Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen and Leadership in Wartime
Simon and Schuster, 2012 M04 17 - 304 pages
The relationship between military leaders and political leaders has always been a complicated one, especially in times of war. When the chips are down, who should run the show -- the politicians or the generals? In Supreme Command, Eliot Cohen examines four great democratic war statesmen -- Abraham Lincoln, Georges Clemenceau, Winston Churchill, and David Ben-Gurion -- to reveal the surprising answer: the politicians. Great states-men do not turn their wars over to their generals, and then stay out of their way. Great statesmen make better generals of their generals. They question and drive their military men, and at key times they overrule their advice. The generals may think they know how to win, but the statesmen are the ones who see the big picture.
Lincoln, Clemenceau, Churchill, and Ben-Gurion led four very different kinds of democracy, under the most difficult circumstances imaginable. They came from four very different backgrounds -- backwoods lawyer, dueling French doctor, rogue aristocrat, and impoverished Jewish socialist.Yet they faced similar challenges, not least the possibility that their conduct of the war could bring about their fall from power. Each exhibited mastery of detail and fascination with technology. All four were great learners, who studied war as if it were their own profession, and in many ways mastered it as well as did their generals. All found themselves locked in conflict with military men. All four triumphed.
Military men often dismiss politicians as meddlers, doves, or naifs. Yet military men make mistakes. The art of a great leader is to push his subordinates to achieve great things. The lessons of the book apply not just to President Bush and other world leaders in the war on terrorism, but to anyone who faces extreme adversity at the head of a free organization -- including leaders and managers throughout the corporate world.
The lessons of Supreme Command will be immediately apparent to all managers and leaders, as well as students of history.
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On 29 November 1863 James Longstreet, the Confederate commander with
perhaps the greatest respect for the power of the rifle in the defense, nonetheless
launched an assault against a small but obstacle-strewn Union position (
In advance of that battle the Confederacy attempted over several weeks to move
two Confederate divisions under James Longstreet to Chattanooga, a journey of
a thousand miles over ten different railroads. Only half his men arrived in time to ...
To achieve ultimate victory Union armies would have to crush their Confederate
counterparts. "The strength of the rebellion is its military — its army," Lincoln
wrote — and not, he implied, its capital, its territory, or even its population.40
The second and third elements of Lincoln's strategy — the preservation of Union
control of the border states and the isolation of the Confederacy abroad —
succeeded, albeit with great difficulty. His hope of clinging to the border states
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Review: Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in WartimeUser Review - Brendan Mcbreen - Goodreads
A tremendously rich and balanced discussion on the benefits of civilian leadership over military forces. Cohen's Supreme Command should be read by both national leaders and military leaders. Read full review
SUPREME COMMAND: Soldiers, Statesmen and Leadership in WartimeUser Review - Kirkus
Strategy analyst Cohen challenges the view that wars are best fought by military technicians without civilian interference.Those who maintain that Vietnam would have been an American victory if only ... Read full review