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When George Marshall headed the U.S. Army in WWII, generals were frequently fired. They haven't much been since, writes Ricks, a phenomenon he connects to the strategically unsatisfactory conclusions to subsequent wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Ricks was a military-affairs journalist, and his criticism of the Iraq invasion (Fiasco, 2006) echoes in this survey of the army's top echelons since WWII. He diagnoses the top brass' problem as being good at organizing combat operations but terrible at converting tactical victories into war-winning success. He points to several causes of the situation. One has been the slowness of generals trained in set-piece battles to adapt to insurgency warfare. Another has been, Ricks argues, the sidelining of nonconformist officers, outliers in personal habits or in their unorthodox positions in the army's internal debates about strategic doctrine. Individual cases, such as those of Maxwell Taylor and William Westmoreland, stoke his negative appraisal of the army's leadership, which he unifies by urging as a remedy a revival of Marshall's methods of promoting and dismissing generals. Ricks' prominence plus the publisher's promotion should equal a high-profile title.--Taylor, Gilbert Copyright 2010 Booklist


Publishers Weekly
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Generations of inept, thoughtless, and unaccountable generals have authored disaster, according to this savvy study of leadership in the U. S. Army. Veteran defense journalist and bestselling author Ricks (Fiasco) contrasts the army of WWII, in which unsuccessful generals were often relieved of command, with later eras, in which officers were untouchable despite epic failures (few generals were relieved during the Iraq War, he notes). Nowadays, Ricks contends, citing an officer in Iraq, a private who loses his rifle, is punished more than a general who lost his part of a war." 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's preoccupation is America's difficulty coping with guerilla wars from Vietnam to Iraq, and the flip side of his critique of bad leadership is a belief that good officers with innovative, politically adroit counter-insurgency tactics might have won those conflicts. His faith in the ability of great generalship to redeem any misadventure can sometimes seem naive. Still, Ricks presents an incisive, hard-hitting corrective to unthinking veneration of American military prowess. Agent: Andrew Wylie. (Oct. 30) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.