- Hardcover: 456 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (May 30, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199860939
- ISBN-13: 978-0199860937
- Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.5 x 6.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,296,647 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Elusive Victories: The American Presidency at War 1st Edition
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"In this provocative and incisive study of six presidents as wartime commanders in chief, Andrew Polsky demonstrates that it is much easier to start a war than to bring it to a successful conclusion." --James M. McPherson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom
"Polsky's cautionary tale is as timely as it is important. Students of presidential politics (not to mention would-be presidents) take note: those presuming to master war all too frequently become war's prisoner." --Andrew J. Bacevich, author of Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War
"[Elusive Victories] should be required reading in the Oval Office, among many other similar, though perhaps less culpable, places." --Open Letters Monthly
"The book is a sobering counterpoint to heroic narratives celebrating martial presidencies and to the scholarly emphasis on how presidential power has expanded with war." -- Washington Post Book Review
"The logic of victory provides Polsky with a template to analyze the wartime leadership of seven wartime presidents. It also provides the structure of his six chapters and has allowed him to write absolute gems of grand strategic analysis...Taken as a whole, it is a very impressive grand strategic analysis of six American wars, well worth reading and studying." --Perspectives on Politics
About the Author
Andrew J. Polsky is Professor of Political Science at Hunter College and the CUNY Graduate Center. A former editor of the journal Polity, he is the author of The Rise of the Therapeutic State.
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Top Customer Reviews
The book's critical analysis of Lincoln, Wilson, FDR, Johnson, Nixon, George W. Bush and a brief concluding chapter on Obama make it one of the most comprehensive works available on the subject today. Those who are interested in presidential wars from an academic perspective will find its insights into political dynamics both enlightenining and surprising; non-specialists will appreciate its readability and jargon-free prose. Highly recommended for anyone interested in this timely topic.
Specifically, the book looks at seven different presidents in six conflicts: Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, Woodrow Wilson and World War I, Franklin Roosevelt and World War II, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon and the Vietnam War, George W. Bush and the Iraq War, and Barack Obama and the War in Afghanistan. Each scenario is looked at to determine the president's overall goals in the war and the results and how those results came about.
The author notes that being commander-in-chief is an awesome responsibility and no president completely avoided mistakes. In addition to the successful conduct of a war, a president also must pay attention to political concerns. He notes that presidents have a short time when they have a large amount of options to choose from during a war, but as time goes on the options become more severely limited. For example, Lyndon Johnson ultimately chose a moderate path in Vietnam. It was not a full-scale war in the traditional sense and he avoided this, but he also refused to scale back operations because it would look too much like admitting defeat.
Despite small criticisms he offers, he notes that both Lincoln and Roosevelt were excellent wartime leaders. By contrast, the Vietnam War proved difficult and George W. Bush is noted for inadequate planning and poor decision making in Iraq.
Overall, I found this book to be an interesting analysis of wartime presidential leadership. I would recommend this book to those interested in presidential history.
The ends-means logic of victory provides Polsky with a template to analyze the wartime leadership of six presidents: Wilson, Roosevelt, Johnson, Bush I and II, and Obama. It also provides the structure of his six chapters, once he introduces his initial list of "The Recurring Challenges of Wartime Presidential Leadership" (23-5). As each challenge in his list arises, Polsky is able to identify the goal each president articulated to meet the challenge. Then, as his second step, he is able to trace out whether or not the president surmounted the challenges to accomplishing the goals identified. This template has allowed Polsky to write six absolute gems of grand strategic analysis. I cannot say enough about the quality, the judiciousness, and the generosity of the insights Polsky produces by employing this template.