fields of politics, war and culture, owed their success to coup d'oeil. But what is coup d'oeil? Carl von Clausewitz spent twenty years struggling to pin down the genius of Napoleon. In chapter six of what would become “On War” he discovered the secret of Napoleon’s strategy: Napoleon's glance. Clausewitz calls it “coup d'oeil” meaning a stroke of the eye, or “glance.” A sudden insight that shows you what course of action to take, it comes from knowledge of the past, drawing on what worked in other situations in a new combination that fits the problem at hand. In Napoleon’s Glance, Duggan expertly weaves intellectual history and biography in showing how important and decisive coup d’oeil is in determining victory in war, art, the civil rights movement, third world development, and the battle for women’s suffrage in America.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The title may draw in people with a weakness for military models for civilian planning issues, but, unlike Duggan's The Art of What Works, the book is not really a planner's how-to, nor is it conventional military historiography. Instead, Duggan offers clear perspectives on how various traits-e.g. mental flexibility in reading the past and present, talent for envisioning the efforts of tens to millions, minute adjustment of tactical details-have been put to careful use by particular figures. Beyond that, it is a mixed bag. Duggan oversimplifies the military strategists he covers (Napoleon and Patton) with a dichotomy between the approaches of Clausewitz (flexible) and Jomini (rigid), leaving out, for example, the crucial role of staffs. On Sundiata (it is a nice surprise to find him here), the founder of the Mali Empire in Africa, the author lists only a single source. Also here are Alice Paul, the American suffragist, and Ella Baker, one of the founders of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. Joan of Arc was herself only a very short-lived strategist, drawing her insights from the legend of the Quest for the Grail-but watching her in action inspired the French statesmen and soldiers who won the Hundred Years' War. The best essay in the book, the study of Mohammed Yunus's Grameen Bank making micro-loans in Bangladesh, reflects the author's background in international development with the Ford Foundation. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Pop business meets military and intellectual history in this intriguing study of strategizing as a habit of being. Look for red hats in a crowd, writes former Ford Foundation executive and Columbia Business School visiting professor Duggan, and you’ll almost certainly find them. That "confirmation bias" poses a danger for anyone reading the historical record to look for patterns--but, he gamely remarks, it also shows, at the very least, "that red hats exist." The red hat here is Duggan’s overarching notion of Napoleon’s famed coup d’oeil--the telling glance, or, as the German strategist von Clausewitz defined it, "the rapid discovery of a truth which to the ordinary mind is not visible at all or only becomes so after long examination and reflection." For Napoleon, the key to success was to study in close detail and replay battles of the past, looking for the critical moment at which the certainty of victory became apparent and seeking to re-create that moment in the present; his theorizing yielded the doctrine, studied by military officers ever since, that the successful leader will, in the words of former NATO commander Wesley Clark, "bring the enemy to battle at the time and place of your choosing, where you had the advantage and could finish him." By Duggan’s account, not only generals benefit from that coup d’oeil: Pablo Picasso had the knack, and it enabled him to maneuver his talents onto ground carefully prepared by the likes of Henri Matisse, just as Martin Luther King Jr. was able to read the scent of change on the wind and, with the aid of many an unsung lieutenant, move the civil-rights struggle to more favorable ground. Duggan sometimes stretches the facts a bit to suit histhesis, but with no harm done, and he turns up plenty of fruitful case studies--including a few pleasant surprises, such as his inventive reading of a medieval African epic and his revisionist take on the publican Saul’s self-reinvention as the disciple Paul on the road to Damascus. More literate and convincing than most of its kind: a good candidate for business-minded readers seeking something for airplane or nightstand.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781560256021
Publisher:
Nation Books
Publication date:
04/09/2004
Series:
Nation Books
Edition description:
Second Edition
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
288,521
Product dimensions:
4.94(w) x 8.74(h) x 0.72(d)

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