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The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today [Englisch] [Gebundene Ausgabe]

Thomas E. Ricks
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30. Oktober 2012

From the #1 bestselling author of Fiasco and The Gamble, an epic history of the decline of American military leadership from World War II to Iraq

History has been kind to the American generals of World War II—Marshall, Eisenhower, Patton, and Bradley—and less kind to the generals of the wars that followed. In The Generals, Thomas E. Ricks sets out to explain why that is. In part it is the story of a widening gulf between performance and accountability. During the Second World War, scores of American generals were relieved of command simply for not being good enough. Today, as one American colonel said bitterly during the Iraq War, “As matters stand now, a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war.”

In The Generals we meet great leaders and suspect ones, generals who rose to the occasion and those who failed themselves and their soldiers. Marshall and Eisenhower cast long shadows over this story, as does the less familiar Marine General O. P. Smith, whose fighting retreat from the Chinese onslaught into Korea in the winter of 1950 snatched a kind of victory from the jaws of annihilation.

But Korea also showed the first signs of an army leadership culture that neither punished mediocrity nor particularly rewarded daring. In the Vietnam War, the problem grew worse until, finally, American military leadership bottomed out. The My Lai massacre, Ricks shows us, is the emblematic event of this dark chapter of our history. In the wake of Vietnam a battle for the soul of the U.S. Army was waged with impressive success. It became a transformed institution, reinvigorated from the bottom up. But if the body was highly toned, its head still suffered from familiar problems, resulting in tactically savvy but strategically obtuse leadership that would win battles but end wars badly from the first Iraq War of 1990 through to the present.

Ricks has made a close study of America’s military leaders for three decades, and in his 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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  • Gebundene Ausgabe: 576 Seiten
  • Verlag: Penguin Press HC, The (30. Oktober 2012)
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ISBN-10: 1594204047
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594204043
  • Größe und/oder Gewicht: 6,6 x 9,3 x 1,8 cm
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 4.0 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (2 Kundenrezensionen)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 90.059 in Englische Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Englische Bücher)
  • Komplettes Inhaltsverzeichnis ansehen

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A Washington Post 2012 Notable Work of Nonfiction

"Ricks shines, blending an impressive level of research with expert storytelling."
—The Weekly Standard

"[A] savvy study of leadership. 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 presents an incisive, hard-hitting corrective to unthinking veneration of American military prowess."
Publisher's Weekly (Starred Review)

"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."

"Entertaining, provocative and important."
—The Wilson Quarterly

This is a brilliant book—deeply researched, very well-written and outspoken. Ricks pulls no punches in naming names as he cites serious failures of leadership, even as we were winning World War II, and failures that led to serious problems in later wars.  And he calls for rethinking the concept of generalship in the Army of the future.”
—William J. Perry, 19th U.S. Secretary of Defense

“Thomas E. Ricks has written a definitive and comprehensive story of American generalship from the battlefields of World War II to the recent war in Iraq. The Generals candidly reveals their triumphs and failures, and offers a prognosis of what can be done to ensure success by our future leaders in the volatile world of the twenty-first century.”
—Carlo D’Este, author of Patton: A Genius for War

“Tom Ricks has written another provocative and superbly researched book that addresses a critical issue, generalship. After each period of conflict in our history, the quality and performance of our senior military leaders comes under serious scrutiny. The Generals will be a definitive and controversial work that will spark the debate, once again, regarding how we make and choose our top military leaders.”
—Anthony C. Zinni, General USMC (Ret.)

The Generals is insightful, well written and thought-provoking. Using General George C. Marshall as the gold standard, it is replete with examples of good and bad generalship in the postwar years. Too often a bureaucratic culture in those years failed to connect performance with consequences. This gave rise to many mediocre and poor senior leaders. Seldom have any of them ever been held accountable for their failures. This book justifiably calls for a return to the strict, demanding and successful Marshall prescription for generalship. It is a reminder that the lives of soldiers are more important than the careers of officers—and that winning wars is more important than either.”
—Bernard E. Trainor, Lt. Gen. USMC (Ret.); author of The Generals’ War

The Generals rips up the definition of professionalism in which the US Army has clothed itself. Tom Ricks shows that it has lost the habit of sacking those who cannot meet the challenge of war, leaving it to Presidents to do so. His devastating analysis explains much that is wrong in US civil-military relations. America’s allies, who have looked to emulate too slavishly the world’s pre-eminent military power, should also take heed.”
—Hew Strachan, Chichele Professor of the History of War, University of Oxford

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

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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4.0 von 5 Sternen Eine gelungene Darstellung in Englisch 5. März 2014
Von scipio42
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Von Amazon bestätigter Kauf
With his book „The Generals“ long time military correspondent Thomas E. Ricks presents an interesting and scaring perspective on US Army military leadership since the Second World War.
Ricks starts out to present the ruthless personnel selection of Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall as the baseline for his argument. Under conditions of war Marshall wanted flag officers who were professional, cooperative but not overly aggressive or individually outstanding officers. By promoting successful officers rapidly and firing incompetent officers from their positions but often with the chance to later regain important leadership positions Marshall supposedly tried to enhance competence, weed out incompetence but also recognized flag officers might be uniquely suited for one position while utter failures in others.
The argument Ricks presents is, Marshall used the relief from a position as a means to ensure accountability and enhancement of competence within the organization, while after Marshall the Army supposedly viewed relief as a sign the organization failed by promoting a flag officer to a position he should not have held. To support this argument Ricks reviews important Army flag officers during and since the Second World War in short descriptions and tries to extrapolate and explain the changes in organizational culture the Army underwent during the time. This makes an interesting if scaring read as Ricks sketches the demise of generalship after the Second World War during the Korean and Vietnam Wars and then the rebuilding of the Army as a tactical fighting force with its triumph during the Second Gulf War, its loss of strategic vision after the Cold War and its tactical triumphs but strategic failures in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Auch für Nicht-Militaristen 3. März 2013
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Die Geschichte zur amerikanischen Militärführung vom 2. Weltkrieg bis zu aktuellen Konflikten ist interessant geschrieben und durchaus auch lesenswert für Leute die - wie ich - kein besonderes interesse an Militär oder militärischen Konflikten haben. In vielen Mini-Biografien lernt man die verschiedenen Akteure der jeweiligen Zeit kennen.
Spannend ist vor allem die Beschreibung von Georg Marshalls Wirken im 2. Weltkrieg sowie der verheerenden Zustände im Vietnamkrieg, die vor allem auf die Führungsschwäche von General-Offizieren zurückzuführen sind.
Ein gutes und relativ leicht lesbares Geschichtsbuch!
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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 4.3 von 5 Sternen  368 Rezensionen
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Present day military leadership - career before country; rank without accountability 2. November 2012
Von Nathan Webster - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
As Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2003 to 2005 showed, author Thomas Ricks has no problem offering harsh criticism of those in power - and here, he presents a variety of lacerating critiques, but also strong compliments, of a variety of military leaders.

The overall thesis for this book is, I think, an accurate one - that generals of today are often not relieved for their failures of leadership or actions, and instead allowed to finish their careers at the expense of the nation's objectives.

Granted, Afghanistan has seen several commanders relieved in mid-stream, so there has been a move toward quicker changes...but, those changes (McChrystal, McKeirnan, others) were driven by civilian leadership, and Ricks argues that top military leaders should be more willing to fire their own high-ranking subordinates.

Generals like George Marshall and Eisenhower receive the bulk of the praise, for managing personalities and strategic missions during World War II, and being willing to make changes when need be. Many division commanders were fired during WWII, but were later given a second chance at command. Unlike 2012, a 'firing' was not a career death sentence, but an admission that an officer was not right for a certain job at a specific time.

Now, a battlefield relief is the end of a career. Ricks mentions Col. Joe Dowdy, a Marine colonel relieved during the 2003 Iraq invasion. Basically thrown out of Iraq, Dowdy didn't exactly retire in disgrace, but he certainly was not offered a second chance to redeem himself.

Part of this is the corporate culture, born in the 1950s, of the military that Ricks describes. Like all corporations, it became the interests of the leaders to protect their peers. Sure, junior officers could be relieved with no issues, but once a general was in the club, it was easier to let them ride out a career - as Ricks writes, LTG Ricardo Sanchez thought about relieving Abu Ghraib's failed BG Janis Karpinski, but decided not to, since her rotation was almost up. That's a terrible reason to let a leader remain.

The book covers almost 75 years - comprehensive, but maybe a little too much time. Some sections, especially Iraq in 2003, seem a bit rushed (though his other books cover that ground, and should be read anyway). Other sections, especially a long and very detailed account of the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, seem to be a little too specific and maybe off the subject. It's a dramatic battle account, and it deals with massive failures by Gen. Edward Almond, but the tactical focus sometimes doesn't fit with the rest of the book. But, this very specific battlefield example allows Ricks to make a necessary good-bad comparison between Almond and the successful Marine Gen. O.P. Smith who was fighting on the reservoir's other side.

And, like the rest of the book, the Chosin narrative is very readable and always interesting.

There are a few surprises (depending on how well read you are) - Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf and Gen. Colin Powell don't come across very well for their hesitant and insecure plans during the Gulf War (which was no surprise to me); George Patton, a successful battlefield commander, played his role very well - with Ricks giving a lot of credit to Eisenhower's calming influence.

This is a good introduction to this topic, though its scope makes it a little too broad for deep knowledge. If you followed up with Eisenhower in War and Peace, Westmoreland: The General Who Lost Vietnam, and The Commanders, among many others, I think you'd flesh out a lot of the specific stories that Ricks can only give so much info about in these pages.

Finally, Gen. Tommy Franks receives much of the harshest criticism - and it's all completely valid. He is held up as the kind of tactically-oriented general that Ricks has little use for - yes, he can manage a battlefield, but has no concept of the larger strategic goals that a general should be aware of. So forecasting any Iraqi insurgency simply wasn't his problem, and the Tora Bora hideout of Bin Laden was not a tactically important goal. Gen. David Petraeus, on the other hand, is complimented for seeing the big, strategic picture that will develop over many years.

An excellent book - not THE definitive resource, maybe, but with the history and personalities involved (I didn't even mention Westmoreland or MacArthur!) how can it be?

UPDATE: I'm just finishing The Liberator: One World War II Soldier's 500-Day Odyssey from the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau, in which Gen. Mark Clark comes across very badly. Clark's failures are mentioned here, certainly, but not in that much depth - so The Liberator would be another good additional resource.

Full disclosure: I read a complimentary review copy (and am briefly cited and indexed in The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008 for my own Iraq reporting).
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3.0 von 5 Sternen An important work, low on breadth 13. November 2012
Von Alex - Veröffentlicht auf
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I anxiously awaited this book. Reading critical analysis of the performance of General Officers is an interest of mine. There simply isn't enough of it going on. There are far too few journalists out there doing this well and Tom Ricks is one of those.

That being said, I think this book merely has but one or two fully developed arguments: We should fire Generals that don't perform and that the Army only wants one type of leader and the promotion system suppresses the outliers. We don't fire enough because of bureacracy and careerism, and the system is favored towards cookie cutter officers also because that's what is best for bureaucracy and careerism. This book focuses on the Army. Other services have had critical failures since World War II, but the mission of the Army is to fight and win the nation's wars, so it's completely fair that the Army bears the brunt of the scrutiny and the criticism.

This book left me wondering several things. Is it the fault of the Generals that they are given missions that they are poorly suited to accomplish? Even with some inventive, outside the box thinking, it's difficult to see a path to victory if victory means a stable and viable Iraq and Afghanistan.

For me, this work didn't get at the root cause of the author's main criticism. The truth is that wars since World War II have been largely elective. Careerism in the Officer Corps is nothing new. In order for true performance to trump careerism, the right conditions have to be in place. In military affairs, those conditions most often are a war in which the nation's fate rests in the outcome. That would explain why the political and military leadership were so eager to fire non performers during World War II and elevate the performers at an accelerated rate. Go back even further; Lincoln would seemingly fire Generals over breakfast, he had no compunction doing so because the fate of the Union far exceeded the careerism of the Officer Corps.

For me, that is the true lesson and one I wish Ricks hammered away at a little more. We should only expend blood and treasure when it is really worth it. The Generals almost never say no to a mission. When we are engaged in "elective" war, we should grade the General's performance as if the fate of the nation depended upon it. Lest we forget even when it doesn't, the fate of the people serving underneath him do.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Scrupulous 31. Oktober 2012
Von whodunit - Veröffentlicht auf
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Tom Ricks is a scrupulously honest, brutally candid assessor of the American military and its civilian bosses in war and between wars. He has been for decades, and at the highest professional levels. Fiasco, his courageously entitled coverage of the Iraq War leadership, has made him a hero to those who see the absolute requirement to recalibrate the system of America's war following a decade of that aimless adventure.

In The Generals, Ricks has cast a wider, deeper net that allows readers to follow the ebb and flow of high-level U.S. Army leaders through several system resets from World War II to our most recent examples. It's as if he had asked himself, after writing Fiasco: What tradition carried this bunch to the head of the class?

Beginning with George Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower--the exemplars of U.S. Army top-level commanders in living memory--Ricks bends to the task in proven Ricksian style: straight from the shoulder, with deeply drawn examples, in blunt form and no-nonsense prose. In case after case--from the celebrated to the concealed--Ricks fires away with bouquets for the righteous and body blows for the malfeasant. His chapter on the My Lai cover-up and investigation, for example, will be a classic in telling it like it is--as, indeed, is the entire text.

Above all, The Generals understands the stakes in pointing out perpetual human flaws; it more than balances negative examples by showcasing one heroic truth-teller after another. At heart, it is a serious and deep study of all the things the army and its generations of rising stars have learned over seventy years, as well as what they forgot, what they relearned, what they forgot again, and what they must and will relearn.

This book is high art. It sizzles.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen An uncompromising review of post WWII American Generalship 1. November 2012
Von Karen Sullivan - Veröffentlicht auf
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Tom Ricks' book is a history of American generalship from George Marshall through today, and modern generals do not fare well in this unflinching military history. Where Marshall was willing to "speak truth to power", many generals today appear more interested in protecting their careers. The only post WWII generals who make it through Ricks' book unscathed are Matthew Ridgeway, David Petraeus and Ray Odierno.

Ricks also describes how modern civilian leadership, from John Kennedy forward, has been lacking. Too many political leaders prefer generals who will rubber stamp their plans over generals who are willing to speak plainly. The section where Ricks describes a 1965 meeting between a foul-mouth & abusive LBJ and his Joint Chiefs is amazing.

Central to Ricks' critique of our current military leaders is that while they are well trained in tactics, they have little strategic vision. They are not trained in critical thinking - they can win battles but not wars. Military leadership, in Ricks' view, has traded leadership skills for management expertise.

Ricks has written an honest, critical and comprehensive look at the history of military leadership over the past 70 years. Thoughtful and eminently readable, this is a book that should provoke a discussion about military leadership that our country needs to have.
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1.0 von 5 Sternen The 550 Page Bumper Sticker 12. Januar 2013
Von T. Berner - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
In 2006, Thomas Ricks published his Fiasco about the Iraqi War. This eponymous book singled out General Ray Ordierno for special criticism. To Ricks' mind, Ordierno wasn't fit to wear the uniform of a soldier, let alone the stars of a general. Unfortunately for Mr. Ricks, his book came out just as the surge was beginning. And the hero of the surge was. . . Ray Ordierno!

Lacking the grace to admit a mistake, but, unlike most journalists, having enough intelligence to recognize a game changer, Mr. Ricks, instead of rewriting history chose to rewrite General Ordierno. As Mr. Ricks would have it, the good General somehow acquired a set of brass balls and 100 points of IQ solely because his son had become a casualty in Iraq.

More about what this says about Mr. Ricks below, but it also illustrates the central problem of Mr. Ricks' new book which argues that the Army needs to fire more generals in order to perform better. A book on this subject should ask a number of questions and make an attempt at answering them:

What makes a bad general? If it is an initial loss, then most of the great generals in history would have been consigned to the ash heap long before they proved themselves.
How long should his superiors allow a new general to find himself before he is booted?
What is the effect of firing on troop morale?
When is the appropriate time to fire him?

Mr. Ricks doesn't bother to ask these or dozens of other questions. Instead he fills his book with 550 pages of potted history, making this work a thick heavy dull bumper sticker saying "Fire Bad Generals!" The text is neither well written nor well thought out. If you have read one book on modern American military history, you will find nothing new here. And I daresay that if you have read two books on modern American military history, you could write a much better book.

Mr. Ricks' problem, I think, is that he is a journalist in the US and not in the UK. UK journalists are entitled to take a stand in their writing, but the trick is that the good media outlets require them to accurately portray the view of the other side and to provide counter arguments. This is ideal training for an historian or policy maker which is why British journalists are often the most successful historians and politicians.

By contrast, the model for American journalists is objectivity, an attempt to find the "Truth" behind opposing viewpoints. At least since the days of Montaigne, objectivity has been recognized as a perilous goal, easily corrupted into hiding ones bias behind a pseudo-judicial mien. It is all too easy to write a polemic and pretend that it is balanced. That is why quality journalism in the UK is thriving while it is all but dead here in the United States.

Any professor teaching historical writing could very successfully assign his class to apply David Hackett Fischer's Historical Fallacies to what passes as "history" in Mr. Ricks' book. The text is full of examples of the misleading uses of historical fact the Prof. Fischer documents so well. To mention just a few items of his flawed account:

It does not detract from General Marshall's accomplishments to point out his serious flaws. He is hardly the gold standard of personnel decisions as Mr. Ricks would have it. He did not choose "aggressive" generals, he tended to choose men he knew as good professors or good students at the Infantry school and was apparently oblivious to the fact that the skill set required for success in a classroom is hardly the skill set for success in a battlefield. Marshall men were honest, decent men, often dull and unable to adapt. For every Ridgeway (whom Marshall had slated for a staff position until Ridgeway raised a fuss), there were three or four generals like Clark or Hodges. And some of them, such as Stilwell, were absolute disasters. D. Clayton James' far superior A Time for Giants is a far better guide to the personnel choices of World War II than Mr. Ricks is.

And once you got to a senior command position, no amount of blundering would get Marshall to send you down to the minors. Lewis Brereton was in a command position for four of the most egregious failures of aerial operations during the war and after each blunder was just moved to another position of higher responsibility to commit a new disaster. Three times in the last year of the war, Marshall men allowed hundreds of thousands of Nazi troops to escape encirclement to fight another day. And Carlo d'Este's account of Bradley and Hodges at the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge would send shivers down the back of any parent who had committed their son to their command.

Meanwhile, many potentially great soldiers were restricted to lower ranks by Marshall's whims. James Van Fleet, for instance, a truly great general, remained a lieutenant colonel for most of the war because Marshall constantly rejected the recommendations of Van Fleet's superiors to raise him to high command (when his success in actual combat in the summer of 1944 made it impossible for him to be ignored, he began his meteoric rise, ending the war as a corps commander, before really making a name for himself in the postwar army).

Most of the firings which Marshall made were part of the purge of the National Guard and Reserves to make the Army run by professionals, a major shift from earlier US history in which politics played an important role in choosing generals. Mr. Ricks alludes to this without recognizing its significance. It is one thing to oust a class of generals in order to change the make-up of the military and another to punish poor performance across the board.

Nor did Marshall speak truth to power as Mr. Ricks suggests. Joel Davidson's far superior "The Unsinkable Fleet" shows how an agressive Admiral King and a Navy-centric FDR ran circles around the polite gentleman George Catlett Marshall which resulted in a military force which had only half the troops Marshall himself thought optimal and a Navy several multiples larger than it ever needed to be. This resulted in a longer war and wasted resources. Time is a crucial element in warfare - never more so than in World War II when half of all the Holocaust victims lost their lives in the last twelve months of the war - and that was never something that Marshall seemed to recognize.

In what Mr. Ricks apparently believes is a ideal example of the Army's failures, he juxtaposes the destruction of an Army unit on the east side of the Chosin Reservoir with the heroic retreat of the Marines on the west side of the Reservoir, but by the eliding over inconvenient facts or ignoring them altogether, he just proves himself to be unreliable. The Marines had ten times as many troops as the Army did and at a crucial point in the battle, the Chinese redirected the main thrust of their forces against the Army forces, allowing the Marines to retreat. Finally, the Marine air support gave top priority to protecting the Marines instead of the Army. This last point was one of the main reasons that the Army fought for, and won, the right to its own internal air support role after the war. To this day, the Air Force is run by fighter jocks and bomber pilots and the tactical support mission assigned to it is consistently left behind. It is surprising that Mr. Ricks ignores this or, worse, is ignorant of it.

It is therefore not surprising that Mr. Ricks misses the importance of MacArthur's relief altogether. Lord knows that Harry Truman had plenty of reasons to fire him, beginning with his age, but by choosing to fire him because he honestly answered a question from an important congressman has had repercussions on the military to this day. Truman's firing of MacArthur was hardly the triumph of civilian leadership over military leadership as many would have it (though, to be fair, not Mr. Ricks), but rather the triumph of the executive over the legislative branches of government. As H.R. MacMaster's far superior study of Vietnam era military leadership, Dereliction of Duty, demonstrated, by sending the message to the military that they are answerable only to the President, the Joint Staff allowed their views to be misrepresented by the Johnson Administration, sowing the seeds for at least part of the failure of the modern military.

I could go on, but it would require another book to challenge The Generals. Mr. Ricks' heart is in the right place as he tries to decide why all American military action since World War II has been so unsatisfactory, but The Generals only inadvertently provides an answer. Mr. Ricks knows more about the military than anyone else at The Washigton Post, more, I would venture than anyone else in the Washington Press Corps and maybe even anyone in Washington DC outside of the Pentagon. But it is not enough.

There appear to be gaps in his basic knowledge. He argues that senior generals need to be replaced by even more senior generals or the politicians will do it instead, and he cites theater commanders from MacArthur to Westmoreland who should have been relieved. But Mr. Ricks seems ignorant of the fact that, for much of the period he covers, the Joint Staff had no power to fire such senior generals, that theater commanders were appointed by the President and could only be relieved by the President. There were no senior generals to fire them.

Mr. Ricks also seems to think that generals with advanced university degrees are somehow distrusted by their colleagues, but the military puts great emphasis on higher education and the officer corps has a greater percentage of advanced degrees than most professions, so where is the source of this distrust?

And Mr. Ricks argues that generals who have underperformed should be rotated elsewhere and given a second chance. But where? Congress has provided specific slots for each general it authorizes. If you give a general a second chance, do you fire a performing general to make room for the underperforming general? And if Mr. Ricks would instead suggest that Congress provide a sort of cold storage for generals, does he seriously think that with serious and crippling budget cuts in the wind, the Army will really want to cut more bone and muscle to authorize the expenditures that would be needed?

There is also in this book a lack of empathy, probably the greatest failure of the form of intelligence promulgated by America's educational system. The key ingredient of true intelligence is not a memory to regurgitate facts. It is not the ability to twist those facts to suit your own political agenda. Mr. Ricks has those aspects of intellectual firepower at his fingertips. But to have something truly valuable to add, he needed ability to place himself in someone else's shoes and examine the world from a different viewpoint. This wouldn't require him to change his views, necessarily, but it would have grounded this book to reality, not the world as he would like it to be. Mr. Ricks is utterly incapable of this.

As noted by superior thinkers like Christopher Lasch, the elites of America have moved away from mainstream America and the idea of military service has become an alien concept to those who have the power to put American boys and girls into harm's way. Mr. Ricks, who comes from the ruling elite in America, seems to study the American military like a scientist would study bacilli under a microscope. He is ignorant, for instance, that his "rewrite" of General Odierno that I mentioned above, is a deeper, more unforgivable slander of a military man than a mere allegation of incompetence. To a soldier, it is a gross and unforgivable insult to suggest that he favors his own flesh and blood to those entrusted to him by others. To Mr. Ricks, it seemed to be a legitmate way to excuse his own initial blunder of General Odierno's abilities.

And Mr. Ricks also always has had an irrational fixation on a potential coup by American military leaders. He wrote a (not very good) novel about it ten years ago and here and there in The Generals is a hint that he has not let the idea go. Considering the emphasis the military places on allegiance to the Constitution, one wonders where Mr. Ricks would get such a bug in his ear, outside of Hollywood and similar ignoramuses who run popular culture these days. Like Mr. Ricks, I have never had the honor of serving in the American military, but, as the brother of a career Army officer who graduated from West Point and Harvard University and as someone who spent a great deal of time working with the military during my one year tour of duty in Afghanistan with the State Department, I have met my share of military officers and I doubt very much that they would be less open with me than they would to a newspaper reporter. The most political statement that a senior officer ever made to me was a Marine Major General back in the '90s who told me that he was just as wary of pro-military jingoists as he was of anti-military pacifists. That is hardly a rallying cry for a coup d'etat.

Lord knows that we have to maintain a superior roster of military leaders - it is the only profession, licit or illicit, where the best and most successful can end their day responsible for the deaths of thousands of their subordinates and it is one of the few professions where the incompetence of one person at the top can result in the end of civilization. But the signal failure of those at the top of the foodchain of American culture to participate in military issues, and the inability of journalists and others to provide an adequate bridge between those who guard us while we sleep and those of us who, well, ARE asleep, is the true failure of American society today. And the sole contribution of The Generals is to prove this point.
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