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Elusive Victories The American Presidency at War

ISBN-10: 0199860939
ISBN-13: 9780199860937
Edition: 2012
Authors: Andrew J. Polsky
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Description: On April 4, 1864, Abraham Lincoln made a shocking admission about his presidency during the Civil War. "I claim not to have controlled events," he wrote in a letter, "but confess plainly that events have controlled me." Lincoln's words carry an  More...

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Book details

List price: $29.95
Copyright year: 2012
Publisher: Oxford University Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 5/30/2012
Binding: Hardcover
Pages: 416
Size: 6.50" wide x 9.50" long x 1.50" tall
Weight: 1.606
Language: English

On April 4, 1864, Abraham Lincoln made a shocking admission about his presidency during the Civil War. "I claim not to have controlled events," he wrote in a letter, "but confess plainly that events have controlled me." Lincoln's words carry an invaluable lesson for wartime presidents, writes Andrew J. Polsky in this seminal book. As Polsky shows, when commanders-in-chiefdotry to control wartime events, more often than not they fail utterly.InElusive Victories, Polsky provides a fascinating study of six wartime presidents, drawing larger lessons about the limits of the power of the White House during armed conflict. He examines, in turn, Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and George W. Bush, showing how each gravely overestimated his power as commander-in-chief. In each case, these presidents' resources did not match the key challenges that recur from war to war. Both Lincoln and Johnson intervened in military operations, giving orders to specific units; yet both struggled with the rising unpopularity of their conflicts. Both Wilson and Bush entered hostilities with idealistic agendas for the aftermath, yet found themselves helpless to enact them. With insight and clarity, Polsky identifies overarching issues that will inform current and future policymakers. The single most important dynamic, he writes, is the erosion of a president's freedom of action. Each decision propels him down a path from which he cannot turn back. When George W. Bush rejected the idea of invading Iraq with 400,000 troops, he could not send such a force two years later as the insurgency spread. Polsky then examines Barack Obama's options in light of these conclusions, and considers how the experiences of the past might inform the world we face now.Elusive Victoriesis the first book to provide a comprehensive account of presidential leadership during wartime, highlighting the key dangers that presidents have ignored at their peril."In this provocative and incisive study of six presidents as wartime commanders in chief, Andrew Polsky demonstrates that it is much easier to start a war than to bring it to a successful conclusion."--James M. McPherson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author ofBattle Cry of Freedom"Polsky's cautionary tale is as timely as it is important. Students of presidential politics (not to mention would-be presidents) take note: those presuming to master war all too frequently become war's prisoner."--Andrew J. Bacevich, author ofWashington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War

Introduction
Lincoln's Shadow
Waging War to Transform the World
Freedom of Action
Staying the Course
The Perils of Optimism
Inheriting a Bad Hand
Conclusion: Past and Future
Afterword
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index

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