Leading military historian Victor Davis Hanson returns to non-fiction in "The Savior Generals," a set of brilliantly executed pocket biographies of five generals who single-handedly saved their nations from defeat in war. War is rarely a predictable enterprise--it is a mess of luck, chance, and incalculable variables.Read more...
Leading military historian Victor Davis Hanson returns to non-fiction in "The Savior Generals," a set of brilliantly executed pocket biographies of five generals who single-handedly saved their nations from defeat in war. War is rarely a predictable enterprise--it is a mess of luck, chance, and incalculable variables. Today's sure winner can easily become tomorrow's doomed loser. Sudden, sharp changes in fortune can reverse the course of war.
These intractable circumstances are sometimes mastered by leaders of genius--asked at the eleventh hour to save a hopeless conflict, created by others, often unpopular with politics and the public. These savior generals often come from outside the established power structure, employ radical strategies, and flame out quickly. Their careers often end in controversy. But their dramatic feats of leadership are vital slices of history--not merely as stirring military narrative, but as lessons on the dynamic nature of consensus, leadership, and destiny.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-03-25
- Reviewer: Staff
Hanson (Makers of Ancient Strategy) begins with a deceptively simple question: “How are wars won or lost?” He cites familiar answers—technology, numbers, contingency—but he asserts that in desperate situations, human leadership still matters. To make his case, Hanson profiles five “savior generals” drawn from 2,500 years of conflict. Themistocles’s leadership was “multifaceted,” his career checkered; but his foresight preserved Greek freedom and its concepts of democracy, rationalism, and individual rights. Belisarius served a Byzantium on the edge of collapse, and established a strategic blueprint that for nearly a millennium held Western advances at bay. Sherman’s 1864 campaign was a masterpiece of “planning and organization” in service of a war whose success ensured Lincoln’s reelection and preserved the Union. Matthew Ridgway took over an unstable army and in 100 days saved South Korea and left an “indelible impression” on China regarding the risks of military confrontation with the U.S. Finally, David Petraeus designed and masterminded a “surge” that “saved a war deemed lost by almost everyone around him.” Hanson accurately describes these men as a “rare breed” of “mavericks and loners.” From Athens to Iraq, they seized their moments and reshaped history. Agent: Glen Hartley and Lynn Chu, Writers Representatives, LLC. (May)