The Fourth Star

  • by David Cloud, Greg Jaffe
  • Narrated by Richard McGonagle
  • 12 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

They were four exceptional soldiers, a new generation asked to save an army that had been hollowed out after Vietnam. They survived the military's winnowing to reach its top echelon. They became the Army's most influential generals in the crucible of Iraq.Collectively, their lives tell the story of the Army over the last four decades and illuminate the path it must travel to protect the nation over the next century.In The Fourth Star, you'll follow:
Gen. John Abizaid, one of the Army's most brilliant minds. Fluent in Arabic, he forged an unconventional path in the military to make himself an expert on the Middle East, but this unique background made him skeptical of the war he found himself leading.

Gen. George Casey Jr., the son of the highest-ranking general to be killed in the Vietnam War. Casey had grown up in the Army and won praise for his common touch and skill as a soldier. He was determined not to repeat the mistakes of Vietnam but would take much of the blame as Iraq collapsed around him.

Gen. Peter Chiarelli, an emotional, take-charge leader who, more than any other senior officer, felt the sting of the Army's failures in Iraq. He drove his soldiers, the chain of command, and the U.S. government to rethink the occupation plans - yet rarely achieved the results he sought.

Gen. David Petraeus, a driven soldier-scholar. Determined to reach the Army's summit almost since the day he entered West Point, he sometimes alienated peers with his ambition and competitiveness. When he finally got his chance in Iraq, he - more than anyone - changed the Army's conception of what was possible.The Fourth Star ranges far beyond today's battlefields, evoking the Army's tumultuous history since Vietnam through these four captivating lives and ultimately revealing a fascinating irony: In an institution that prizes obedience, the most effective warriors are often those who dare to question.

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What the Critics Say

"A sparkling account of today's U.S. Army - a work of art that offers novelistic details but also carries the impact of well-reported fact. I learned something on nearly every page, and much of it astonished me." (Thomas E. Ricks, New York Times best-selling author of Fiasco)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Learning from the Military

I just finished an excellent book called The Fourth Star: Four Generals and the Epic Struggle for the Future of the United States Army. I believe that the experience of the generals profiled in this book can teach us in academia a great deal about how the culture of large and tradition bound institutions can be transformed.

In order to effectively fight in Iraq these generals, particularly David Patraeus, needed to reverse the deeply held traditional Army doctrine of force protection and overwhelming kinetic warfare. In its place, Petraeus was able to instill counter-insurgency tactics that emphasized protecting the population and co-opting former insurgents to create the security necessary to build institutions.

As a learning technologist working for a private college I have very little contact with military people and institutions. I know little about the armed forces academies and colleges, beyond that they have a reputation for extreme academic rigor and are known for producing some of our highest quality postsecondary graduates.

I have no idea how the armed forces utilize learning technology in their institutions of higher learning. I have an inkling that a great number of active duty personnel and veterans utilize online learning, but I have never worked directly with this population.

I've come to believe that my ignorance about our military is a problem. Beyond the embarrassing fact that I don't personally know anybody who has served and sacrificed in our nation's wars over the past 6 years, and have a poor understanding of military educational institutions, I think that I am missing an opportunity to learn about cultures and how they transform themselves.

In higher education we are engaged in a cultural shift. One that puts the learner at the center of the construction and delivery of education, a process that is catalyzed by technology. We are living through a transition from a scarcity of educational materials and knowledge to an abundance. We are working to redesign our institutions, programs and courses to meet the needs of a new set learners, as well as to open up higher education to groups that have traditionally been closed out.

How can we make connections and build relationships with members of our military who also work in education? At EDUCAUSE I did not see any presentations by people from armed forces academies or institutions (did I miss them?). I'm not sure how to make these connections. How can we learn from the larger experience of transformation in the military to help us manage our own transformations?

Below are 4 books that I read in the past couple years on the U.S. military. Any recommendations for other books would be appreciated.

The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008
Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq
Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts: The American Military in the Air, at Sea, and on the Ground
Imperial Grunts: On the Ground with the American Military, from Mongolia to the Philippines to Iraq and Beyond
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- Joshua Kim "mostly nonfiction listener"

Great book about some amazing individuals

If you could sum up The Fourth Star in three words, what would they be?

Awesome. Badass. Insightful.


If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

The ones on the ground, in charge, when our country calls. You may have heard the names, but now hear their stories.


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- Mike

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-27-2009
  • Publisher: Random House Audio