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Best Military Leaders of all time?

Discussion in 'World History' started by ELITEOFWARMAN8, Oct 2, 2012.

  1. Flying Pig

    Flying Pig Utrinque Paratus

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    Napoleon does hold the distinction of being one of the perhaps two or three truly great men in history - people who, entirely through their own decision and force of character, changed the face of the world.
     
  2. Dachs

    Dachs Hero of the Soviet Union

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    Napoleon's chief accomplishments were the deaths of millions of Europeans. I don't see how that qualifies as "great".
     
  3. Flying Pig

    Flying Pig Utrinque Paratus

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    'Great' is not a term of moral judgement - it simply states the observation that the world could without exaggeration never have been the same again after Napoleon had made his mark on it, and that he did so not as a product of some greater force but entirely through his own ambition and character. The only other people that I can think of who can claim to have done that are Alexander the Great, and arguably Adolf Hitler.
     
  4. Oruc

    Oruc Reactionary

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    What about Cyrus?
     
  5. schlaufuchs

    schlaufuchs La Femme Moderne

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    What about him?
     
  6. AnthonyBoscia

    AnthonyBoscia Emperor

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    By that criteria, FP, I would add Stalin as a force of nature on his own. But in terms of Best Military Leader, I suppose it's a question of whether everyone's talking about field and operational commanders vs. grand strategy and policy makers. Boney was surely better at one than the other.
     
  7. Flying Pig

    Flying Pig Utrinque Paratus

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    I have mentioned this idea before, and I did posit Cyrus at the time - I think it was Dachs, however, who pointed out that Cyrus' empire collapsed totally within a few generations of his death, and its impact on the world was really quite minimal. The culture of the lands he conquered would be Hellenistic, Roman (for the most part) and later Islamic, not Median.

    Again, I'm unsure. A lot is made of Stalin, but in fact his role in creating Russia's economic 'miracle' is overstated - the groundwork for an economic boom was laid under the Tsars; the Communists only had to harness it. Besides, in many cases, Stalin's policies were horrendous for Russia - not least the trainwreck of collective agriculture in the West, which caused massive, and it has been argued intentional, famine.
     
  8. rilnator

    rilnator Emperor

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    Wasn't it gen Mark Clarke who infamously slapped a soldier?
     
  9. Masada

    Masada Koi-san!

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    A lot is made of Napoleon, but in fact his role in creating the French Empire - the groundwork for his military conquests was laid under the Republic; Napoleon only had to harness it. Besides, in most cases, Napoleon's policies were horrendous for France - not least the trainwreck that was constant war, which caused massive numbers of deaths.
     
  10. r16

    r16 not deity

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    regarding Patton the few books ı have suggest he was spectacular when exploiting but couldn't fight a "proper" battle , example being the conduct at the Battle of Bulge . Where he is said to have done a magnificient job in bringing up his forces up North but when there failing to make a decisive impact by his attacks all along the front and simply forcing the Germans back instead of cutting them off .
     
  11. LightSpectra

    LightSpectra me autem minui

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    You're speaking as if the republican military victories were mutually exclusive from Napoleon's conquest. Remember that Napoleon was responsible for shattering the First Coalition, he occupied northern Italy in 1797 and then dictated (without even consulting the French government) the terms of the Habsburg withdrawal from the war.

    Nobody except LiquidCommander thinks that Napoleon was a good leader. But he was probably the greatest military commander that ever lived, in my opinion.
     
  12. privatehudson

    privatehudson The Ultimate Badass

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    Nope, definitely Patton, or at least if Clark did slap a soldier (and I can't recall reading anywhere that he did), the incident was nowhere near as infamous as the one Patton was involved in.
     
  13. AnthonyBoscia

    AnthonyBoscia Emperor

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    I was thinking specifically in terms of how you described Napoleon's effect as great. Stalin's reign not only had tremendous impact on the Soviet people and their neighbors, but also forced the foreign policy hand of virtually all major powers. Few of his contemporaries and none of his successors would have such a global impact in the 20th century, especially postwar.
     
  14. Flying Pig

    Flying Pig Utrinque Paratus

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    My argument is that without Stalin, Russia would probably have still bneen an autocratic superpower for most of the 20th Century; I don't think that European history (especially with regard to Germany and the effective breaking of French relative power until about 1918) would have been at all similar without Napoleon.
     
  15. innonimatu

    innonimatu Deity

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    But no Persian Empire -> no Alexander the Great, surely? History would have been very different?
     
  16. schlaufuchs

    schlaufuchs La Femme Moderne

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    Meh, that's just butterflies. You may as well given everyone the epithet "The Great" under those circumstances.
     
  17. Masada

    Masada Koi-san!

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    Yeah, they kinda were given that the war started in 1792 and that the institutions he leaned on to permit him to fight that campaign were the product of the Republic and had nothing whatsoever to do with him.
     
  18. Dachs

    Dachs Hero of the Soviet Union

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    It's very true that Napoleon was a talented military commander and that he, at least temporarily, created a hegemonic European empire. It's also very true that he relied on institutions others devised and the military capabilities of other men to do both of those things. I see no reason to characterize him as anything other than a very good general, one of the better gamblers in military history. "Best"? Eeeehhhh. Surely one would want to pick somebody more successful than Napoleon for a "best".
     
  19. LightSpectra

    LightSpectra me autem minui

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    I'm not sure I follow. Nobody, least not me, is arguing that Napoleon accomplished everything by his and only his own merits. But the fact that "the groundwork for his military conquests was laid under the Republic" doesn't downplay the genius in his Italian campaigns, the Ulm blitz, Austerlitz, et al.

    Politically, he was a miserable failure. This is obvious. I happen to think his ultimate downfall was more because of political-diplomatic failure than military. I mean, take the Peninsular War for an example. When he was physically present in Spain, the Napoleonic armies performed magnificently. But the war itself was ultimately a resources sink for him because he couldn't be there to macro-manage the whole affair; not to mention how blunderous it was to be fighting a guerrilla war against what should have been his ally to begin with.

    If we confine this analysis to solely his ability to manage armies, then I surely think he was the greatest to ever live. He pioneered so many revolutions in military philosophy, maneuverability warfare, and general staffage (?) that make it difficult to overlook the fact that the commanders that ultimately defeated him on the battlefield were using his own inventions against him. The Deutsche Generalstab all the way to World War II was trying to emulate Ulm, even.
     
  20. Dachs

    Dachs Hero of the Soviet Union

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    The problem is that he wasn't as revolutionary a figure as all that. His armies relied on tactical evolutions developed under the ancien regime. His oft-lauded artillery comprised no greater a percentage of his own armies than it did of anyone else's, either contemporary or previous. His all-arms corps were developments of divisions (a preexisting formation), and in significant part were contingent developments related to the ability of the commanders Napoleon had available to lead them more than a standard-setting new idea with universal relevance. He lacked a real general staff, unlike the Prussians, Russians, or even the Austrians, and basically saddled Berthier with most of the logistical work; his inability to delegate in this fashion has been criticized by some historians (e.g. Peter Hofschroer) as having been of decisive relevance in his later campaigns, in which he simply had too many men to command.

    And his record, too, is quite mixed. One can set the failure in Egypt and the Levant against the successes in Italy, and the long train of military disasters that Napoleon faced from 1810 to 1815 are hardly the result of his political abilities (or lack thereof) on their own. He made military mistakes as well, tactical (Borodino and Waterloo especially), operational (the Leipzig campaign as a whole, the winter campaign of 1814), and strategic (the whole shebang) ones. Perhaps his military ability atrophied as time went on; I'm not the person (if one exists) to diagnose that. But what can clearly be said is that his luck ran out, or at least started to regress to the mean.

    Again, none of this is meant to show that Napoleon was a bad general, far from it. He was an extremely good one. I just have a hard time wrapping my head around "best".
     

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