Retired Army Leaders Share Lessons of Military Wisdom

Retired Army Leaders Share Lessons of Military Wisdom

Thursday, July 27, 2023

The AUSA Book Program welcomes a new publishing partnership with Greenhill Books.

Greenhill is an independent military publisher based in the United Kingdom. They have just released Napoleon’s Military Maxims as an official title in the AUSA program. The book is a collection of military insights from one of history’s greatest military commanders. Extended commentary by historians David Chandler and Beatrice Heuser help connect these principles to the experience of warfare in the 20th and 21st centuries.

“Tactics,” Napoleon observed, “…may be learned in treatises, but the science of strategy is only to be acquired by experience, and by studying the campaigns of all the great captains.”

To commemorate the new publication, the AUSA Book Program asked some of the U.S. Army’s great captains for their own favorite military adages. Some were multiply inspired; others kept focus on a single favorite. Their responses include original thoughts, favorites from the annals of history, and even a couple in honor of new installation namesakes.


General George W. Casey, Jr., 36th Chief of Staff of the Army

“There’s only two kinds of plans—those that might work and those that won’t work!”


General Martin E. Dempsey, 18th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

“We take our families to war with us.”

“Make it Matter”

Also, in honor of new Army base namesakes:

“Winning starts with stance and balance.” –Gen. Dick Cavazos

“Three strikes and you’re not out.” –Lt. Gen. Hal Moore


Lieutenant General Frederick Benjamin “Ben” Hodges, former commanding general, United States Army Europe

“Happy the Army where ill-timed boldness occurs frequently. It is a luxuriant weed but indicates the richness of the soil.” –Carl von Clausewitz 


General Stanley A. McChrystal, former commander, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and commander, United States Forces – Afghanistan (USFOR-A)

“If it’s stupid and it works, it isn’t stupid.” –Edward A. Murphy


General David H. Petraeus, former commander of the Surge in Iraq, US Central Command, and NATO/US Forces in Afghanistan, and former Director of the CIA

“In the absence of orders, figure out what they should have been and execute aggressively.”


General Dennis Reimer, 33rd Chief of Staff of the Army

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” --George Patton

“Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong.” –from the Cadet Prayer


General Peter Schoomaker, 35th Chief of Staff of the United States Army

“Don’t confuse enthusiasm with ability.” –a lesson from Desert One


The Book Program is grateful to the generals for their contributions. As Napoleon would have said, “Model yourself upon them…. Your own genius will be enlightened.”


To order a copy of Napoleon’s Military Maxims, please visit