MACARTHUR’S WAR: The Flawed Genius Who Challenged the American Political System
When voters in the United States elect presidents, they are naming a civilian to lead the country’s military. There’s a bit of an odd disconnect in this, because that civilian ultimately leapfrogs people who have spent their lives rising through the ranks but have to answer to a person who may not have any military experience.
Nonetheless, the notion of the military brass answering to a civilian commander in chief has endured, even when challenged in some high-profile ways. When Gen. Douglas MacArthur challenged President Harry Truman in 1950 and 1951, a popular general was undermining an unpopular civilian leader. MacArthur’s dismissal in April 1951 prompted thousands of shocked Americans to protest to their congressional representatives and to the White House.
MacArthur was neither the first nor the last general to disparage or dismiss the commander in chief, but he “most overtly defied presidential supremacy,” as military historian Bevin Alexander writes in his new book, MacArthur’s War.
Alexander focuses more on Truman’s and MacArthur’s actions and their meaning than on sketching nuanced portraits of the men. Although MacArthur’s name is in the title, the general disappears for long stretches as Alexander fills in the historical moment. His book is an engaging account of a pivotal time that cemented just who leads this country’s military.
The Washington Post