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Book review #64

Fighting through the millions of books in circulation to become a Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestseller is not a walk in the park. However, it came as a no surprise when Presidents of War, achieved this fate. Its author, Michael Beschloss, is a well-established name in the United States presidency realm. In the book, Beschloss delves into the conduct of nine American presidents in their most trying times; the time of war.

Concisely written, the book encompasses eight wars that have shaped and positioned America. These include the war of 1812, Mexican-American, Civil War, Spanish-American, World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. The book looks at the strategies of previous presidents during these wars, their relation with the public and Congress, the mistakes they made and evaluates how equipped the current president would be if submitted in similar circumstances.

A unique aspect that sets the book apart is openness, a characteristic that gives a glimpse of the truths many would hate (but curious) to hear. For instance, Beschloss does not hold back about how some wars were contrived. His claims are not baseless; he reinforces them with credible examples. For instance, President Lyndon Johnson used flawed justification to get congressional approval for a massive Asian land war.

The book acknowledges the critical role of Congress in war issues. The U.S. Constitution was designed to prevent a capricious manner of waging war by giving Congress ultimate authority, but an application of this has faced strong turbulence. For instance, Harry Truman overlooked this and blundered into Korea without seeking congressional approval. The book digs deeper to analyse how each of the presidents related to the public and the Congress during the war.

Bad decisions are always made, and lies used to blind the public. Richard Russell warned President Johnson about the Vietnam War, but he nevertheless jumped right into it using fatally flawed optimistic projects. When President Nixon inherited the war, he realised it could not be won, but used lies to convince the public and Congress to keep it going. Mistakes by other presidents such as Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson are also discussed. These mistakes serve an important role in pointing that no one is perfect, but that should not hold one from fighting towards perfection. Whereas Lincoln performed poorly in the wake of the Civil War, he quickly gained an edge and ultimately won.

The book is a great resource for learning how political pressure, wars, and the psychological pressure affects wartime presidents. Whereas most people may know about the wars, they remain in the dark on how it impacted the presidents. Reading the book makes one realise how much little we know about the history of previous presidents and their fateful wartime experiences.

While the book has cemented Beschloss’ legacy in the history of American Presidents, readers are the biggest winners. The book is an epitome of fascination. It drives a unique experience throughout its flow and takes no time to capture and immerse readers’ attention into a new reality by mingling previous and new documents to draw upon well-established conclusions.

How do presidents reach when battles are lost? What is the next step when bodies starts piling up? How have different presidents plotted their war strategies? When should war be declared? What is the influence of the public and Congress during war times? This book’s thorough research answers all these in a manner that is not only entertaining but also enlightening.

Some may think that the book is best suited for history students only, but that is wrong. It is a must read for everybody. Bill Gates has read the book and included it in his “five best books” of 2019 and he isn’t a history student, is he? Time to grab yourself a copy here!

Reviewed by;

Tonny Rutakirwa,


Tonniez Group Holdings,

Serving since 28th December 2008.


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