[December 16, 2018] Joining my local library and getting one of those scannable electronic tags has provided my wife and I another level of entertainment and learning. As I noted last month, I picked up The Odyssey of Echo Company by Doug Stanton and enjoyed it so much I put it on my Reading List (link here). A few days later, I stumbled upon several books on strategy; most found their place in my circular file 13. But one stood out. Yes, I know, I’m a sucker for anything having to do with grand strategy but John Lewis Gaddis’ newest book On Grand Strategy was just what I needed to read to get through a rainy weekend. I’ll be putting this book on my recommended reading list because it follows Mr. Gaddis’ loosely-connected thinking on strategy in an interesting way.
On Grand Strategy, John Lewis Gaddis, 2018.
Historian John Lewis Gaddis held the distinguished Robert A. Lovett Professor of Military and Naval History at Yale University. Gaddis was seen as a goldmine of data from the world’s Cold War and had witnessed the inside of grand strategy development. This provided him with a wealth of perspectives from which to draw his ideas on Cold War strategy; specifically what we now call “containment.”
At the center of his book, Gaddis uses Isaiah Berlin’s parable of the hedgehog and the fox. According to Gaddis, who often states the obvious, those who develop strategy must have focus (the hedgehog) but also flexibility (the fox) so that they do not succumb to ego and hubris. In his book, we are taught that there must be a relationship between “means” and “ends.” For example, his favorite strategists are Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt; two wartime U.S. presidents. Gaddis writes about the “ways” (i.e., the methodology) by which these two men were able to devise a grand strategy to win two of the most significant wars in American history.
Professor Gaddis also does a superb job of tying tactics at the lower echelon levels to grand strategy, centralized and decentralized thinking, and leadership as they work together that a strategist would expect. While the book is written for the reader who has a basic understanding of military history and some inkling of strategy development, it is not required. I found his book sometimes to be a little too detailed and at other times, too short on the goods of logic. Overall, an exceptional book.
To go to the full Professional Reading list, simply click on this direct link: www.theleadermaker.com/reading-list/
Side Note: Please remember and take a look at Tom Copeland’s reading blog. His website, which I highly recommend, can be found here: https://militaryreadinglists.com/map