Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime
The orthodoxy regarding the relationship between politicians and military leaders in wartime democracies contends that politicians should declare a military operation’s objectives and then step aside and leave the business of war to the military. In this timely and controversial examination of civilian-military relations in wartime democracies, Eliot A. Cohen chips away at this time-honored belief with case studies of statesmen who dared to prod, provoke, and even defy their military officers to great effect.
Using the leadership of Abraham Lincoln, Georges Clemenceau, Winston Churchill, and David Ben-Gurion to build his argument, Cohen offers compelling proof that, as Clemenceau put it, “War is too important to leave to the generals.” By examining the shared leadership traits of four politicians who triumphed in extraordinarily varied military campaigns, Cohen argues that active statesmen make the best wartime leaders, pushing their military subordinates to succeed where they might have failed if left to their own devices. Thought provoking and soundly argued, Cohen’s Supreme Command is essential reading not only for military and political players but also for informed citizens and anyone interested in leadership.
About the Author
Eliot A. Cohen is Professor of Strategic Studies at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of the Johns Hopkins University. He previously served on the policy planning staff of the Office of the Secretary of Defense and as an intelligence officer in the United States Army Reserve, and taught at the U.S. Naval War College and at Harvard University. He has written books and articles on a variety of military and national security-related subjects. A frequent consultant to the Department of Defense and the intelligence community, he is a member of the Defense Policy Board, advising the Secretary of Defense. He lives in Washington, D.C.