Bevin Alexander – How Great Generals Win
Collected here are the stories of the most successful commanders of all time, among them Hannibal, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, Stonewall Jackson, Sherman, Rommel, Mao Zedong, who have demonstrated, at their own points in history, the strategic and tactical genius essential for victory. Ironically this virtue does not come naturally to military organizations, since more often than not the straight-ahead, narrow-thinking soldier will be promoted over his more lateral-minded, devious counterpart. Yet when the latter gets control, the results may be spectacular.
Alexander ( Korea: The First War We Lost ) reveals how some of the great military men of history applied common-sense principles of warfare that “nearly always will secure victory.” Relying on deception, these generals usually won their campaigns with a surprise attack on the enemy’s rear or flank. Leaving aside the killed-and-wounded advantage of such maneuvers, Alexander emphasizes the decisive psychological effect on enemy soldiers and their commanders. Generals whose deceptive, indirect, surprise tactics are considered here include Scipio Africanus (“The General Who Beat Hannibal”), Genghis Khan, Napoleon Bonaparte, Stonewall Jackson, William Tecumseh Sherman (“The General Who Won the Civil War”), Mao Zedong, Erwin Rommel and Douglas MacArthur. Alexander makes the interesting point that these principles are for the most part self-evident, yet most generals ignore them in favor of the direct frontal assault. He is surprisingly critical of the Confederacy’s icon, Robert E. Lee, for his tendency to resort to direct (and costly) methods such as Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg. He calls MacArthur “a military Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, capable of both brilliant strategic insight and desolating error.” This study is essential reading for students of military strategy and tactics.