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The Accidental Admiral: A Sailor Takes Command at NATO Hardcover – 30 Oct 2014

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 262 pages
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (30 Oct. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1612517048
  • ISBN-13: 978-1612517049
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.5 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 74,549 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


""The Accidental Admiral" is valuable, and perhaps even vital, for those seeking to understand the history and context of major foreign policy decisions during the Obama administration. On balance, Stavridis agreed with President Obama's decisions more often than he disagreed with them. But some of those disagreements were on hot-button issues. Most notably, the Admiral endorses a longer and firmer commitment to Afghanistan and associates himself with Senator McCain's interventionist position on Syria. Stavridis, however, does this without any of the buck-passing or back-biting that have featured prominently in many other recent foreign policy critiques. "Accidental Admiral" has many other strengths. The book offers rich lessons in the challenges of running too many headquarters, regularly interacting with dozens of foreign heads of state and senior defense officials, and overseeing major military operations in multiple hotspots. The book's 10th chapter on leadership should be mandatory reading for all military officers, and not just in the United States. 'Spend at least one-fourth of your disposable time on personnel matters, and 'Make mentorship a priority, ' Stavridis intones. The Admiral clearly understands the human factor in everything as well as anyone - not least in the context of leadership."--War on the

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An easy book to read, but thought provoking. Makes you wonder how can big organisations work, although clearly they do. This book widens the mind to consider that question.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 28 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
In Ike's mold -- a future Secretary of Defense or State or both if we are lucky... 12 Dec. 2014
By Robert David STEELE Vivas - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is three books in one, and none of them do justice to the author, who is easily considered by my naval officer colleagues to be a person of most extraordinary intellect and absolute integrity -- he is considered a "five star" flag in every possible respect, and there are many of us whom he has mentored or who run with those he has mentored, who hope he will one day be Secretary of Defense or Secretary of State or both. I discussed this book with CAPT Scott Philpott, USN (Ret), among those selected by the author as an innovator, and this point cannot be overstated: to the extent the Services have toxic leadership that must be retired, those mentored by Admiral Stavridis and a few other leaders (General Tony Zinni, for example) are the vanguard for a new generation of leaders who are agile, clear, daring, frugal, and above all, able to bring to bear intelligence with integrity.

As I go through the book a second time, I see time and again evidence that this author was an original thinker who prospered in the face of massive bureaucratic resistance to change. I am reminded of how Admiral Crowe refused Admiral Rickover's "invitation" to join the nuclear submarine force, risking career termination only to go on to become Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and then Ambassador to the United Kingdom. There is absolutely no question in my mind but that this author is destined to return to government at the Cabinet level.

The first book, chapters 1-8, is a politically nuanced account of an extraordinary career. The author is one of two plebes from his Naval Academy class to make four star rank, the other being Marine Corps General John Allen. While there are portions of this first book that I might take issue with, I note with interest that the author uses quote marks as a form of loyal dissent, and a careful patient reading of this first third of the volume will yield some gold nuggets.

The second book, chapters 9-16, is where most of the lessons learned are to be found. This is a handbook for innovative leadership, and richly suited as a guide for mid-career officers and leaders in any domain, military or civilian. The word that jumps out at me, although it does not appear in the book, is "hybrid." This may be the only senior officer that actually gets what I have been saying for 25 years, to wit, we not only need to get serious about all the non-state threats and all threats all the time (what he calls convergences, when many small threats come together to create a firestorm larger than any state can handle), but we must come together across all boundaries. He stresses multinational, inter-agency, and public-private alliances.

The third book is a combination of appendices, a world-class annotated bibliography that in divided between non-fiction and fiction, with the fictional works being of great historical and cultural importance, and a world-class index. Although "intelligence" is not properly presented in the index, there are a number of important references to intelligence successes and failures throughout the book, and it is therefore one that intelligence professionals should study.

Published by the Naval Institute Press, and including 24 pages of high-quality photographs, this is easily a five-star book, but one that does not quite do justice to the five-star admiral who uniquely blends military sagacity with strategic, innovative, diplomatic, cultural, and legal understanding. This book is a pre-quel -- it avoids a direct confrontation with the powers that be, and hints at the revolutionary so ably concealing his potential in a diplomatic guise.

Among books authored or co-authored by Admiral Stavridis are:
Destroyer Captain: Lessons of a First Command
Command at Sea, 6th Edition
Partnership for the Americas: Western Hemisphere Strategy and U.S. Southern Command

Comparable auto-biographies include:
Command of the Seas
Waging Modern War: Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Future of Combat
From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War

Books not listed in the annotated bibliography that I recommend:
The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project)
The Health of Nations: Society and Law beyond the State
Modern Strategy
Surrender to Kindness: One Man's Epic Journey for Love and Peace

Best wishes to all,
Robert David STEELE Vivas
The Open Source Everything Manifesto: Transparency, Truth, & Trust
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Master Leader and Commander 1 Oct. 2014
By Franics G. Hoffman - Published on
Format: Hardcover
An engaging book from a proven, creative and independent leader. Admiral Stavridis may have risen to the most senior position at NATO by a fluke; but his success is no accident, as he was the most intellectual naval officer of his generation. He earned his stars though persistent self-education, formal schooling to include a PhD from the Fletcher School (which he now heads), and by dint of professional success and development in a series of tough jobs including command at U.S. Southern Command and Supreme Allied Command, Europe. The Accidental Admiral is chockful of insights, a skipper now looking back at the wake of his career. In succinct chapters, he captures the various challenges he faced in the crucible of command. His unique perspective and ability to think long-term and strategically, and transcend various cultures and communities with empathy is evident in almost every chapter. The chapters on strategic planning, leadership, innovation, strategic communications could be required reading for any graduate school in international affairs or business administration. Enthusiastically recommended for students of U.S. security challenges, and those interested in the leadership development of the next generation of national security professionals.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Eye opening 5 Oct. 2014
By David A Dymarcik - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Just finished this and i recommend it to anyone who follows the news in any way shape or form. If you think you know NATO or what goes on behind the scenes, this will give you a fresh perspective on what it takes to accomplish serious "cat herding." I'm not a huge fan of a lot of decisions this current administration makes, but it took forward thinking to appoint an Admiral to a position that has been held by Generals since WWII. They got this decision right. This is forward thinking at its finest. Jim Stavridis' ideas on "innovation cels" and "narcoterrorism" will open your eyes to what it takes to lead in the 21st century.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A Must Read 8 Oct. 2014
By Bill Putnam - Published on
Format: Hardcover
In a typically self effacing choice of title, Admiral Stavridis would lull the reader into thinking his appointment as SACEUR was somehow inadvertent. Those of us who have had the honor to serve with him know this was no accident but rather the placement of a uniquely gifted officer to a position requiring the highest attributes of intellect, unbounded resolve, common sense and lifelong preparation. The reader is offered insight into the complexities of the most challenging and critically important position in the NATO command structure. His accomplishments will be enduring, both within the alliance, but equally important, in the observations and roadmap he provides through his writings. One need look no further than the covers of this remarkable work, to include its recommended reading list, to gain a firm understanding of the task ahead, grounded in the foundation offered to the reader by this extraordinary work. W.L. Putnam, RADM USN (Ret.)
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Essential Reading from the Finest Naval Officer of a Generation 3 Nov. 2014
By Michael N. Pocalyko - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Admiral James Stavridis is the finest naval officer of a generation and almost parenthetically a magnificently gifted writer. This memoir, his second, is an incredibly incisive book packed with meaning, history, and introspection. Published just after his retirement from active duty and taking the helm of The Fletcher School, THE ACCIDENTAL ADMIRAL is required reading for anyone seeking to understand the challenges and struggles of modern statecraft from a distinctly military vantage.

Stavridis employs a thematic rather than episodic structure, to highly effective advantage. His finest chapters are about Afghanistan and Libya, and he addresses frontally the US-NATO-Russia equation and enduring issues in the Balkans, Israel, and Syria—where he ventures boldly predictive and prescriptive. While probably not self-consciously intentional, the book’s style reflects Eisenhower’s CRUSADE IN EUROPE—quite fitting for a man who followed Ike by a few generations as Supreme Allied Commander, Europe.

What’s most interesting here is Stavridis’s voice, clearly bearing diplomatic tonalities. He shares a lot of level-headed detail about President Obama, Defense Secretaries Rumsfeld and Gates, and Generals Stan McChrystal, Dave Petraeus, and John Allen (his Annapolis classmate and 40-year friend). But he refrains from overtly criticizing any of them, drawing instead multi-dimensional character studies with thoughtful, graceful differences. Frank assessments—you have to think about what you’re reading and work for them—are contained within nuanced, measured language, which is also a pretty good summary of the book as a whole.

The chapter endings, including the chapters on leadership, communications, and planning, are remarkable in their outlines of strategy, where Stavridis becomes less of an author and more of a participating cultural historian of the post-9/11 age. He takes notable risks by defining himself variously (as I read him) as a pragmatist, unrepentant internationalist, collective action advocate, rational actor, and generally an involved interventionist. That perspective puts him in very good stead as the US military leader of NATO, but makes him something of a voice in the wilderness in the American political midlands of 2014. He certainly didn’t write this book with an eye on a career in partisan politics.

His admiral’s stars were anything but accidental. And while he’s correct about being an unusual choice for SHAPE/SACEUR, Stavridis demonstrates once again, with alacrity, extraordinary gifts of command and story. They combine to make THE ACCIDENTAL ADMIRAL essential reading.

Michael Pocalyko, author of THE NAVIGATOR (2013) from Macmillan/Forge, CEO of Monticello Capital, former Navy pilot and strategist.
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