HOW GREAT GENERALS WIN by Bevin Alexander

HOW GREAT GENERALS WIN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 An astute military historian's mildly contrarian appraisal of what separates the sheep from the wolves in the great game of war. Arguing that von Clausewitz's thoughts about the bloody solution of battle have been misread over the years, Alexander (Lost Victories, 1992, etc.) asserts that the principal purpose of armed conflict is to reduce the possibility of an enemy's resistance (a view the author shares with Sun Tzu). Alexander then ranges back and forth through time to identify and comment upon commanders who were able, in the words of Stonewall Jackson, to ``mystify, mislead, and surprise'' their foes. Among those who measure up are Scipio Africanus (who bested Hannibal); Napoleon (who, in 1797, conquered northern Italy through innovative techniques); Sherman (whose march to the sea broke the South's will during the Civil War); Subedai (whose Mongol hordes sacked Buda and Pest during the mid-13th century), and MacArthur (whose daring Inchon assault turned the tide of the Korean War). Covered as well are the bold WW I campaigns mounted by Allenby and Lawrence in the Middle East; Mao's defeat of the Kuomintang; and the nervy genius of three top generals whose misfortune it was to serve Nazi Germany--Guderian, Rommel, and von Manstein. A merciless critic of annihilative, brute-force engagements (of the sort he witnessed as a US Army officer in Korea), Alexander makes a persuasive case for great captains who achieve their strategic ends via maneuver, stealth, guile, or a willingness to defy conventional wisdom. The author's analysis suggests that the doctrines that guide professional soldiers (be they Roman legionnaires or Norman Schwarzkopfs) have remained notably constant for more than two millennia. Informed opinions on the martial arts that draw provocative distinctions between victors and winners. (Maps--not seen)

Pub Date: Aug. 9th, 1993
ISBN: 0-393-03531-X
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1993




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