The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today [NOOK Book]

Overview

An epic history of the decline of American military leadership—from the #1 bestselling author of Fiasco


Thomas E. Ricks has made a close study of America’s military leaders for three decades, and in The Generals, he chronicles the widening gulf between performance and accountability among the top brass of the U.S. military. While history has been kind to the American generals of World War II—Marshall, Eisenhower, Patton, and Bradley—it has been less kind to others, such as ...

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

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Overview

An epic history of the decline of American military leadership—from the #1 bestselling author of Fiasco


Thomas E. Ricks has made a close study of America’s military leaders for three decades, and in The Generals, he chronicles the widening gulf between performance and accountability among the top brass of the U.S. military. While history has been kind to the American generals of World War II—Marshall, Eisenhower, Patton, and Bradley—it has been less kind to others, such as Koster, Franks, Sanchez, and Petraeus. Ricks sets out to explain why that is. We meet great leaders and suspect ones, generals who rose to the occasion and generals who failed themselves and their soldiers. In Ricks’s hands, this story resounds with larger meaning: about the transmission of values, about strategic thinking, and about the difference between an organization that learns and one that fails.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

In this significant new military history, the author of Fiasco and The Gamble tracks the decline of U.S. Army leadership from World War II to the present. He argues forcefully that far from being accountable, American commanders have become an insulated, closed guild that is undermining success on several fronts.

The New York Times Book Review
Readers of [Ricks's] 2006 best seller on the Iraq war, Fiasco, and of his blog, The Best Defense, know that he has strong opinions he does not try to hide. He also has a deep wellspring of knowledge about both military policy and military history. That combination of conviction and erudition allows him to deliver an entertaining and enlightening jeremiad that should—but, alas, most likely won't—cause a rethinking of existing personnel policies.
—Max Boot
The Washington Post
Much of what Ricks mentions can be found elsewhere, but his skill at pulling it all together and his fresh insights give the narrative power.
—Neil Sheehan
Publishers Weekly
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)
Library Journal
This is a collective biography of American generals from World War II to the present, as well as an organizational history of the U.S. Army, and public policy prescription. The biographies are brief, separate portraits; the prescription is essentially that generals should be allowed to fail without it meaning the end of their careers. Ricks (Fiasco) attributes the institutional culture of the 1940s army to Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall, who ruthlessly sacked underperformers but often left open the possibility of a second chance. Overall, Ricks contends, Marshall created a cadre of solid but colorless commanders; the emphasis on teamwork and level-headedness created a culture of careerism and risk-aversion. Ricks also examines the effects, for good or ill, of such generals as Douglas MacArthur, William Westmoreland, and Tommy Franks on army culture. VERDICT Ricks's editorializing may be jarring to a reader looking for straight history, but the book is superbly researched and written. This is for all readers engaged in studying military history, particularly relating to political-military relations.—RF
Library Journal
Once a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, currently with the Center for a New American Security and a Foreign Policy blogger, Pulitzer Prize winner Ricks has already given us two best-selling books on our recent venture in Iraq. Here he steps back to assess the decline in sound military leadership since World War II. Sobering.
Kirkus Reviews
Foreign Policy contributing editor Ricks (The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006–2008, 2009, etc.) assesses the state of generalship in the U.S. Army and finds it wanting. During World War II, Gen. George Marshall designed a template for identifying leaders and selecting generals, rapidly promoting those who met the standard and readily relieving underperformers. For Marshall, firing a general was part of the natural order, a necessary tool of personnel management in the notoriously difficult business of battlefield success. How is it, asks the author, that we've fallen away from this strict standard over the past 75 years? After acknowledging the occasional flaw in the Marshall system and identifying the grand exception, Douglas MacArthur, Ricks turns to the Korean War, where only O.P. Smith and Matthew Ridgeway met the Marshall standard and prevented disaster. Post-Korea, senior officers acted "less like stewards of their profession, answerable to the public, and more like keepers of a closed guild, answerable mainly to each other." In Vietnam, the system collapsed entirely, with rotation, ticket-punching and micromanagement the norms. Relieving a general came to be seen as a system failure. From this low point--Ricks recites the manifold sins of Maxwell Taylor, Paul Harkins and William Westmoreland--the Army retooled, improving training, doctrine and weaponry, but leaving its concept of generalship untouched. As the author turns to our recent wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, none of Colin Powell, Norman Schwarzkopf, Tommy Franks, Ricardo Sanchez, or George Casey will much appreciate what Ricks has to say about continuing deficiencies in military leadership. Only David Petraeus and Raymond Odierno emerge unscathed. Informed readers, especially military buffs, will appreciate this provocative, blistering critique of a system where accountability appears to have gone missing--like the author's 2006 bestseller, Fiasco, this book is bound to cause heartburn in the Pentagon.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101595930
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 10/30/2012
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 576
  • Sales rank: 64,833
  • File size: 17 MB
  • Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

Meet the Author



Thomas E. Ricks is an adviser on national security at the New America Foundation, where he participates in its “Future of War” project. He was previously a fellow at the Center for a New American Security and is a contributing editor of Foreign Policy magazine, for which he writes the prizewinning blog The Best Defense. Ricks covered the U.S. military for The Washington Post from 2000 through 2008. Until the end of 1999 he had the same beat at The Wall Street Journal, where he was a reporter for seventeen years. A member of two Pulitzer Prize-winning teams, he covered U.S. military activities in Somalia, Haiti, Korea, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Kuwait, Turkey, Afghanistan, and Iraq. He is the author of several books, including The Gamble, and the number one New York Times bestseller Fiasco, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

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Table of Contents

CONTENTS

PROLOGUE: Captain William DePuy and the 90th Division in Normandy, summer 1944

PART I
WORLD WAR II

1. General George C. Marshall: The leader

2. Dwight Eisenhower: How the Marshall system worked

3. George Patton: The specialist

4. Mark Clark: The man in the middle

5. “Terrible Terry” Allen: Conflict between Marshall and his protégés

6. Eisenhower manages Montgomery

7. Douglas MacArthur: The general as presidential aspirant

8. William Simpson: The Marshall system and the new model American general

PART II
THE KOREAN WAR

9. William Dean and Douglas MacArthur: Two generals self- destruct

10. Army generals fail at Chosin

11. O. P. Smith succeeds at Chosin

12. Ridgway turns the war around

13. MacArthur’s last stand

14. The organization man’s Army

PART III
THE VIETNAM WAR

15. Maxwell Taylor: Architect of defeat

16. William Westmoreland: The organization man in command

17. William DePuy: World War II– style generalship in Vietnam

18. The collapse of generalship in the 1960s

  • a. At the top
  • b. In the field
  • c. In personnel policy

19. Tet ’68: The end of Westmoreland and the turning point of the war

20. My Lai: General Koster’s cover-up and General Peers’s investigation

21. The end of a war, the end of an Army

PART IV
INTERWAR

22. DePuy’s great rebuilding

23. “How to teach judgment”

PART V

IRAQ AND THE HIDDEN COSTS OF REBUILDING

24. Colin Powell, Norman Schwarzkopf, and the empty triumph of the 1991 war

25. The ground war: Schwarzkopf vs. Frederick Franks

26. The post– Gulf War military

27. Tommy R. Franks: Two- time loser

28. Ricardo Sanchez: Over his head

29. George Casey: Trying but treading water

30. David Petraeus: An outlier moves in, then leaves

EPILOGUE: Restoring American military leadership

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

NOTES

INDEX

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 23 )
Rating Distribution

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(11)

4 Star

(5)

3 Star

(3)

2 Star

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1 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 23 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 25, 2013

    Rick's has indeed produced an interesting book, and my third sta

    Rick's has indeed produced an interesting book, and my third star is based on this versus the "analytical "value of the content. However, having served from 1960 through 1995, and studied the legislative and regulatory evolution of the Army over the course of its history, I found the book sorely lacking in addressing as simple an issue as the profoundly different legal and regulatory environment of the "Marshall Army" and subsequent years. Further, the "Marshall Army" was an Army that had to grow more than 10 fold in a few short years, while competing with sister services and industrial for leadership and manpower demands. No subsequent general had a "management" task remotely resembling this. Ricks failed to address the many generals whose tactical blunders were very costly, yet did not result in relief. Further, the WWII Army was able, legally, to take an operational star, such as Patton or Terry Allen, and "park them" somewhere to escape the glare caused by their personal eccentricities, and quickly return them to command of combat formations when they were needed. Such "luxury" became less and less possible under subsequent legislation and situational circumstances. In short, WWII, much like the Civil War, was a "one-off", and it is inaccurate to try to draw personnel management parallels to subsequent years without seriously addressing the nature of the "one-off".

    Others have discussed the differences in civilian leadership, foreign policy and strategic objectives, that explain some of Ricks' conclusions differently, and there I agree as well. It would almost appear as Ricks had a thesis, and simply set out to present just those anecdotes that supported his thesis, and quit when that was done.

    However, the book does give some interesting anecdotal material. Some (not all) of his criticisms of more recent generals are pretty spot-on, even if the causality he ascribes is far from so. He does, as others note, put national policy errors too heavily on the generals. The civilian leadership will obviously select theater commanders who are fully willing to execute their unenlightened objectives over those who don't. That such sycophants exist is no new development. Donald Rumsfeld, for example, was not interested in any contrasting opinions, as demonstrated by his marginalizing GEN Shinseki. Nuff said.

    For all its warts, I would never want to see the military be the main force behind foreign policy. Our job is to offer professional military (not domestic political) advice, then obey the lawful orders of those appointed over us. At the top, those appointed over us are, and will remain, civilians.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2012

    A good book on a long over looked subject

    I am a little conflicted on this book. The author starts out with looking at general officer removal from battle as a subject of those officers failing. But as the book goes on it becomes more about how the general officer corps cannot nation build.
    I think that the author missed the point as to why Gen Marshall, in WWII, did what he did with the general officers. It stems from his time in WWI and that in the inter-war years he saw what the Army had and as war loomed he knew that the US could not afford the casualties that it sustained in WWI.
    It would need leaders that used all available assets to achieve victory and use thier intellect not orders to win battles. The general officers in WWII, that fought in WWI, were far different than the general officers of WWI.
    Good book on what it takes to be a general officer in the US Army. How our lessons learned must always be applied to current and future conflicts.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2013

    SAA -- I just completed this book and feel so proud and relieved

    SAA -- I just completed this book and feel so proud and relieved Ricks' finally had the courage, foresight and knowledge to finally reveal to the general public what has needed to be said about the military's top bureaucrats. There are no more Pattons, Rommels, Jacksons and Pershings. There are only robotic drones (no pun intended) experts at ironing, shining and marching; under educated about most cultures in the world without a care about the history of other non-caucasions. He was accurate that generals are not fully to blame. The PODUS, SECDEF and Sec. of State also deserve some blame but instead of trying to be nice and ensure they get along, the civilian-military discourse (Ricks' words) has devolved into corporate mgmt. polities ensuring there is no yelling and only backstabbing. Great job Mr. Ricks and I can't wait to read your next book. Today's officers and senior enlisted are not leaders, they're followers!

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 17, 2012

    Great book. It's very easy to read, and insightful at the same

    Great book. It's very easy to read, and insightful at the same time, which is nice. You may not agree with what he writes, but the book is certainly thought provoking. Highlights the need for military strategy to be in tune with political strategy, and the need for clear and honest communication at the top. I found a lot of truth in his assertions about the military officer corps.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2012

    biased, nothing new on ww2

    biased, nothing new on ww2

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 28, 2012

    The author demonstrates a complete lack of knowledge on how the

    The author demonstrates a complete lack of knowledge on how the politicians determine the constraints placed on the military, not the military themselves. The book is pretty much one big "cut and paste" job from a minority of authors who agree with his opinions; when they disagree with his thesis he buries a disclaimer in a "coda" or in footnotes. Sophomoric drivel written probably to safeguard his rice bowl at the New York Times The Vet

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2013

    Resonates with today

    I don't always agree with Tom Ricks' viewpoint, but a lot of his points he makes are very true in today's military. Easy to read book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2013

    Detailed

    Too political

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 13, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    didnt like

    didnt like

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2012

    Good read

    Bought it for our son in the military..husband had to read it first.said it was very good and our son definitely will want to read it...he is an infantry officer
    giving it for a Christmas gift.

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    Posted December 4, 2012

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