Why do military commanders, most of them usually quite capable, fail at crucial moments of their careers? Robert Pois and Philip Langer, one a historian, the other an educational psychologist, study seven cases of military command failures, from Frederick the Great at Kunersdorf to Hitler’s invasion of Russia. While the authors recognize the value of psychological theorizing, they do not believe that one method can cover all the individuals, battles, or campaigns under examination. Instead, they judiciously take a number of psycho-historical approaches in hope of shedding light on the behaviors of commanders during war.
The other battles and commanders studied here are Napoleon in Russia, George B. McClellan’s Peninsular Campaign, Robert E. Lee and Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, John Bell Hood at the Battle of Franklin, Douglas Haig and the British command during World War I, "Bomber" Harris and the Strategic Bombing of Germany, and Stalingrad.
The book is published by Indiana University Press.
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Challenging, but worthwhile experience
This book is not leisurely one, and definitely requires a certain level of mastery on the subject of history of war, and some degree of psychology knowledge to fully grasp. Thos text is a bridge betwixt military history and psychology. The text is very likely to challenge your views on certain military figures and this will likely to you grow more apprehensive about what you are hearing. It was so for me. As I continued on with the book, my tension eased, and perhaps somewhat grudgingly, I began to appreciate the viewpoint presented. Book provides food for thought, and an opportunity to look at events in new, unfamiliar ways. Bear with it, overall, authors are refreshingly modest in the self-perceived power of their analysis, as diligent scholars ought to be. I would go as far as to say as this may be a good candidate for a mandatory reading for candidates to officer’s school (assuming they had sufficient prerequisites to be able to grasp the substance). All in all, not a book for everyone. But those who have the necessary foundation, will find the book refreshingly challenging, and a fuel for conversation among your peers. On the technical side, book has some relatively minor issues with narration. At later parts, narrator repeats lines several times on a few occasions - this was a bit disorienting, at times. Also, his pronunciation of foreign names (among the languages I have knowledge of)is, at times, comically atrocious.
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