From the book
jacket: In a unique combination of
innovative style and thorough
scholarship, Warlords tells the
story of World War II through the lives
of the four great war leaders: Adolf
Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Winston
Churchill, and Franklin Roosevelt. While
their nations fought battles with
weapons, the four warlords of the
twentieth century fought a war of the
mind. Structured along the lines of a
cinematic thriller, rapidly cutting from
one man to the next, the book takes us
blow by blow as they try to out-think and
outfight each other. These encounters
are told on a day-by-day, even
hour-by-hour basis, affording
unparalleled insights into parallel
Though there have been many single, and some dual, biographies, no previous book has put these four great figures together in this exciting and popularly appealing way. Moving from Whitehall and Washington to the Wolf's Lair and the Kremlin, Warlords documents the psychological battles among the leaders and shows how their thoughts and actions changed history.
Comment: The juxtaposition of the four story lines in Warlords, gleaned mainly from journals and eye-witness accounts, is fascinating. For example, as the focus moves from one leader to another, and back again, one feels the increasing pressure on Churchill and the British people as they hold out alone through two years of war, paralleled with Hitler's increasing frustration as to why the British won't behave reasonably and surrender! His conclusion was that Britain must have signed a secret treaty with the Russians, which caused him to turn on them, making an enemy of a former ally, and opening a second front.
The relationship between Roosevelt and Churchill is particularly fascinating. Today, they are usually portrayed as bosom-buddy allies, but the journal entries and eye-witness reports of the time portray a quite different relationship. In fact, it appears that Roosevelt considered Britain's imperial ambitions to be a greater threat than Stalin's, and considered Stalin the sort of person that he could do business with.
"The European people
will simply have to endure Russian
domination in the hope that, in ten or
twenty years, the European influence
will bring the Russians to become less
- Roosevelt, speaking in 1942.
Time and again, Roosevelt leads Churchill to believe that the USA is ready to go into the war, only to back out again. Even the much vaunted Lend-Lease Act only provided 1% of Britain's weapons during the lonely year of 1941; and it took the Germans to declare war on the USA in December 1941 to eventually bring America into the war in Europe.
This review was originally published in April 2006, and has been updated for the April 2007 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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