Leaders to follow,Course Corrections

Article excerpt

Leadership is a common thread among these four new or upcoming titles, which illuminate examples as old as ancient Greece and as current as contemporary Iraq -- military, diplomatic and political figures, some well-known for ages, others just now getting long- deserved recognition.

"The Savior Generals: How Five Great Commanders Saved Wars That Were Lost -- From Ancient Greece To Iraq" by Victor Davis Hanson (Bloomsbury Press) -- The latest nonfiction volume from the Hoover Institution's Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History consists of what the publisher calls "pocket biographies of five generals who single-handedly saved their nations from defeat in war." He examines characteristics shared by Themistocles, architect of Athens' decisive naval victory over Persian invaders in the Straits of Salamis; Flavius Belisarius, who defeated insurrectionists and crushed the Vandals for Byzantine Emperor Justinian I; William Tecumseh Sherman, whose Southern campaigns were key to the Union's Civil War victory over the Confederacy; Matthew Ridgway, who turned the tide of the Korean War; and David Petraeus, whose counterinsurgency tactics reversed declining U.S. fortunes in Iraq. Such leaders tend to be seen as outsiders and mavericks, are contrarians regarding conventional wisdom, generate controversy, avoid overconfidence, objectively assess strengths and weaknesses of their own forces and their enemies', lead by example and share combat's risks with their troops. While no two wartime situations are identical, and all generals, great and not, are individuals, this book provides widely applicable insight regarding the dynamics of leadership and consensus, and how those dynamics can change the destiny of nations.

"Flight of the Eagle: The Grand Strategies That Brought America from Colonial Dependence to World Leadership" by Conrad Black (Encounter Books, available Tuesday) -- Still unable to enter the United States legally due to the highly suspect U.S. fraud and obstruction-of-justice case in which he served prison time despite all 17 counts against him being knocked down by jury acquittal, prosecutorial abandonment or the U.S. Supreme Court, Canadian media mogul and financier Conrad Black, a member of the British House of Lords, is nevertheless undaunted and remains fond of America. Here, he "debunks the notion that (America's) superpower status is merely the product of good geography, demographics, and good luck," according to the publisher. Examining American history from before the Revolutionary War, he explores how the United States has triumphed over various obstacles, won wars and realized visions of freedom, human rights and enterprise. Black covers key leaders and their decisions, some not well-known, that enabled the nation to reach superpower status in just two centuries, describing nine phases in its strategic rise. America's achievements, to Black, are no accident, but the product of shrewd policy formulated by great statesmen. That's a lesson worth learning at a time when true leadership seems in short supply and many question America's global pre-eminence and superpower status.

"All the Great Prizes: The Life of John Hay, from Lincoln to Roosevelt" by John Taliaferro (Simon & Schuster) -- This book, billed by the publisher as "the first authoritative biography of Hay in eighty years," brings a fascinating historical figure to greater prominence. John Hay served as both Abraham Lincoln's private secretary -- shaping future generations' perceptions of "Honest Abe" by drafting much of the correspondence to which Lincoln signed his name -- and Theodore Roosevelt's secretary of State. He played leading roles in the Republican Party's birth, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, the run-up to World War I, America's "Open Door policy" toward China and the Panama Canal's creation. …