The Savior Generals: How Five Commanders Saved Wars that Were Lost—from Ancient Greece to Iraq

Victor Davis Hanson. Bloomsbury, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-1-60819-163-5
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)
Reviewed on: 03/25/2013
Release date: 05/14/2013
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