Victor Davis Hanson

Generals at the brink of disaster

Some people read military history for the technical details--why General X failed to match Hanibal's pincer movement at Cannae. Others, like me, dip into it to see how individuals and societies respond to circumstances of immense stress.

Victor Davis Hanson explores these larger dimensions of wars in The Savior Generals (Bloomsbury Press, 305 pages, $28). He takes five commanders from classical antiquity to today to explore how they went into losing wars and salvaged the situation. In each of these case studies he looks well beyond the battlefield.

Themistocles, who saved Athens at the battle of Salamis, is his first example. The tactics, luring the Persian ships...