Saturday, February 17, 2007

Best books on wartime leaders

James L. Swanson, senior legal scholar at the Heritage Foundation and the author of Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer, picked the five best portraits of wartime leaders for Opinion Journal.

One of his selections:
Franklin and Winston by Jon Meacham (2003)

The outcomes of our wars have turned not only on troops and tactics but also on the individual characteristics and personalities of our presidents. The "friendship that changed the world" genre has become overpopulated of late--possibly a tribute to the brilliance of Jon Meacham's account of the relationship between Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. It did not begin as a friendship of equals. From 1939 to late 1941, while Britain was engaged in a death struggle with Hitler's Germany, the U.S. sat on the sidelines. Churchill believed that without America he would lose the war, and he tried desperately to bring Roosevelt into the conflict. After Pearl Harbor, when the U.S. joined against Japan and Germany, Churchill said he knew that no matter how long it took, or what price it would cost, England was saved. Roosevelt and Churchill exchanged almost 2,000 letters and spent 113 days spent in each other's company during the war, forming a partnership that Churchill called "the rock on which I build for the future of the world." The image of these convivial men plotting the defense of civilization over cocktails and champagne in the White House, chatting and laughing late into the night, is magical.
Read about all five titles, including Swanson's brief for James K. Polk as "one of our five most important and successful presidents."

--Marshal Zeringue