Grouchy Historian’s Bookshelf.
Using 9 different historical case studies, Moyar develops this theme by examining the detailed effects of leadership at both the strategic and tactical levels. He chooses some typical conflicts, Vietnam, Malaya, Iraq and Afghanistan, but also goes off the beaten path, so to speak, by examining El Salvador in the 1980s and the American South after the Civil War.
The Civil War case study was of particular interest to me, as this is an often forgotten and usually highly partisan period on American history that has, at least to my bookshelf’s knowledge, never been effectively chronicled. Moyar makes an excellent cast that unrepentant Confederates were able to thwart the “Radical” Republicans from imposing their version of political restructuring from 1866-1876 and using classic insurgent techniques were not only able to regain political power for another 80 years, but, more importantly, take control of the history of the conflict.
The chapters on Iraq and Afghanistan are well done and point to the continuing issue American forces face-how to get a country just barely out of the 10 century culturally, socially and politically to act like a Jeffersonian democracy. We took what we could get in Iraq, however imperfect it is, and will likely have to do the same in Afghanistan.
The book did leave me feeling a little empty in one respect. Moyar does not address, in my opinion, the need for POLITICAL leadership at the national level. The incremental approach of LBJ contributed to our ultimate failure in Vietnam, in may analysis. If we had committed 100% to the war in 1965, a reasonably secure South Vietnam might have existed by 1970 if we had truly bombed North Vietnam back to the stone age, blockaded their ports and cut off their bridges to China. In addition the Iraq surge would not have occurred without the very risky decision by George W to commit to the surge in spite of Congressional back-biting, some of it led by none other than Barry O hisself.
Overall, this is a good addition to a COIN bookshelf, and Moyar has clearly done his research, including a survey of current American commanders.