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The Fourth Star: Four Generals and the Epic Struggle for the Future of the United States Army Hardcover – 13 Oct 2009

5 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 330 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group (NY) (13 Oct. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307409066
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307409065
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 2.8 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,703,139 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The book is certainly worthy of Five Stars ! Exceptional in all regards. The impact that these distinquished leaders have had on shaping the US Army is dramatic, and the book logically developes the story from the beginning of each of the Officers careers. As a career Army Officer, I can appreciate the hardships that they endured on their rise to the top. This was an excellent book that deserves special recognition as a classic study in leadership. Highly recommend to anyone who wonders how the Army has evolved.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9d6503fc) out of 5 stars 73 reviews
69 of 73 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d81666c) out of 5 stars A Superb Work 18 Oct. 2009
By Steven Metz - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Fourth Star" takes four of the key architects of the modern U.S. Army--generals Petraeus, Chiarrelli, Abizaid, and Casey, and traces their development from youth to the pinnacle of power, using them as a window into the revival of the Army from a dangerously flawed institution to an effective one. It provides great insight on both the character of these leaders (and the nature of ambition), and the Army they helped re-build. I include this with Bing West's "The Strongest Tribe" and Dexter Filkins' "The Forever War" as the best books on military and security issues I've read in recent years. As you would expect from talented journalists like Cloud and Jaffe, the writing is outstanding. But its analysis is spot on as well. I've worked for the Army for 22 years so have been at the periphery of the issues covered (and know many of the characters), and find it penetrating and accurate.
55 of 60 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9cfc3804) out of 5 stars Essential reading for understanding of the war in Iraq 19 Oct. 2009
By loyal customer Bill - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I wanted to give this book 4 stars because it is flawed, but I had to give it 5 stars because it is so important as a history of 4 key Army generals with emphasis on their impact on our 2nd war in Iraq. The flaws first. For some bizarre reason, the authors and/or publishers chose to omit both a table of contents and an introduction. Those, and a non-specific book jacket, fail to set a context for the book. The numbers on the end notes do not appear in the text. The subtitle "Four generals and the epic struggle for the future of the United States Army" is what the book points to, but never satisfactorily reaches. Rather, the book is a biography of 4 superb generals who, except for their uniform excellence and dedication, could hardly be more different. The book is not so much about their struggles in war, but is raw data for the struggle that will take place in DOD and Congress in future years. Thus, it is not entirely clear who was the intended audience for the book. The book is, in addition, not easy reading because it assumes a moderately high level of knowledge of military history with its battles, strategies, and tactics. Because there is little discussion of so much that is outside the experience of these 4 generals, reading it feels like learning about the war in Iraq looking through a large pinhole. Finally, I would have like to have seen some appendices with command wire diagrams by date, a few maps, and a chronology of the war to date.
All that said, this biography/history as seen by the backgrounds, actions and personalities of the 4 generals contains mandatory knowledge for any future students working on this period of American history. It explores and compares conventional big wars, lessons from Viet Nam, and insurgency vs. anti-terrorism. The authors are expert journalists with impeccable credentials. They had the luxury of a year working with perhaps Washington's most important new think tank, the Center for a New American Security, to produce their book. It is largely compiled from first hand interviews with the key players and secondary sources. While the authors clearly respect all 4 generals, they diplomatically reveal the profound impact of varying personality styles, backgrounds, and circumstances. I found myself liking two of the four generals much more than the others, but that is largely a side issue when so much is discussed. It is clear that all four had intense loyalty to their missions, but also that mild rebellion within context and creative innovation are critical to military success in an evolving world. While not strongly attacking the larger context of Eisenhower's predicted military-industrial complex, the authors made it clear that much of the innovation needed for the future of the United States Army will be resisted because it does not involve the purchase of massive amounts of hardware or allow for civilian contractors to pour billions into worthless, irresponsible projects. As I read, I found myself wondering about the old question: does history make the man, or the man make history? Would events have been different if Gen. Petraeus had been the chief at the beginning rather than the end of the war? And, will the military or our politicians ever take seriously the need for both troops and civilians in war zones to know foreign cultures and arrive with language skills?
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d840228) out of 5 stars Even The Losers 5 Dec. 2009
By Marc Korman - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Fourth Star is a great look at four Generals who have shaped the US Army during the first decade of the 21st century. Two of them have suffered a lot of bad press: George Casey and John Abizaid. The former was commander of US forces in Iraq as the country descended further into chaos and the latter was the commander of Central Command. The third, Peter Chiarelli, has flown largely under the radar of the mainstream press but appears to be well regarded in military circles. The fourth, David Petraeus, has been much heralded as a brilliant commander, strategist, power player, and potential president. Although the authors made good use of their access to Petraeus and told us a lot about his background, much of his story has been heavily featured in news articles and books like The Gamble.

Where this book breaks new ground, at least to me, is its focus on the other three. After reading about Casey and Abizaid, I had a much better understanding of what they were trying to achieve in Iraq and the problems they faced. I felt pity for them because based on this book, it appears they were a victim of events as much as their own failings. Casey is depicted as a well meaning man with a great tolerance for criticism, surprisingly surrounding himself with people who did not agree with his point of view. Abizaid is the type of commander I would have thought was well suited for the Middle East. He had expressed a strong interest in the region early in his career before the Persian Gulf War, studied there, and learned Arabic. What we see of these men goes largely unmentioned when discussing the surge, that many of the elements that allowed the surge to work began before the strategy was changed.

Chiarelli is a different case. He seems to have done well in Iraq but was unable to get his desired command, Petraeus'. As a result, while Casey is likely finishing his last job in the Army as Chief of Staff and Abizaid is retired, Chiarelli probably has a future on the Joint Chiefs.

The book offers excellent background on these four men. It also shows the Army at the crucial period following Vietnam and before the Persian Gulf War as these men were mid-career. Finally, it shows what happened in Iraq as it deteriorated and gives the perspective of the commanders who were there. Many other books on Iraq are dismissive of the commanders from 2003 to 2007 while lionizing Petraeus. While General Petraeus deserves praise, these other men deserve attention too.

There are some great tidbits in the book about how these generals felt about their civilian commanders, how they interacted with each other, and how staffing works in the Army. It offers all this in a very accessible, readable way.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d13abb8) out of 5 stars Must-read for military officers -- and those interested in the modern US Army 1 Jan. 2010
By A. Courie - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Greg Jaffe's and David Cloud's "The Fourth Star: Four Generals and the Epic Struggle for the Future of the United States Army" tells the parallel stories of four of America's top generals and how their leadership was shaped by their unique backgrounds. The four generals are: General Abizaid, former head of Central Command; General Casey, former commander of all forces in Iraq and current Chief of Staff of the Army; General Chiarelli, former commander of both a division and a corps in Iraq and current Vice Chief of Staff of the Army; and General David Petraeus, former commander of all forces in Iraq and current Central Command commander.

Using personal access to the generals and many others in the Army, Jaffe and Cloud tell the personal stories of these four officers and how their backgrounds influenced the generals they became. Abizaid took a non-traditional approach to his career, focusing in Middle Eastern studies, and was uniquely educated and prepared to work in the Arab world. Casey was the son of a general killed in Vietnam with no aspirations to stay in the Army, and his conservative and shepherding approach to leadership resulted in a conservative leader who presided over the deterioration in Iraq. Petraeus was the brilliant, driven leader who became a disciple of counterinsurgency warfare in the 1990s. And Chiarelli was the thorough leader who saw firsthand as a division commander early on in Iraq what was needed and worked hard within the system to do this.

As they rose through the ranks these leaders' careers often intersected, and finally all have played important, and differing, roles in the Iraq War and the shaping of the current US Army.

(One episode in the book, if true, really disturbed me. After the successful Iraqi elections in January 2005, according to the book Casey and his aide toasted the day with some grappa. Soldiers in Iraq are not allowed to drink, but their commander did.)

This is a very enlightening book about four of the top leaders of the modern US Army. More importantly, it tells the story of their ideas on how to lead and fight a modern war. It is not a comprehensive story but instead based more on anecdotal stories. Despite the overstated title (this book doesn't tell the story of an "epic struggle"), this is an excellent book that should be read by anyone interested in current military affairs.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d14aa38) out of 5 stars Interesting and a fast read 21 Dec. 2009
By Jack Lechelt - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great book. Not too long. Perhaps a bit more could have been said on the pre-Iraq war lives of these great men. Still, a great overview of four important Army generals of the past decade: Petraeus, Casey, Abizaid, and Chiarelli. Most know about Petraeus as a hero, and Casey and Abizaid are not so highly regarded after the difficulties during their times in Iraq. However, Jaffe and Cloud make great cases for the decency, intelligence, and competence of the non-Petraeus generals. And Petraeus is indeed one of the most impressive people one can now read about (along with General McChrystal). Amazingly intelligent, hard-working, and confident. I think ONLY someone like him and McChrystal are capable of allowing the US to leave Iraq and Afghanistan in some form of acceptability. Even then, though, "capable" may not be good enough. So my main concern with Petraeus is that I wonder if it's in his DNA to recognize when something is beyond his control. Jaffe and Cloud note that Petraeus made a mistake or two in Iraq (and he seemed to catch on to that). That's the worst thing I think I could imagine about him, and that's me struggling to offer up a potential problem. The Chiarelli story is also interesting because I think he's the least well known among the four of them, yet he went a long way in pointing out early errors and he offered important ideas that eventually became a part of improving conditions in Iraq. Overall this is an impressive four person biography that tells the larger story of how a huge government bureaucracy (the US Army) made some quick changes in the midst of challenging times to better address horrendous conditions. The four generals discussed in The Fourth Star made a lot of that happen.
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