Two Good Books on Strategy

  • I find books on strategy and tactics from other fields help one think about strategy and tactics of basketball.

    These are two military histories-one about Civil War generalship, and one about generalship from WWII to present. One completely rearranges your thinking about Robert E. Lee. Another rearranges your thinking about many generals of the post WWII Era. Both do so within the framework of assessing the great troubles generals have identifying effective strategy and tactics. Not much pussy footing around in these histories. About the only knock against them is that they both to some extent make the great mistake of most military histories not written by career military men–they largely overlook, or understate, the logistics that underpinned both the bungling and the astute strategies and tactics examined.

    “How the South Could Have Won the Civil War: The Fatal Errors that Led to Confederate Defeat,” by Bevin Alexander, Crown Publishers, 2007. Military historian Alexander fills 337 pages with endless examples of Robert E. Lee’s screw ups that, had they been avoided, would likely have lead to Confederate victory. Note his focus on Stonewall Jackson’s evolution of winning tactics against new rifles and artillery that Lee could not embrace under pressure, where as Northern General Sherman could. Inference: watch out for the little guys, if they ever put a good general in charge, like, say, Stonewall Jackson,or George Washington, they can win wars, not just win battles.

    “The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today,” Thomas E. Ricks, The Penguin Press, 2012. 556 pages of screw ups, where in America moves from an Army that wins wars with politically/strategically astute generals that can be fired to an Army that bungles wars with tactically excellent, but politically/strategically disconnected generals that are never fired. Sobering if true and not just another neocon attempt to cover the trail of their own complicity and so shift blame off them and onto generals in the allegedly bungled regime change wars.

  • In my books, being an American General would be the toughest job in the world.

    Having to carry out orders that are partially (or entirely) political from Washington has to be difficult, especially since they actually know what they are throwing their men into.

    Any clown in America can be elected President. And the President is “Commander in Chief.”

    I don’t want this thread to turn political… It’s not about Obama or Bush, Dems or Reps… just the principle structure of power. The fact is that any clown can end up in power over the strongest military power in the world.

    I think I’d rather be a Head Coach for a college basketball team… at any school!

  • @drgnslayr The ricks book is very much worth your reading. The conflicting points of view on generalship among generals themselves is not often discussed so extensively in a book. I would like to hear what you think of it.

  • Okay… great! I’ll try to run down a copy of the Ricks’ book and let you know.

    I’m just starting…

    “The Savior Generals: From Ancient Greece to Iraq”

    It may be a simplified book on Generals and leadership, and more on overall strategy. The author is an American military historian, Victor Davis Hanson. He has a background in classics… with a big time interest in agrarian struggles and the outcomes from land ownership by the common man in classical times. I’m curious what a guy with his background thinks of more recent conflicts and the leadership involved. His writings are all over the place, from Mexico to Greece to Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Can the conflicts of man, from all parts of the world through all periods of time be collected, compared and judged through the same mind, bring forward knowledge from it? I don’t know… guess I’ll check him out and see.

  • @drgnslayr , The art of all disciplines is timeless. Craft and technique, however, evolve and make comparisons problematic, but still sometimes informative. Mahan did a decent job of this for naval strategy and tactics , even though his book was reputedly developed largely as a rationalization for building a two ocean navy for the Harrimans, Morgans, Rockefellers, and Rothschilds. 🙂

    IMHO these sorts of encyclopedic inquiries, if highly promoted, rarely emerge unless there is a big change coming that needs rationalizing. But maybe digital searching enables such unpromoted inquiries today even if not. Sounds like a good read. I will add it to my list, too.

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