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The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today Paperback – 13 Jan 2014

3.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin USA; Reprint edition (13 Jan. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143124099
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143124092
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 3.1 x 21.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 145,642 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

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."
"Kirkus"
"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

"

About the Author

Thomas E. Ricks is the author of "Fiasco" and "The Gamble," both "New York Times" bestsellers. As a journalist, he was a member of two Pulitzer Prize-winning teams. He lives in Washington, D.C.


Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By Dr Barry Clayton TOP 500 REVIEWER on 7 Dec. 2012
Format: Hardcover
As one would expect given Ricks's pedigree this is a clearly written and very interesting book. However, much of the book gives me concern for Ricks clearly has a bee in his bonnet,and a big bee at that. The author,with very few exceptions,does not like senior army officers. This is very apparent in every book he has written even his novel 'A Soldier's Duty'. In this book officers are court-martialed, a group of officers move from dissent to treason, and the vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs is a flashy and rather dubious character.
In this new and very contentious book Ricks argues that US post 1945 generalship has been very substandard for over 60 years. He castigates:MacArthur, Patton, Maxwell Taylor, Westmoreland, Colin Powell, Myers, Pace,the list is endless.Only Petraeus escapes criticism and now he has let the side down on the extra-marital front. In fact,the achievements of this officer in Iraq and Afghanistan have been somewhat exaggerated. The famous 'surge' has not been quite the success that Washington has claimed, and in any case many officers in addition to Petraeus (a very good PR man)were involved in the surge strategy.
If there was no First Amendment I suspect that a number of generals including Franks and Sanchez might be actively considering libel actions against Ricks, and I believe they would be justified. Given the list of incompetents it is amazing that America wasn't defeated in every war, save Vietnam.
It is very easy for armchair generals who have never heard a shot fired in anger to criticise the military. Of course, some are incompetent. I served under one or two as a colonel in the British army.
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Format: Paperback
This is not the kind of book I typically pick up -- firstly, because insofar as I am interested in the history of modern warfare, I'm much more interested in the small scale, more The Face of Battle. Secondly, I'm just averse to 500+ page works of non-fiction, they rarely can sustain my interest. That said, as a general reader, I found this book mostly fascinating and engaging, if a little long-winded and repetitive at times.

The basic argument -- and it's certainly a controversial one -- is that the ability of top commanders in the US Army has been on the decline ever since the conclusion of World War II. Ricks paints this as a problem of several origins -- first and foremost, the military's lack of accountability for top level officers. In World War I and World War II, ineffective combat commanders were often "relieved" (i.e. fired) from their positions and reassigned to other duties (or asked to retire). Hand in hand with that, they were constantly evaluated for their fitness to command, all of which was overseen by the book's clear lost-to-history hero, George Marshall (he of the Marshall Plan).

With Marshall's retirement and death, everything started to come undone. In Korea and Vietnam you had commanders who weren't tactically or politically savvy. You had personnel policies that created bands of misfits, and you had an Army that rewarded careerism rather than performance, and one where the tool of relief became less and less frequently employed, no matter how egregious the failure of leadership. It is one of these breakdowns that was the biggest surprise for me. I knew of the My Lai massacre, or thought I did. It turns out the scale of the murders was much larger than I had believed and that there were all manner of other atrocities committed.
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Format: Hardcover
I have serious problems with Ricks. He plays lose with facts, invent things, accepts myths and probably has an agenda. In this book he does a fine disservice to several generations of US Army officers creating an awful portrayal of what is the best professional bunch of generals as single category produced in military history. He relies on Lewis Sorley (an author that has been ripped to pieces by serious historians like Dale Andrade) for his portrayal of Westmoreland (one of the most underrated General in US history) and his piece on Korea is bordering science fiction. I am quite impressed by his description of the KPA as a peasant army devoid of artillery and tanks. Probably mr. Ricks does not know a lot on the KPA armored formations or its artillery, you can also argue that the US Army in 1950 was a farmer army... Anyway ricks has an agenda and he is not bothered by facts. Much better works on US Army professionals have been published elsewhere.

It is not a book I think will add to any military library, probably after this new Fiasco is better that mr Ricks returns to write pulp novels and leave history to professionals.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ricks writes the way he talks - insightful and to the point. Read it if the want a new view on adaptive management in the army or in business and the role of the "ceo" to achieve this.
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