Fighting Men

Eliot Cohen's look at the greatest democratic statesman of recent centuries affirms Clemenceau's quip that war is too important to be left to the generals--even American generals.

Issue: Fall 2002

Eliot A. Cohen, Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002), 288 pp., $25.

"THE DIFFICULTIES writers have in putting themselves in the place of a wartime political leader who bears manifold responsibilities and carries stresses that they have never borne", writes Eliot Cohen in Supreme Command,

is the greatest obstacle to sound historical judgment on wartime statesmanship. Indeed, even the immediate subordinates of the man at the top only dimly understand, much less share, the acute pressures or the perspectives of a prime minister or a president.

Despite this important disclaimer, no one is better qualified than Cohen to write about political leadership in wartime. He has military experience and has taught at a service academy; he has read and written extensively about war; he is a member of the Defense Policy Board, advising the Secretary of Defense; and he headed the team of scholars that produced the influential five-volume Gulf War Air Power Survey (1993). This distinguished career helps to explain the outstanding quality of this, his latest book.

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