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Synopsis

"Nothing goes wrong quite so dramatically as a disastrous military expedition."--from the Introduction

ARROGANT ARMIES

Spanning more than two hundred years of martial adventurism, aggression, and outright blundering, Arrogant Armies chronicles the profoundly misguided and utterly calamitous military expeditions of the great empire builders and overconfident expeditionary forces. From colonial America to South Africa, from Mesopotamia to Khartoum, an extraordinary number of presumably superior armies grievously underestimated native forces.

Using contemporary newspaper accounts, military memoirs, diaries of soldiers who fought in the battles, and other firsthand letters and papers, noted journalist James Perry brings a sense of urgency and immediacy to these historic defeats. At times devastating, at times hilarious, his vast panorama of human folly is peopled by frightened soldiers, zealous native resistance, and, of course, a colorful gallery of arrogant, often inept officers. Many of them received their ultimate comeuppance in these battles: Generals Edward Braddock, Charles MacCarthy, William R. Shafter, Charles Vere Ferrers Townshend, Charles "Chinese" Gordon, William George Keith Elphinstone, Manuel Fernandez Silvestre, and others.

What is most remarkable about Arrogant Armies is the cumulative power of these ironic encounters. Black humor, brutality, staggering incompetence, and genuine drama come together with devastating force. In Arrogant Armies Perry casts a sharply critical eye on what he describes as the "small wars, what Kipling called the 'savage wars of peace.'" It is fascinating history and a compelling commentary on politics and "the dark side of the human race . . . its deadly preoccupation with war."

"As one of our nation's top political reporters, Jim Perry has covered his share of political disasters. Now he has turned his skills to this sad but brilliant chronicle of military disasters. In the process, he has produced a classic."--Sander Vanocur The History Channel

"Jim Perry has long been one of America's great political reporters. This has been perfect training to write this marvelous book, Arrogant Armies. Having covered more than a few contemporary political disasters, Perry is able to brilliantly, often hilariously, capture the worst military blunders of the past several hundred years. These fiascoes span the globe from the Middle East to Southeast Asia to Haiti, and chronologically from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. There are common characteristics: commanders afflicted with drunkenness, debauchery, arrogance, and often just plain stupidity. With vitality, a sense of irony and history, Jim Perry gives you a battle-side seat at these debacles."--Albert R. Hunt Executive Washington Editor Wall Street Journal

"Jim Perry has done, in Arrogant Armies, what he has always done. He has told us stories we haven't heard before. He has explored an unmined vein of history with enthusiasm, skill, and style. History buffs will delight in Arrogant Armies. I'm not so sure, however, about the generals."=Roger Mudd The History Channel

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