Department of Defense/Wikimedia Commons

When then-Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly was tapped to serve as the new White House Chief of Staff, much was made of Kelly’s favorite novel, The General, by C.S. Forester. Kelly himself noted that he read the book each time he was promoted during his career in the Marines. Written in 1936, The General tells the story of General Sir Howard Curzon, a competent and ordinary British cavalry officer. Curzon rises through the ranks as the story progresses, owing his successes to sheer opportunism, bureaucratic know-how, attrition from combat, and dumb luck rather than any kind of professional or personal development. What worked for him as an inexperienced subaltern during the Boer War is all he brings to his eventual Corps command in World War One.

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