“Eminently provocative and readable.”—The Wall Street Journal
Sir Alistair Horne has been a close observer of war and history for more than fifty years and in this wise and masterly work, he revisits six battles of the past century and examines the strategies, leadership, preparation, and geopolitical goals of aggressors and defenders to reveal the one trait that links them all: hubris.
In Greek tragedy, hubris is excessive human pride that challenges the gods and ultimately leads to total destruction of the offender. From the 1905 Battle of Tsushima in the Russo-Japanese War, to Hitler's 1941 bid to capture Moscow, to MacArthur's disastrous advance in Korea, to the French downfall at Dien Bien Phu, Horne shows how each of these battles was won or lost due to excessive hubris on one side or the other. In a sweeping narrative written with his trademark erudition and wit, Horne provides a meticulously detailed analysis of the ground maneuvers employed by the opposing armies in each battle. He also explores the strategic and psychological mindset of the military leaders involved to demonstrate how devastating combinations of human ambition and arrogance led to overreach. Making clear the danger of hubris in warfare, his insights hold resonant lessons for civilian and military leaders navigating today's complex global landscape.
A dramatic, colorful, stylishly-written history, Hubris is a much-needed reflection on war from a master of his field.
In this well written, deeply researched, and persuasively argued book, Horne (A Savage War of Peace), the venerable British military historian, looks at six critical battles of the 20th century, focusing on what he argues is a constant that links all of them: the hubristic arrogance exhibited by those on the losing end. In military history, the word hubris is most often used to explain one of the primary flaws of American Vietnam War policymakers, but Horne looks across the 50 years that preceded that engagement. He begins in East Asia, examining first the 1905 Battle of Tsushima during the Russo-Japanese War, then moving forward to the obscure, 1939 Battle of Nomonhan a pre-WWII "border incident" fought by the U.S.S.R. and Japan. Horne then heads to the western U.S.S.R. to address Hitler's disastrous 1941 attack on Moscow during WWII, before going back to the Pacific to cover the 1942 Battle of Midway. He closes the work with Gen. Douglas MacArthur's reckless move into North Korea in 1950 and the debacle that ended France's nine-year war in Indochina at the 1954 Battle of Dien Bien Phu. Horne convincingly argues that "infection by hubris" is alive and well today, and he rounds out the work by discussing ways that 21st-century leaders can work to avoid it.