Friday, August 19, 2011

How Wars Are Won, by Bevin Alexander

I hadn’t even gotten to chapter two before I decided that I must read everything Bevin Alexander has written. This book is a crazy good synthesis of everything I love about military history, and don’t think I wasn’t taking notes, intending to employ certain situations in the next fictional sweeping battle scene I write. This book rocks.

From the distant past, covering the Mongols on the steppes of Asia, to a mind-bogglingly complete account of the battles that changed the course of history on the European continent, Alexander makes a case for the thirteen rules of war and how they are most effectively applied by smart commanders like Napoleon Bonaparte, as well as how they are immutable against such dunderheads as Adolf Hitler—who, as it turns out, was mostly a politician rather than a military genius.

Even some of the best and most legendary commanders of all history get lucky sometimes. Robert E. Lee, for instance, had the great good fortune of one “Stonewall” Jackson in his employ; a major reason why the South had any kind of fighting chance against Lincoln’s Union army. There’s Alexander the Great, Scipio Africanus, Erwin Rommel, Douglas MacArthur, and even a legend of which you’ve probably never heard—Subedei Bahadur—who was Genghis Khan’s principle orlok (marshall). Subedei made ol’ Genghis look like a freakin’ sissy; he was ruthless.

Bevin Alexander weaves together amazing tales of adventure and conquest that cover the gamut of human civilization. He illustrates in skillful narrative the hubris of certain orthodoxies and the crushing defeats brought on when these traditions collide with military genius. This book is an inspiration to a burgeoning writer such as myself, and will provide all kinds of historical material for plot ideas, conflicts, and just plain head-scratching real-life twists that never cease to amaze. I highly recommend it.

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