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Winner of the Samuel P. Huntington Prize for best book published in 2002 in the field of national security studies.
The orthodoxy regarding the relationship between politicians and military leaders in wartime democracies contends that politicians should declare a military operation's objectives and then step aside and leave the business of war to the military. In this timely and controversial examination of civilian-military relations in wartime democracies, Eliot A. Cohen chips away at this time-honored belief with case studies of statesmen who dared to prod, provoke, and even defy their military officers to great effect.
Using the leadership of Abraham Lincoln, Georges Clemenceau, Winston Churchill, and David Ben-Gurion to build his argument, Cohen offers compelling proof that, as Clemenceau put it, “War is too important to leave to the generals.” By examining the shared leadership traits of four politicians who triumphed in extraordinarily varied military campaigns, Cohen argues that active statesmen make the best wartime leaders, pushing their military subordinates to succeed where they might have failed if left to their own devices. Thought provoking and soundly argued, Cohen's Supreme Command is essential reading not only for military and political players but also for informed citizens and anyone interested in leadership.
“An excellent, vividly written argument [that] could not have come at a better time. —The Washington Post
“Brilliant. . . . Cohen argues convincingly that all great wartime leaders—Lincoln, Clemenceau, Churchill, Ben Gurion—never left the military to make its own policy, but constantly prodded, challenged, and gave it direction.” —National Review
“A brilliant account of Lincoln, Churchill, Clemenceau and Ben Gurion—how each man handled the military leaders who served him.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Fascinating.…Mr. Cohen's point is ultimately not a sentimental but a substantive one.…His elucidation of his theory is organized tightly and rendered crisply.”— The New York Times
“Superb . . . Cohen is persuasive in his argument.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 The Soldier and the Statesman
Chapter 2 Lincoln Sends a Letter
Chapter 3 Clemenceau Pays a Visit
Chapter 4 Churchill Asks a Question
Chapter 5 Ben-Gurion Holds a Seminar
Chapter 6 Leadership without Genius
Chapter 7 The Unequal Dialogue
Afterword Rumsfeld’s War
Appendix The Theory of Civlian Control