Thursday, May 23, 2013

What I'm Reading - The Generals

My currently highlighted book, The Generals, is indexed at Open Library. This is the description that I wrote for it.

     Author Thomas E. Ricks is a Fellow at the Center for a New American Security.
      The Generals is a collection of biographical sketches of general-grade officers stretching from World War II to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His assessment of the general’s performance is centered on how well the men have led their forces, and whether they won or lost battles. Ricks’ theme is the development over time of the Army’s attitude towards and approach to generalship. While the cowboy or maverick personality is praised in popular entertainment, the Army prefers leaders who are team players. The problem is that the ‘team player’ mentality can and does encourage cautious and career-protecting behavior, and a reluctance to remove generals who objectively are not successful. This, Ricks argues, has a strong negative effect on a general’s ability to accomplish the main objective which is to win battles. 

     Ricks advocates a return to the Marshall-era practice of relief; removing officers from command when they can’t get the job done. He cites the neglect of this practice as responsible for the overall poor performance of the Army leadership from the Vietnam era to the present day. 

     I'm enjoying this book a lot; it's an easy read even though I'm not all that familiar with the locations and battles being discussed.  I realized some time ago that although I've lived through the Iraq War period, I really didn't know much at all about what happened over there and why. This book came to my attention as one insight into the recent/current war and shows how things got the way they are. I've said in many places that "if you do not understand the past, you cannot understand the present". This book helps me to understand the current situation in the US Army. Time will tell if his suggestions are heeded and how it may help.

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