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The Fourth Star: Four Generals and the Epic Struggle for the Future of the United States Army Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 13, 2009
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"Cloud and Jaffe are gifted writers, who use their access to these senior commanders to good effect. They provide a lively, personalized account of the successes and setbacks of the four highly able and ambitious servicemen as they climb the military career ladder.
Cloud and Jaffe have produced a worthwhile and fascinating account packed with many insights about officership, promotion and command in the army and civil-military relations."--The Washington Post Book World
"A sparkling account of today's U.S. Army–a work of art that offers novelistic details but also carries the impact of well-reported fact. I learned something on nearly every page, and much of it astonished me. This is the best book I've read on the military in a long time."
—Thomas E. Ricks, New York Times bestselling author of Fiasco and The Gamble
"Important and illuminating . . . sheds light on the epic struggle now being waged within the U.S. military over whether to heed the hard lessons of the past eight years or bury them in the same forgetfulness that marked our post-Vietnam years."
—Linda Robinson, New York Times bestselling author of Tell Me How This Ends and Masters of Chaos
"Compelling . . . Cloud and Jaffe provide us with an insider' s view of the war, drawn from remarkable access to the men who designed the battlefield strategy. . . . The Fourth Star is an eye-opening portrait of today's Army and the four men who have done more than any of their generation to shape it."
—Rajiv Chandrasekaran, author of the National Book Award finalist Imperial Life in the Emerald City
"If you care about winning tomorrow's wars, then read this book. . . . Jaffe and Cloud draw intimate portraits of four members of the Army's high priesthood, and the implication is clear: The future of the Army is up for grabs."
—Nathaniel Fick, author of the New York Times bestseller One Bullet Away
"A fascinating, intimate look at the men who are leading our wars and trying to change America's largest institution, the U.S. Army. A must-read for students of history, leadership, and engrossing prose."
—Dana Priest, Pulitzer Prize—winning author of The Mission
"This book will provoke envy, if not plain awe. The fact is, the Army gets it: The best do rise to the top, and the chosen few are not all the same. Too bad Wall Street didn't follow the four in this book."
—Bing West, author of No True Glory and The Strongest Tribe
About the Author
DAVID CLOUD was the Pentagon correspondent for the New York Times from 2005 to 2007. He previously worked at the Wall Street Journal, where he covered national security and intelligence issues.
GREG JAFFE is the Pentagon correspondent at the Washington Post and previously held the same position at the Wall Street Journal. In 1999, he was part of a team of reporters that won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting.
Top customer reviews
I found a number of interesting things in the book. Commanders in the modern military fought wars with PowerPoint sides (like the rest of us on the main street do, much to the detriment of good communication). You need a good "PR strategy" to remain visible, and move up the ranks in the military. For 2 of the 4 generals in the book, Iraq was their first time in the front lines. Going into Iraq, US military did not understand counter-insurgency even after all the debacles of Vietnam.
There is a quote in the book from "Bureaucracy Does Its Thing", by Robert Komer which best describes both Iraq and Vietnam ... "The sheer incapacity of the regimes we backed, which largely frittered away the enormous resources we gave them, may well have been the single greatest constraint on our ability to achieve the aims we set ourselves at acceptable cost". The army was caught in the middle ... between the goals to fight a war and build a nation.
Where this book breaks new ground, at least to me, is its focus on the other three. After reading about Casey and Abizaid, I had a much better understanding of what they were trying to achieve in Iraq and the problems they faced. I felt pity for them because based on this book, it appears they were a victim of events as much as their own failings. Casey is depicted as a well meaning man with a great tolerance for criticism, surprisingly surrounding himself with people who did not agree with his point of view. Abizaid is the type of commander I would have thought was well suited for the Middle East. He had expressed a strong interest in the region early in his career before the Persian Gulf War, studied there, and learned Arabic. What we see of these men goes largely unmentioned when discussing the surge, that many of the elements that allowed the surge to work began before the strategy was changed.
Chiarelli is a different case. He seems to have done well in Iraq but was unable to get his desired command, Petraeus'. As a result, while Casey is likely finishing his last job in the Army as Chief of Staff and Abizaid is retired, Chiarelli probably has a future on the Joint Chiefs.
The book offers excellent background on these four men. It also shows the Army at the crucial period following Vietnam and before the Persian Gulf War as these men were mid-career. Finally, it shows what happened in Iraq as it deteriorated and gives the perspective of the commanders who were there. Many other books on Iraq are dismissive of the commanders from 2003 to 2007 while lionizing Petraeus. While General Petraeus deserves praise, these other men deserve attention too.
There are some great tidbits in the book about how these generals felt about their civilian commanders, how they interacted with each other, and how staffing works in the Army. It offers all this in a very accessible, readable way.
However, more than a simple biographic of the individuals this book dives deeper to better understand how these 4 individuals impacted and completely changed the dynamic of counter insurgency. David Petraeus's innovative and completely competitive character drove his ground breaking ideas in the ways of conducting counter insurgency. John Abizaid's expertise in the middle east not only as a geographic boundary region but also as a culturally diverse people and an excellent manager of people shines completely through out his chapters in this book. George Casey Jr. is painted in my opinion in a polarizing light. His early career looks promising and stands him up as a tough but firm leader who wishes to succeed without being a "poster boy". However, in the later chapters he is portrayed as merely a man trying his best to hold a tough situation together and he is in my opinion the embodiment o the Iraq conflict at times successful but more often fractured and directionless. Finally Peter Chiarelli, in my opinion is mostly playing a side role to the other three. He seems to get minimal focus from the author and is seemingly limited to a supporting cast role rather than the star the cover designation attempts to make him out to be.
What I found most enjoyable about the book is not only does the author introduce and follow these fine men through their career but you get to see some other influential people through their eyes. Colin Powel, Donald Rumsfeld, Former President George W. Bush, and even glimpses of notable senators from that time period. Over all I felt the book was thoroughly fleshed out and provided complete knowledge of the scene in a simple easy to read manner while driving home the most important lessons learned by the U.S. Army through the career's of these fine men.
A must read!