It is not really news that Victor Davis Hanson has written another outstanding and eye-opening book. He has done that before and repeatedly, on a variety of subjects.
The subject of his latest book, "The Savior Generals" is given in the subtitle: "How Five Great Commanders Saved Wars That Were Lost-- From Ancient Greece to Iraq."
As both a military historian and a classicist scholar, Victor Davis Hanson is one of the few people qualified to cover such a wide sweep of history. As someone whose depth of knowledge and insight are already familiar to readers of his syndicated column, he is also one of the few who can discuss complex subjects in plain English.
The subject of "The Savior Generals" could not be more timely. It is about how seemingly hopeless situations can be-- and have been-- rescued from the brink of disaster. The situation of the United States of America today is similarly very dicey, both at home and abroad, both economically and militarily.
This book takes us through the history of how and why nations -- both ancient and modern-- have gotten themselves into potentially catastrophic situations, and how a new leader with clearer vision, and the character and courage to do what needs to be done, has saved situations that seemed irretrievable.
Both the old leaders who failed and the new leaders who succeeded are shown as three-dimensional human beings, with both flaws and virtues, not the cartoon-like images of public figures too often encountered in current discussions in the media or even in academia.
Those who turned out to have the decisive virtues at the decisive times include some who were failures at other times and in other settings, so "The Savior Generals" is not an exercise in hero-worship.
It is instead a lesson, based on experience over the centuries, on the need for serious, realistic and in-depth understanding in a dangerous world, where there are all too many lures into self-indulgent, short-sighted or wishful thinking.
Often we are more realistic about sports than we are about more weighty things. Everyone recognizes the greatness of a relief pitcher like Mariano Rivera, but how many recognize the greatness of a general who can come into a military situation that looks hopeless and rescue the troops and the country from utter disaster?
That was the kind of situation facing General Matthew Ridgway during the Korean war, when he was suddenly dispatched across the Pacific, without notice, to take over the American and allied military forces that had been battered and driven into a sometimes panicky retreat before the North Korean and Chinese armies.