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67 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Superb Work
"The Fourth Star" takes four of the key architects of the modern U.S. Army--generals Petraeus, Chiarrelli, Abizaid, and Casey, and traces their development from youth to the pinnacle of power, using them as a window into the revival of the Army from a dangerously flawed institution to an effective one. It provides great insight on both the character of these leaders (and...
Published on October 18, 2009 by Steven Metz

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17 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What about the men behind the stars?
I may not one to judge but I found the book a bit to "article like" and although the information was a bit flat in the details about the men behind the stars.
I personally know and have served with General Peter W. Chiarelli who was our Battalion S3 as a major during the Canadian Army Trophy in 1987. I was in the winning 1st Platoon and was with the Company the...
Published on August 1, 2010 by US Army Veteran


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From Vietnam to Iraq, and beyond, April 12, 2011
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This review is from: The Fourth Star: Four Generals and the Epic Struggle for the Future of the United States Army (Paperback)
The Fourth Star follows the careers of four Army officers who got started in the Army during the Vietnam era and were deeply involved in the war in Iraq towards the ends of their respective careers.

Some of the names are more familiar than others; aside from military professionals, most readers will probably not know them all (I didn't). The list: John Abizaid, George Casey, Pete Chiarelli, and David Petraeus.

All four were exceptionally talented, and none of them hesitated to buck the system. But they had vastly differing temperaments, interests, and personal styles, and the personal portraits are a treat. Casey the realist, deep thinker Abizaid, late bloomer Chiarelli, and the indomitable Petraeus.

I cannot think of a better book about what went wrong in Iraq. Not simply should we have gotten into the war or not, anyone can have an opinion about that, but how the situation turned nightmarishly bad and why subsequent efforts to things back under control so nearly ended in a debacle.

Casey and Chiarelli were in command during the worst days, and the situation kept deteriorating. Centcom Commnander Abizaid (until his retirement in May 2007) supported their efforts, but he was not able to provide the key to victory. This was not a story of incompetence, lack of effort, or reluctance to try new ideas - the key players simply could not seem to find the winning combination.

Then Petraeus returned to Iraq for his third tour of duty, taking over for Casey (who returned to Washington as the Army chief of staff), and with the help of renewed political support (one last throw of the dice) was able to bring the situation under control. Give Petraeus credit, it was a remarkable performance, but maybe he was just a bit lucky because his predecessors were no slouches either.

Do not expect the usual rant about the need to reorganize the U.S. Army from top to bottom in preparation for the counterinsurgencies that will represent its main role in the future. First, the solution in Iraq required notable adjustments to traditional principles of counterinsurgency tactics - which might not work as well under different circumstances. Second, it is foolhardy to believe that we know what all the wars of the future will be like, and they may not all be guerilla wars.

When Casey returned to the Pentagon, he took with him (p. 286) the idea that a "middle point" was needed "somewhere between counterinsurgency and conventional combat that would allow the military to react in whichever direction it had to in the future." This strikes me as sound thinking.

The one clear lesson is the need for a pool of talent in the Army - like the four commanders featured in this book - that is respectful of tradition (the lessons of the past) and the "can do" spirit, but is also willing and indeed eager to try out new and creative ideas. Let's hope the leaders of the future will measure up.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read, February 9, 2010
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This book was straightforward and very insightful. I highly recommend that everyone read it to understand how the current leaders of the U.S. Army came to be and what we can expect from the next generation of U.S. Army leaders.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent modern history of the U.S. Army, August 23, 2010
This book is a biography of the Iraq war's leading Generals. But more than that, in following these men's careers the book gives a very readable overview of the modern U.S. Army from the post Vietnam "hollow" Army, through the Cold War build up and the following force cuts and the Gulf War through the 90s and finally the war in Iraq. This overview gives a good perspective and background to the constraints and strengths of the Army as it faced the crucible of Iraq, and raises important questions about the future of the force. The men and women of the U.S. Army have proven that they can learn on the fly and change, that they can be a nimble, quick-thinking, situationally aware force.

It remains to be seen if the senior most Generals and policy-makers will ensure that the lessons learned stick with the force as an institution by guaranteeing real and permanent structural changes to reflect the cultural changes that have already happened, or if the hard-won wisdom of today's junior and mid-level officers and NCOs is forgotten in favor of political considerations. It is also not yet clear what the impact of nearly a decade of hard combat will be. Some have warned of the Army reaching a "breaking point" after two many individuals doing repeated combat tours.

I served two tours in Iraq, but as an enlisted soldier, my view of the war was necessarily very narrow. I enjoyed the book, as it gave me an idea of the wider picture of what was going on in Iraq.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Fourth Star, November 19, 2009
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Five stars for The Fourth Star. Very well written, this book illustrates what these patriots go through to reach the top. I really enjoyed this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Worthy of Five Stars, February 23, 2011
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Bruce Miller "hyper2u" (Louisville, Kentucky and San Diego, California) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Fourth Star: Four Generals and the Epic Struggle for the Future of the United States Army (Paperback)
The book is certainly worthy of Five Stars ! Exceptional in all regards. The impact that these distinquished leaders have had on shaping the US Army is dramatic, and the book logically developes the story from the beginning of each of the Officers careers. As a career Army Officer, I can appreciate the hardships that they endured on their rise to the top. This was an excellent book that deserves special recognition as a classic study in leadership. Highly recommend to anyone who wonders how the Army has evolved.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I like their leadership style, September 22, 2014
I read this book three years ago and details are now mostly patches of cloud in the sky, however, was mostly impressed by Abizaid and Chiarrelli. I like their leadership style. To me, Abizaid it the most intelligent and forward looking of the four. I would have like to see Westley Clark included with these Four Stars. Abizaid reminds me lone Westener voice on the middle east after the Great War (World War I). To me, this is a 4-1/2 stars but I opted to give it a 5-stars.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, July 5, 2014
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A worthwhile read for those interested in the middle east and military strategy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A well-written overview contrasting four great leaders each with unique styles, May 27, 2014
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Jaffe adroitly highlights key accomplishments by these four notable Army generals, emphasizing that each possessed unique talents and capabilities making them well-suited for the challenges they each faced.

I recommend this book to those desiring to better understand the decisions that shaped the Army of today. I also recommend it as a reminder that there is not a single path to success, but rather that leaders (as opposed to managers) recognize challenges and arm themselves with the tools (literal and figurative) needed to tackle the toughest problems.
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4.0 out of 5 stars 4 Star Generals - 4.5 Star book!, May 26, 2014
This review is from: The Fourth Star: Four Generals and the Epic Struggle for the Future of the United States Army (Paperback)
While not getting nearly enough attention as the other popular works on the Post 9/11 military , this book needs to be on the shelf next to the more commercially popular "All In", "The Insurgents" and "End Game." The authors take four generals, Chiarelli, Petraus, Abazaid and George Casey Jr. and provides background about how each of these future leaders made their way in an army that was left devestated after the Vietnam War. The book does a great job of detailing their personal and academic journies that influenced their strategic way of thinking. After 9/11 when the United States finds itself in very different wars than what had been planned, these four men work to change the way military responds to the insurgency in Iraq that threatened to once again plunge the United States in an unwinnable guerillla war. A very good for anyone interested in the Iraq War and how the military is poised to defend itself against future conflicts.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Inside look at the careers of four four star Army generals in key positions during the Iraq war., April 30, 2014
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Greg Jaffe presents a comprehensive look at the American Army officer career system, through the lives of four distinguished generals who led the Army's efforts in Iraq. By presenting an overview of each of the four general's entire careers, he assists the reader in understanding the complexity of the decision making in a prolonged engagement and appreciate the difficulty of the Army transforming itself from a large land warfare force to a nation building force. The disagreements in tactics are presented as well.
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The Fourth Star: Four Generals and the Epic Struggle for the Future of the United States Army
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