The Unz Review - Mobile
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 TeasersiSteve Blog
Who Was the Best Military General Ever?
🔊 Listen RSS
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information



=>

Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New Reply
Search Text Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments
List of Bookmarks

A baseball stats fan tries to rank history’s best generals:

Napoleon was the Best General Ever, and the Math Proves it.

Ranking Every* General in the History of Warfare
*Almost every

Okay, so at least he gets a plausible winner.

But his methodology seems pretty dubious: weighting each general’s chance of winning by his share of troops in the battle, and then accumulating wins above chance. For example, Napoleon fought 43 battles and won 38, and adjusting for number of troops, he gets credit for winning 16.7 battles personally. In contrast, Alexander the Great went 9-0 but he doesn’t match up to Napoleon in this methodology because he just didn’t fight enough …

A more plausible methodology was one I vaguely recall that estimated that Napoleon being in command was equivalent to improving your side’s chance of winning by having 30% more troops. Bonaparte’s career is the most conducive to statistical analysis because he fought so many battles and because technology and tactics were so similar across Europe and had been similar for a long time that they reflected about as level of a playing field ever for the purposes of measuring tactical talent. Similarly, most of Napoleon’s opponents were not novices but were battle-tested generals who had won battles before.

Of course, most of his Napoleon’s opponents were drawn from the ranks of aristocrats, narrowing the talent base. Bonaparte famously endorsed “careers open to talent,” although he himself was a very minor aristocrat due to his ambitious father investing heavily in the expensive genealogical research needed to heave the Bonaparte family just barely above the official line.

In contrast, other great generals introduced a revolution in military affairs, such as combined arms blitzkrieg in 1939-1941, which is a somewhat different category of accomplishment. You see something like this in college football where there are innovative new formations every few years. For example, I can recall the early 1970s when the Oklahoma Sooners’ new wishbone formation was virtually unstoppable. But eventually defenses learned how to stop it.

 
Hide 110 CommentsLeave a Comment
Commenters to Ignore...to FollowEndorsed Only
    []
  1. rogue-one says:

    Genghis Khan seems very impressive general to me. He (lost and) won several battles before he could unify Mongols. His invasion of Khwarazmia was almost perfect. Mongols under him & his successors conquered Russia where weather defeated Napoleon.

    It seems Genghis Khan was at least as good as Alexander the Great and superior to Hannibal in his victories.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Buck
    Didn't see yours first! Good answer.
    , @Anon
    Hannibal's Roman opponent strikes me as a more fearsome and resilient enemy than most of the tribes Khan conquered. Rome and Carthage were also separated by the Mediterranean. I'm not sure if Khan ever faced a natural barrier of comparitve magnitude.

    Khan is considered great largely due to the land area he conquered, regardless of who or what was there (or not). I wouldn't claim the guy who conquers Antarctica to be the greatest general in history, so I'm not sure I'm comfortable assigning that title to Khan, despite some of his impressive victories in Asia.

    Hannibal was also a figure undermined at home by corrupt politicians and abroad by the fact that he was not the bad person the Romans made him out to be. A tragic character who gave the Romans some deserved comeuppance but was prevented from going the distance due to the factors listed above. In fact, he once spoke to his Roman counterpart after the second Punic War. It was acknowledged that if he had been able to conquer Rome, he would have been considered the greatest general in history and above Alexander the Great, who conquered an aging Persian Empire. Hannibal almost succeeded in this task and might have if he had been less honorable and more sadistic and evil a la Genghis Khan.

    Also, I don't recall offhand if Khan's/successors conquest of a weak Russia is analogous to what Napoleon and Hitler wanted - an actual, literal conquest of a powerful and (fairly) organized nation state, not chopping off the heads of disorganized nobels when they got out of line.
    , @syonredux

    His invasion of Khwarazmia was almost perfect.
     
    Though not, I suspect, from the perspective of the inhabitants...


    John Man, in his Genghis Khan: Life, Death, and Resurrection makes a rough guess that 1.25 million people were killed in Khwarezm in two years-- that's out of a pre-invasion population estimated at 5 million...

    , @Hapalong Cassidy
    I think a lot of the credit that goes to Genghis Khan should actually go to Subutai, who was the top military strategist for both Genghis and his successor Ogedai.
    , @Charles Erwin Wilson II

    It seems Genghis Khan was at least as good as Alexander the Great and superior to Hannibal in his victories.
     
    No. Belisarius. Rommel was close, but no one did more with less.
    , @YetAnotherAnon
    Tamerlane/Temur won even more victories and slaughtered more people - 5% of world population by some estimates.

    Marlborough as a general must rank high, never lost a battle AFAIK.

    No one's mentioned Ranjit Singh - created the Sikh Empire out of nowhere, conquered the Afghans, never defeated. He saw a British display of quick-firing artillery intended to impress him, it did, just not the way intended, and he created a superb artillery force using mercenary veterans from the Napoleonic Wars.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ranjit_Singh

    But when he died, there was quarreling over the succession, just as there was when Temur died, and the Empire declined then fell to the Brits, who snaffled the Koh-I-Noor diamond from the Sikhs, who'd pinched it from the Afghans, who'd been given it by the Persians, who'd snaffled it from the Moghuls, who'd taken it from the Delhi Sultanate.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
    AgreeDisagreeLOLTroll
    These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Troll, or LOL with the selected comment. They are ONLY available to recent, frequent commenters who have saved their Name+Email using the 'Remember My Information' checkbox, and may also ONLY be used once per hour.
    Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
    Sharing Comment via Twitter
    /isteve/who-was-the-best-military-general-ever/#comment-2107261
    More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  2. Whiskey says: • Website

    Ike in Crusade in Europe noted that Napoleons stock fell when people understood his enemies were coalition forces

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  3. Then again, Napoleon built upon centuries of strategy and tactics developed by a number of greats, like Alexander and even Julius Caesar. Guderian advanced the relative superiority his predecessors, like Luddendorf, had over their Allied opponents, and Rommel improved further on that. The US turned out quite a few good generals in WW2, but probably loses out on the strength of numerical superiority coupled with a dearth of battles per general. The US track record since then is utterly dismal, with overwhelming numerical and materiel superiority squandered on numerous strategic and tactical defeats for uncertain principles.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Jack Hanson
    Any success the US military had on the ground was in SPITE of its generals. It was the strength of the enlisted and company level NCOs who were responsible for a lot of what could be called victories in the Middle East that weren't commando raids.

    Mattis might be the only flag rank commanding troops worth a damn right now outside of SOCOM...and maybe inside of it as well. You really have to have been in the military pre Obama to appreciate how badly the military`s morale and cohesion were ruined in the name of social justice.

    Anyone in right now should pray to God right now that we don't get in a war with Russia or the Norks anytime soon. We are due for a Teutoburg Forest level rout.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  4. Buck says:

    Subutai, without question. The Blitzkrieg was an offshoot of his tactics.

    Although your argument that the armies and tactics were so different as to make comparisons of commanders suspect. Still, Subutai was the most successful in human history.

    Read More
    • Replies: @rogue-one
    Yeah, Sabutai was a genius without a doubt. However, despite his impressive military talents and autonomy of action he never tried to overthrow Genghis Khan. Genghis too (as far as I know) never had a need to kill his ambitious generals (like Alexander & Parmenion). Managing highly successful & ambitious generals seems a very valuable skill for a strategist.

    I am not sure what the reasons for this could be. Perhaps Genghis was more of a military-religious figure like Muhammad rather than merely military leader figure like Alexander.
    , @Citizen of a Silly Country
    Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. That guy was a beast.

    My understanding was that the Soviet (Russian) generals in the 1930s who were very familiar with Mongol tactics due to their history were putting together a Blitzkrieg-like strategy based on Subutai and other Mongol generals. The Russians allowed a number of German military strategists to come to the Soviet Union as part of an exchange program during the lovey period between Stalin and Hitler.

    The Germans were impressed by the strategy (in part because they had some similar ideas) and adopted many aspects. A few years later, Stalin killed most of top generals in a purge and the Subutai/Blitzkrieg strategy was lost to the Russians. But the Germans were all in and used it extremely effectively.

    History can be pretty cool.
    , @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    Another thing that should be mentioned is what kind of civilization was left after the battles fought. Julius Ceasar's death eventually lead to the creation of the Roman Empire which ruled for nearly 400 years. Napoleon also gave France the Civil Code and educational reforms, as too did Frederick the Great.

    From a civilization, government, cultural standpoint, education, literature, art, etc. what exactly did Subutai's victories lead to after his death?

    Answer: He was basically forgotten in the West. In other words once the Mongol invasions ended, so too did the relevance of Subutai from a cultural/civilization standpoint.

    He was a good fighter and added to one's understanding of warfare in general but from a civilizational standpoint nothing more.

    A better fighting thug. Just like his chief thug Ghengis Khan. Barbsarians basically. Any barbarian can fight and conquer tons of armies, even countries who are outnumbered or differ in consistent level of fighting forces.

    It takes a civilized person to create a lasting civilization. Of which Ghengis Khan and Subutai were not.

    After all, what lasting civilization (form of government, education, etc) did the Mongol hordes create?

    Nothing. Disappeared into the winds from which they came, never to return.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  5. IHTG says:

    Hannibal was once asked this by another great general: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hannibal#Military_history

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  6. Buck says:
    @rogue-one
    Genghis Khan seems very impressive general to me. He (lost and) won several battles before he could unify Mongols. His invasion of Khwarazmia was almost perfect. Mongols under him & his successors conquered Russia where weather defeated Napoleon.

    It seems Genghis Khan was at least as good as Alexander the Great and superior to Hannibal in his victories.

    Didn’t see yours first! Good answer.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  7. anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    Wish I could remember who it was who compiled a list of the ten greatest military geniuses of all time. These are offered without comment, except to say that if The Little Corsican was number two, number one is a no-brainer. They were as follows (and separated only by a hair I might add):

    10.) Genghis Khan
    9.) Julius Caesar
    8.) Scipio Africanus
    7.) Hannibal of Carthage
    6.) Erich von Manstein
    5.) George S. Patton
    4.) Stonewall Jackson
    3.) Erwin Rommell
    2.) Napoleon Bonaparte

    And Numero Uno?

    Alexander of Macedon a/k/a “Alexander the Great”

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonym
    Seems like a fairly blinkered, modern Western view influenced by movies.

    Zhukov, Charles Martel, and there have to be a few in the Asian sphere worth investigating. There is a lot of history to be on top of it all though.
    , @dearieme
    "Wish I could remember who it was who compiled a list of the ten greatest military geniuses of all time."

    I think we can be confident that he was American.
    , @anonitron1
    Where my boys Suvorov and Belisarius at? Marlborough and Savoy?
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  8. Hodag says:

    Cntl – f comes up for nothing for Hulagu or Tamerlane. The list is flawed.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  9. El Dato says:

    Mao a best!

    He forlornly wandered around in a multi-season trekking adventure, surpassing Henry V’s aimless meandering through France, recruited destitute croaking peasants, purged the party of problematic elements thus becoming uncontested boss, let the Nationalists and the Japanese duke it out, then took over the exsanguinated continentwide disaster area with nary a fight.

    Meanwhile: Operation British, I mean Operation Apologize!:

    London mayor calls on UK to apologize for colonial massacre that killed hundreds of Sikhs

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  10. Giap/Van Tien Dung as a team must be up there.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  11. All this proves is who is the most autistic person around

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  12. rogue-one says:
    @Buck
    Subutai, without question. The Blitzkrieg was an offshoot of his tactics.

    Although your argument that the armies and tactics were so different as to make comparisons of commanders suspect. Still, Subutai was the most successful in human history.

    Yeah, Sabutai was a genius without a doubt. However, despite his impressive military talents and autonomy of action he never tried to overthrow Genghis Khan. Genghis too (as far as I know) never had a need to kill his ambitious generals (like Alexander & Parmenion). Managing highly successful & ambitious generals seems a very valuable skill for a strategist.

    I am not sure what the reasons for this could be. Perhaps Genghis was more of a military-religious figure like Muhammad rather than merely military leader figure like Alexander.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anon
    That's likely because the Khans were mass murders the likes of which even the ancient world feared.
    , @Autochthon
    Ghengis Khan is actually worshipped to this day by many Mongolians. However, the apotheosis Came only after his death, if I am not mistaken. The same occurred with Alexander, though: the ancients pagans built temples to him and glorified him, even whilst he was yet alive, as they did for Roman emperors.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  13. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    Admiral Yi. Obscure outside of Korea but the best admiral in history.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anon
    That title likely belongs to one of the Greeks who faced down and defeated the powerful Persian navy during the Greco-Persian wars (the second one in particular). Lord Nelson might deserve an honorable mention.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  14. MarkinLA says:

    Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce.

    Kept the US Army and their massive advantage in men and technology at bay. You have to give credit to someone who is in a hopeless position but manages to hold the army together and fight off sure defeat. Given that Washington is a military genius, as well.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  15. Thomas says:

    In contrast, other great generals introduced a revolution in military affairs, such as combined arms blitzkrieg in 1939-1941, which is a somewhat different category of accomplishment.

    You’d have to also account for the general who wins few battles but succeeds on a strategic level (subdues the enemy without fighting, as Sun-Tzu would’ve put it), or who wins few battles but whose victories are decisive. Most generals leading an insurgency do this (George Washington and Vo Nguyen Giap come to mind). A metric that relies solely on battle outcomes would miss this.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  16. LondonBob says:

    In some ways Napoleon was a very mediocre general. He badly neglected logistics, ignored technological innovation and the increasing superiority of the defensive. He attacked Wellington head on with columns and was duly beaten. Shades of Lee and Longstreet, perhaps if Napoleon’s limitations had been better acknowledged then Lee might have fought more on the defensive and got a better score. Lee had his faults, well noted these days, but the Army of Northern Virginia should have been whipped a lot sooner than they were. Quality of troops and arms always matters.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  17. Military geeks always want to focus on individual battles. The goal of a war isn’t to win a battle, it’s to win the war. By that measure:
    Napoleon: Loser. Couldn’t find a way to turn his tactical brilliance into political victory.
    German WWII generals (take your pick): Losers. Same comment as above.
    Zhukov, U.S. Grant: Winners. But they paid an awfully high cost for their victories.

    My vote would go for George Washington. Managed to weave and dodge against the British Empire, keeping his rag tag army barely alive for 7 years. If you look at some of the remarkable victories he scored then (the Trenton / Princeton campaign of Dec. 1776 – Jan. 1777 is amazing), his tactical genius shines through.

    All of this bought enough time to gain the French financial, logistic and military aid to beat the Brits. He knew exactly when and where to concentrate his combined arms (French navy + a large land force) to deliver the blow that convinced the British to quit after Yorktown. That’s the textbook definition of brilliant command according to Clausewitz.

    As if all of this wasn’t enough, measure the size of the accomplishment against the resources used. With an army that was never more than the size of a modern army division, he created the greatest and most powerful country in history.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Buffalo Joe
    NJ, I absolutely agree with you. Although the British were an ocean away from reinforcing their troops, Washington had little to begin with and the resulting victory brought forth the USA.
    , @bomag

    ...definition of brilliant command
     
    Good points.

    But luck has some part of it. In hindsight, Rommel's side bit off more that it could chew; he did the best with what he had.

    I discount Giap: fighting on home soil with fervent nationalism on his side; the arc of history almost certainly would have kicked out the colonialists and joined the country. He could have stayed home and the result would have been more material prosperity and less bloodshed.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  18. Anon says: • Disclaimer
    @rogue-one
    Genghis Khan seems very impressive general to me. He (lost and) won several battles before he could unify Mongols. His invasion of Khwarazmia was almost perfect. Mongols under him & his successors conquered Russia where weather defeated Napoleon.

    It seems Genghis Khan was at least as good as Alexander the Great and superior to Hannibal in his victories.

    Hannibal’s Roman opponent strikes me as a more fearsome and resilient enemy than most of the tribes Khan conquered. Rome and Carthage were also separated by the Mediterranean. I’m not sure if Khan ever faced a natural barrier of comparitve magnitude.

    Khan is considered great largely due to the land area he conquered, regardless of who or what was there (or not). I wouldn’t claim the guy who conquers Antarctica to be the greatest general in history, so I’m not sure I’m comfortable assigning that title to Khan, despite some of his impressive victories in Asia.

    Hannibal was also a figure undermined at home by corrupt politicians and abroad by the fact that he was not the bad person the Romans made him out to be. A tragic character who gave the Romans some deserved comeuppance but was prevented from going the distance due to the factors listed above. In fact, he once spoke to his Roman counterpart after the second Punic War. It was acknowledged that if he had been able to conquer Rome, he would have been considered the greatest general in history and above Alexander the Great, who conquered an aging Persian Empire. Hannibal almost succeeded in this task and might have if he had been less honorable and more sadistic and evil a la Genghis Khan.

    Also, I don’t recall offhand if Khan’s/successors conquest of a weak Russia is analogous to what Napoleon and Hitler wanted – an actual, literal conquest of a powerful and (fairly) organized nation state, not chopping off the heads of disorganized nobels when they got out of line.

    Read More
    • Replies: @anonitron1
    Europe just wasn't militarily comparable to the sinosphere during the Mongol period. You could have invaded medieval Russia with dudes carrying assault rifles and gotten similar results.

    The real impressive things about the Mongols are their conquests of the Muslim world and China itself. Also the fact that they managed to coordinate the actions of multiple armies on a continental scale.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  19. Anon says: • Disclaimer
    @Anonymous
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ieaDfD_h6s

    Admiral Yi. Obscure outside of Korea but the best admiral in history.

    That title likely belongs to one of the Greeks who faced down and defeated the powerful Persian navy during the Greco-Persian wars (the second one in particular). Lord Nelson might deserve an honorable mention.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Autochthon
    The Persian navy was inferior to that of the thalassocratic Greeks; it's the main reason for the outcome of those wars. The Sea of Marmura, the Mediterranean – these preserved the Greeks from much misery as have the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans the Americans.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  20. Anon says: • Disclaimer
    @rogue-one
    Yeah, Sabutai was a genius without a doubt. However, despite his impressive military talents and autonomy of action he never tried to overthrow Genghis Khan. Genghis too (as far as I know) never had a need to kill his ambitious generals (like Alexander & Parmenion). Managing highly successful & ambitious generals seems a very valuable skill for a strategist.

    I am not sure what the reasons for this could be. Perhaps Genghis was more of a military-religious figure like Muhammad rather than merely military leader figure like Alexander.

    That’s likely because the Khans were mass murders the likes of which even the ancient world feared.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  21. If you take away the volume of battles requirement, Pizarro deserve a mention for the ridiculous number disparities vs. the Incans and his absurdly low casualty numbers.

    Read More
    • Agree: rogue-one
    • Replies: @Anon
    Perhaps, but did he ever fight a large, pitched battle against a capable opponent? Or did he face down technologically inferior peoples who were disordered and, as with Cortez and the Aztecs, hated by surrounding tribes willing to turn against their former oppressors? The conquistadors strike me more as timely opportunists (like pirates) than brilliant military leaders.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  22. Anonym says:
    @anonymous
    Wish I could remember who it was who compiled a list of the ten greatest military geniuses of all time. These are offered without comment, except to say that if The Little Corsican was number two, number one is a no-brainer. They were as follows (and separated only by a hair I might add):

    10.) Genghis Khan
    9.) Julius Caesar
    8.) Scipio Africanus
    7.) Hannibal of Carthage
    6.) Erich von Manstein
    5.) George S. Patton
    4.) Stonewall Jackson
    3.) Erwin Rommell
    2.) Napoleon Bonaparte

    And Numero Uno?

    Alexander of Macedon a/k/a "Alexander the Great"

    Seems like a fairly blinkered, modern Western view influenced by movies.

    Zhukov, Charles Martel, and there have to be a few in the Asian sphere worth investigating. There is a lot of history to be on top of it all though.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  23. Anon says: • Disclaimer
    @The Millennial Falcon
    If you take away the volume of battles requirement, Pizarro deserve a mention for the ridiculous number disparities vs. the Incans and his absurdly low casualty numbers.

    Perhaps, but did he ever fight a large, pitched battle against a capable opponent? Or did he face down technologically inferior peoples who were disordered and, as with Cortez and the Aztecs, hated by surrounding tribes willing to turn against their former oppressors? The conquistadors strike me more as timely opportunists (like pirates) than brilliant military leaders.

    Read More
    • Replies: @The Millennial Falcon
    A zeal for large pitched battles is what undid a lot of famous generals, no?

    A willingness to break the rules and ruthlessly exploit whatever military advantages you have might be a better metric for judging a general's quality than how well he fared in a more ritualized encounter.
    , @J.Ross
    Jared Diamond of all people, in the course of effortfully failing to inspire doubt regarding white accomplishment in "Guns, Germs, and Illiterate Spear-Throwers Are Our Superiors," decided to cite a spectacular and not at all non-representative episode in which under twenty Spaniards (true men of war, from a land of chaos, who had been fighting at every scale since they were teenagers, in a society where bad strategists got efficiently weeded out) fought and completely routed the unified host of a South American empire (soft quoters of poetry, from a land where phronesis was defeated by technology and gentlemanly agreement, and whose benevolent central government directed teenagers to help the elderly with agriculture and household tasks). This is not opportunism. There is only one way to interpret it. If anything it's the Aztecs who were opportunists: their slave-harvesting had no strategic necessity and was undertaken at leisure from weaker neighbors.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  24. notice says:

    Gaius Marius and Sulla seem to be overlooked. Both won many battles in which their armies were outnumbered, sometimes badly so.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  25. This undervalues commanders of rebel armies, who might have lost most of their battles, and yet ultimately went on to win their wars.

    Winning lots of battles doesn’t always guarantee ultimate victory.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  26. @NJ Transit Commuter
    Military geeks always want to focus on individual battles. The goal of a war isn’t to win a battle, it’s to win the war. By that measure:
    Napoleon: Loser. Couldn’t find a way to turn his tactical brilliance into political victory.
    German WWII generals (take your pick): Losers. Same comment as above.
    Zhukov, U.S. Grant: Winners. But they paid an awfully high cost for their victories.

    My vote would go for George Washington. Managed to weave and dodge against the British Empire, keeping his rag tag army barely alive for 7 years. If you look at some of the remarkable victories he scored then (the Trenton / Princeton campaign of Dec. 1776 - Jan. 1777 is amazing), his tactical genius shines through.

    All of this bought enough time to gain the French financial, logistic and military aid to beat the Brits. He knew exactly when and where to concentrate his combined arms (French navy + a large land force) to deliver the blow that convinced the British to quit after Yorktown. That’s the textbook definition of brilliant command according to Clausewitz.

    As if all of this wasn’t enough, measure the size of the accomplishment against the resources used. With an army that was never more than the size of a modern army division, he created the greatest and most powerful country in history.

    NJ, I absolutely agree with you. Although the British were an ocean away from reinforcing their troops, Washington had little to begin with and the resulting victory brought forth the USA.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  27. As many other posters have pointed out, there are many dimensions to consider when evaluating military leadership. Among them are one’s mastery of strategy versus tactics versus logistics; the quality of the enemies one must face, the quality of one’s own forces, use of innovation, extent and difficulty of terrain, chances to prove one’s self, one’s ultimate impact on contemporary and long term history.

    Not enough attention is paid to Nathan Bedford Forest, whom Shelby Foote characterized as the Civil War’s greatest tactician, . Forest had a superb understanding of weapons and tactics, the strengths and weaknesses of his own and his enemy’s forces, and a profound knowledge of the terrain upon which he fought. He innovated tactics on an ad hoc basis, as necessary. On one famous occasion he predicted three days in advance, why, when, and where a battle would occur and laid out, almost to the minute, how the battle would play out. I know of no other military commander who ever displayed anything like this grasp of any tactical situation.

    Read More
    • Agree: Autochthon
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Cochran says Nathan Bedford Forrest and Ariel Sharon are pretty comparable.
    , @Uncle Remus
    Asked by a Union officer after the surrender who was his greatest general was, Robert E. Lee replied,
    "Sir, a gentleman I have never had the pleasure to meet General Nathan Bedford Forrest." Forrest's
    battle tactics were studied by Field Marshall Erwin Rommel and by General George S. Patton. The
    Institute for Military Studies concluded that Forrest's victory at the Battle of Brice's Crossroads was
    the most spectacular display of tactical genius in the War of Secession.
    , @Autochthon
    Yeah, but he wanted to protect his people from Negroes and carpetbaggers after the war, so he has been unpersoned.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  28. @Anon
    Perhaps, but did he ever fight a large, pitched battle against a capable opponent? Or did he face down technologically inferior peoples who were disordered and, as with Cortez and the Aztecs, hated by surrounding tribes willing to turn against their former oppressors? The conquistadors strike me more as timely opportunists (like pirates) than brilliant military leaders.

    A zeal for large pitched battles is what undid a lot of famous generals, no?

    A willingness to break the rules and ruthlessly exploit whatever military advantages you have might be a better metric for judging a general’s quality than how well he fared in a more ritualized encounter.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anon
    Large battles (or at least some kind of conflict between opposing forces) are where great men are tested. I don't consider land pirates exploiting weaker opponents to be in the same category as Patton or Napoleon.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  29. syonredux says:
    @rogue-one
    Genghis Khan seems very impressive general to me. He (lost and) won several battles before he could unify Mongols. His invasion of Khwarazmia was almost perfect. Mongols under him & his successors conquered Russia where weather defeated Napoleon.

    It seems Genghis Khan was at least as good as Alexander the Great and superior to Hannibal in his victories.

    His invasion of Khwarazmia was almost perfect.

    Though not, I suspect, from the perspective of the inhabitants…

    John Man, in his Genghis Khan: Life, Death, and Resurrection makes a rough guess that 1.25 million people were killed in Khwarezm in two years– that’s out of a pre-invasion population estimated at 5 million…

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anon
    There's also the story of one of the Khan's killing a million Arabs and dumping their heads into pile. Ancient stats are often exaggerated, but even a figure anywhere in the ballpark must have been something to see.
    , @rogue-one
    I guess Genghis Khan's advisors told him: "Mr. Khan, I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed, but I do say no more than 10 to 20 million killed, tops! Uh, depending on the breaks."

    That said, I think these numbers are highly exaggerated. The mongols were about 100k in number, tops. It seems unrealistic that they would have been able to kill 1.25 million within a few years.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  30. dearieme says:
    @anonymous
    Wish I could remember who it was who compiled a list of the ten greatest military geniuses of all time. These are offered without comment, except to say that if The Little Corsican was number two, number one is a no-brainer. They were as follows (and separated only by a hair I might add):

    10.) Genghis Khan
    9.) Julius Caesar
    8.) Scipio Africanus
    7.) Hannibal of Carthage
    6.) Erich von Manstein
    5.) George S. Patton
    4.) Stonewall Jackson
    3.) Erwin Rommell
    2.) Napoleon Bonaparte

    And Numero Uno?

    Alexander of Macedon a/k/a "Alexander the Great"

    “Wish I could remember who it was who compiled a list of the ten greatest military geniuses of all time.”

    I think we can be confident that he was American.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  31. Waydaminit.

    Doesn’t everyone here say that Europe is being successfuly invaded-right now?

    So—Angela Merkel maybe.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anon
    They'll have to create another category for Merkel: Surrenderess. She's the greatest surrenderess in history whereas Napoleon was the greatest general (read "conqueror").
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  32. @Anon
    Hannibal's Roman opponent strikes me as a more fearsome and resilient enemy than most of the tribes Khan conquered. Rome and Carthage were also separated by the Mediterranean. I'm not sure if Khan ever faced a natural barrier of comparitve magnitude.

    Khan is considered great largely due to the land area he conquered, regardless of who or what was there (or not). I wouldn't claim the guy who conquers Antarctica to be the greatest general in history, so I'm not sure I'm comfortable assigning that title to Khan, despite some of his impressive victories in Asia.

    Hannibal was also a figure undermined at home by corrupt politicians and abroad by the fact that he was not the bad person the Romans made him out to be. A tragic character who gave the Romans some deserved comeuppance but was prevented from going the distance due to the factors listed above. In fact, he once spoke to his Roman counterpart after the second Punic War. It was acknowledged that if he had been able to conquer Rome, he would have been considered the greatest general in history and above Alexander the Great, who conquered an aging Persian Empire. Hannibal almost succeeded in this task and might have if he had been less honorable and more sadistic and evil a la Genghis Khan.

    Also, I don't recall offhand if Khan's/successors conquest of a weak Russia is analogous to what Napoleon and Hitler wanted - an actual, literal conquest of a powerful and (fairly) organized nation state, not chopping off the heads of disorganized nobels when they got out of line.

    Europe just wasn’t militarily comparable to the sinosphere during the Mongol period. You could have invaded medieval Russia with dudes carrying assault rifles and gotten similar results.

    The real impressive things about the Mongols are their conquests of the Muslim world and China itself. Also the fact that they managed to coordinate the actions of multiple armies on a continental scale.

    Read More
    • Replies: @J.Ross
    Medieval Russia was nothing to sneeze at (they had quasi-democratic governmental forms, read books, and bathed, and ruling class Western Europeans of the same time period did not, and would not for quite a while). It was hopelessly divided and unprepared, not hopeless.
    , @Autochthon
    Cavalry armed and skilled with composite, recurve bows effectively were assault rifles at that time; the enemies were all sort of running around with flintlocks or muskets by way of comparison....

    It goes to whether Subatai was a brilliant or whether he just happened to be the guy leading the folks with the overwhelming technological edge...

    (Mind you, I think he was brilliant, but this edge sure a Hell didn't hurt him!)
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  33. J.Ross says: • Website

    Subothai, no contest. But it would be a hoot if we asked a Sid and Marty Kroft type god-computer and it slowly printed out the answer “George B. McClellan,” and then proceeded to prove mathematically why that was the case in an excruciatingly academic sense. McClellan was a superb general on paper.
    Under-appreciated in discussion of the Mongols was their highly developed recognition of the importance of intelligence. Unlike certain unnamed modern empires that blunder into a country based on CNN reports about magic powers, and then reverse electrification, anti-tribalism, and women’s liberation, and yet expect to be greeted as liberators, Mongols would send out spies years in advance. They would compile data, over years, on everything from weather patterns to economics. They would deliberate with all the speed and efficiency of modern East Asians holding an academic department meeting, before setting their war machine into motion, at which point they were unstoppable for multiple good reasons. But there were still a few close scratches where Subothai proved he was genuinely good at thinking on his feet.

    There are also two different stories about Napoleon being woken up well after REM, being warned of a surprise attack with a good chance of envelopment, and rattling off exactly the right counter-moves before he was fully dressed. This is very similar to the picture of Voltaire, being so witty he had to be recorded, as soon as his eyes were open in the morning. I am a blind shambling groaner mornings before I’ve had my Vitamin I and two big cups of Assam. Since these two great men are so tied to the Age and ideology of Enlightenment, I cannot help suspecting that these stories are not completely true, but were propagated as proof of superior rationality. We are so enlightened, we don’t need coffee to be brilliant!

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  34. @Jus' Sayin'...
    As many other posters have pointed out, there are many dimensions to consider when evaluating military leadership. Among them are one's mastery of strategy versus tactics versus logistics; the quality of the enemies one must face, the quality of one's own forces, use of innovation, extent and difficulty of terrain, chances to prove one's self, one's ultimate impact on contemporary and long term history.

    Not enough attention is paid to Nathan Bedford Forest, whom Shelby Foote characterized as the Civil War's greatest tactician, . Forest had a superb understanding of weapons and tactics, the strengths and weaknesses of his own and his enemy's forces, and a profound knowledge of the terrain upon which he fought. He innovated tactics on an ad hoc basis, as necessary. On one famous occasion he predicted three days in advance, why, when, and where a battle would occur and laid out, almost to the minute, how the battle would play out. I know of no other military commander who ever displayed anything like this grasp of any tactical situation.

    Cochran says Nathan Bedford Forrest and Ariel Sharon are pretty comparable.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  35. @anonymous
    Wish I could remember who it was who compiled a list of the ten greatest military geniuses of all time. These are offered without comment, except to say that if The Little Corsican was number two, number one is a no-brainer. They were as follows (and separated only by a hair I might add):

    10.) Genghis Khan
    9.) Julius Caesar
    8.) Scipio Africanus
    7.) Hannibal of Carthage
    6.) Erich von Manstein
    5.) George S. Patton
    4.) Stonewall Jackson
    3.) Erwin Rommell
    2.) Napoleon Bonaparte

    And Numero Uno?

    Alexander of Macedon a/k/a "Alexander the Great"

    Where my boys Suvorov and Belisarius at? Marlborough and Savoy?

    Read More
    • Agree: Desiderius
    • Replies: @anonymous
    Not to mention Giap, the Duke of Alva and Wellington--the latter who is very underrated even though he whipped The Corsican's army twice--the first time in Spain during the Peninsula Campaign and the second time of course at Waterloo. As a footnote the late British military historian, John Keegan, when asked who was the best of the WW II German generals he replied "Albert Kesselring". The interviewer was at a loss for words, thinking he would have chosen Rommel, Guderian or Manstein. And it has to be said that Kesselring did succeed in pretty much keeping the Allies bottled up in Italy via a skillful use of the mountainous terrain which he turned to his advantage.

    As to your boys, though I have heard of him I am not familiar with Suvorov but if he was on the level of Belisarius, Churchill/Marlborough or the great Eugene you get no argument from me.
    , @Mr. Anon
    Belisarius won a lot of battles and won back a lot of territory for the Eastern Roman Empire. His exploits are recounted, in fictional form and highly entertainingly, in Robert Graves novel General Belisarius. It's not nearly as well known as I, Claudius, but it ought to be. Well worth a read.
    , @CK
    Suvorov commanded and won 18 battles ( and lost none ), in Mr. Arsht's data set only four of Suvorov's victories are used for the calculation of his WAR. Trusting Wikipedia for you base data is problematic.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  36. Anon says: • Disclaimer
    @The Millennial Falcon
    A zeal for large pitched battles is what undid a lot of famous generals, no?

    A willingness to break the rules and ruthlessly exploit whatever military advantages you have might be a better metric for judging a general's quality than how well he fared in a more ritualized encounter.

    Large battles (or at least some kind of conflict between opposing forces) are where great men are tested. I don’t consider land pirates exploiting weaker opponents to be in the same category as Patton or Napoleon.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  37. Anon says: • Disclaimer
    @anony-mouse
    Waydaminit.

    Doesn't everyone here say that Europe is being successfuly invaded-right now?

    So---Angela Merkel maybe.

    They’ll have to create another category for Merkel: Surrenderess. She’s the greatest surrenderess in history whereas Napoleon was the greatest general (read “conqueror”).

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  38. Anon says: • Disclaimer
    @syonredux

    His invasion of Khwarazmia was almost perfect.
     
    Though not, I suspect, from the perspective of the inhabitants...


    John Man, in his Genghis Khan: Life, Death, and Resurrection makes a rough guess that 1.25 million people were killed in Khwarezm in two years-- that's out of a pre-invasion population estimated at 5 million...

    There’s also the story of one of the Khan’s killing a million Arabs and dumping their heads into pile. Ancient stats are often exaggerated, but even a figure anywhere in the ballpark must have been something to see.

    Read More
    • Replies: @syonredux

    There’s also the story of one of the Khan’s killing a million Arabs and dumping their heads into pile. Ancient stats are often exaggerated, but even a figure anywhere in the ballpark must have been something to see.
     
    A million is a bit much....but lop off a zero....and 100,000 sounds doable....estimates on the death-toll from the Mongol Siege of Baghdad in 1258 go 90,000 +.....
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  39. J.Ross says: • Website
    @Anon
    Perhaps, but did he ever fight a large, pitched battle against a capable opponent? Or did he face down technologically inferior peoples who were disordered and, as with Cortez and the Aztecs, hated by surrounding tribes willing to turn against their former oppressors? The conquistadors strike me more as timely opportunists (like pirates) than brilliant military leaders.

    Jared Diamond of all people, in the course of effortfully failing to inspire doubt regarding white accomplishment in “Guns, Germs, and Illiterate Spear-Throwers Are Our Superiors,” decided to cite a spectacular and not at all non-representative episode in which under twenty Spaniards (true men of war, from a land of chaos, who had been fighting at every scale since they were teenagers, in a society where bad strategists got efficiently weeded out) fought and completely routed the unified host of a South American empire (soft quoters of poetry, from a land where phronesis was defeated by technology and gentlemanly agreement, and whose benevolent central government directed teenagers to help the elderly with agriculture and household tasks). This is not opportunism. There is only one way to interpret it. If anything it’s the Aztecs who were opportunists: their slave-harvesting had no strategic necessity and was undertaken at leisure from weaker neighbors.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  40. Cortes says:

    Modesty, according to (I seem to recall) John Kenneth Galbraith, is overrated.

    In that spirit I give you, in favour of the Champ:

    Easy peasy, winning an Empire with a few guys and lots of guile (and a smidgeon of smallpox to be fair):

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hernán_Cortés

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  41. Sunbeam says:

    I’m glad a number of people mentioned Subotai.

    I’ve been interested in, and done a little bit of reading (for what that is worth). This is a fairly common kind of question you’ll see here and there.

    The most common answers I’ve ever seen are Subotai (one of Genghis Khan’s generals), and Belisarius, a Byzantine.

    I guess it depends on what you want to call a general in Genghis Khan’s case. Was he more Ike of the 1950′s or Ike in the European theatre?

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  42. J.Ross says: • Website
    @anonitron1
    Europe just wasn't militarily comparable to the sinosphere during the Mongol period. You could have invaded medieval Russia with dudes carrying assault rifles and gotten similar results.

    The real impressive things about the Mongols are their conquests of the Muslim world and China itself. Also the fact that they managed to coordinate the actions of multiple armies on a continental scale.

    Medieval Russia was nothing to sneeze at (they had quasi-democratic governmental forms, read books, and bathed, and ruling class Western Europeans of the same time period did not, and would not for quite a while). It was hopelessly divided and unprepared, not hopeless.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  43. Hubbub says:

    Da bestest gen’al of all time was Haitian Gen’al Toussaint L’Overture – da Black Napoleon – ’cause he drove all da white folk out a’ Haiti, killing lots n’ lots of’em. And dats how Haiti ‘came de Jewel of de Caribbean’ it is today. So dere….

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  44. RJJCDA says:

    According to B.H. Liddell Hart’s Scipio Africanus: Greater than Napoleon, Nappy wasn’t that great.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  45. Camlost says:

    The early Muslim (Rashidun) Caliphate was led by a General of great brilliance, Khalid ibn Al-Walid.

    His tactical brilliance deserves mention amongst the world greats. The quick spread of Islam and fast destruction of Byzantium are partly due to his successes.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  46. Jack Cade says:

    Simply insufficient criteria. Greatest in terms of what? Killing people? Establishing a lasting state? Doing the best with less? At first I would have said Caesar, but reflecting further, it’s probably more important to look at what resulted of all this generaling. Establishing the Roman Empire, The United States, the Khanate, all seem very impressive. One can’t win the game if there are no rules!

    Read More
    • Agree: Autochthon
    • Replies: @Mr. Anon

    Simply insufficient criteria. Greatest in terms of what? Killing people? Establishing a lasting state? Doing the best with less?
     
    In terms of doing right by his nation and its people, one should mention Franco. He kept his country from (possibly) becoming a Soviet satellite, and then kept his country out of WWII.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  47. @The Alarmist
    Then again, Napoleon built upon centuries of strategy and tactics developed by a number of greats, like Alexander and even Julius Caesar. Guderian advanced the relative superiority his predecessors, like Luddendorf, had over their Allied opponents, and Rommel improved further on that. The US turned out quite a few good generals in WW2, but probably loses out on the strength of numerical superiority coupled with a dearth of battles per general. The US track record since then is utterly dismal, with overwhelming numerical and materiel superiority squandered on numerous strategic and tactical defeats for uncertain principles.

    Any success the US military had on the ground was in SPITE of its generals. It was the strength of the enlisted and company level NCOs who were responsible for a lot of what could be called victories in the Middle East that weren’t commando raids.

    Mattis might be the only flag rank commanding troops worth a damn right now outside of SOCOM…and maybe inside of it as well. You really have to have been in the military pre Obama to appreciate how badly the military`s morale and cohesion were ruined in the name of social justice.

    Anyone in right now should pray to God right now that we don’t get in a war with Russia or the Norks anytime soon. We are due for a Teutoburg Forest level rout.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Charles Erwin Wilson II

    We are due for a Teutoburg Forest level rout.
     
    Damn.
    , @The Alarmist
    I was in the military just after Vietnam, and morale was in the toilet. I would imagine the SJW crap, the ops tempo and multiple deployments have taken their toll, but I doubt morale is as bad now as it was in the late '70s. Let's put it this way: I was in a store in the US last month, and when a young guy in BDUs walked in I heard two people thank him for his service. In my day, you never heard that, and though it got markedly better under Reagan, I didn't really see much of that until Desert Storm.

    As for taking on the Norks, Russians, or Chinese, it would be a dicey proposition in the best of times.

    As for Mattis, they didn't give him the call-sign 'Chaos' for nothing.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  48. syonredux says:
    @Anon
    There's also the story of one of the Khan's killing a million Arabs and dumping their heads into pile. Ancient stats are often exaggerated, but even a figure anywhere in the ballpark must have been something to see.

    There’s also the story of one of the Khan’s killing a million Arabs and dumping their heads into pile. Ancient stats are often exaggerated, but even a figure anywhere in the ballpark must have been something to see.

    A million is a bit much….but lop off a zero….and 100,000 sounds doable….estimates on the death-toll from the Mongol Siege of Baghdad in 1258 go 90,000 +…..

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  49. @Buck
    Subutai, without question. The Blitzkrieg was an offshoot of his tactics.

    Although your argument that the armies and tactics were so different as to make comparisons of commanders suspect. Still, Subutai was the most successful in human history.

    Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. That guy was a beast.

    My understanding was that the Soviet (Russian) generals in the 1930s who were very familiar with Mongol tactics due to their history were putting together a Blitzkrieg-like strategy based on Subutai and other Mongol generals. The Russians allowed a number of German military strategists to come to the Soviet Union as part of an exchange program during the lovey period between Stalin and Hitler.

    The Germans were impressed by the strategy (in part because they had some similar ideas) and adopted many aspects. A few years later, Stalin killed most of top generals in a purge and the Subutai/Blitzkrieg strategy was lost to the Russians. But the Germans were all in and used it extremely effectively.

    History can be pretty cool.

    Read More
    • Replies: @LondonBob
    Generally acknowledged that the Germans copied Blitzkrieg from British experiments. Unfortunately JFC Fuller had more influence on the Wehrmacht than the British army.

    I would vote for Stonewall Jackson, but I think the gifted amateur Cromwell deserves a mention.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  50. Drakejax says:

    Zhukov. He commanded the largest armies in history’s largest military operations in history’s largest war. And he ultimatelly won his war. You can’t put Western generals even in the same category for never having engaged in the type of epic operations Zhukov conducted. Take away Zhukov, and maybe Germany’s last stand on the Oder River holds long enough for an accomodation with the west.

    Read More
    • Replies: @J.Ross
    Zhukov does deserve more credit than he is normally given. The idea that Soviet doctrine consisted of selflessly ordering hordes of peasants to zergrush is a simplification, and the exact impression Zhukov wanted to give to American commanders postwar for obvious reasons. However Zhukov proved his boldness and strategic brilliance before the German side of the war, when he quickly knocked out a Japanese attempt to take Siberia, which forced the Japanese to give a separate peace.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  51. Yak-15 says:

    Belsarius, Saladin and Pyrrhus should be up for contention.

    I would give my top 5 to be:

    Subutai
    Belsarius
    Alexander
    Hannibal
    Napoleon

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  52. KunioKun says:

    This is a very difficult problem. He should try applying his technique to other domains to see how it turns out as a comparison. For example, try using it to find “the greatest athlete” across different team sports and see who it picks.

    My favorite book on Napoleon is “The Campaigns of Napoleon” by David Chandler.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  53. Taco says:

    How can you compare a general like Napoleon (who was a tactical master but lost all of the important campaigns) with a general like Douglas MacArthur, who doesn’t really have a signature victory (maybe Inchon) but expertly executed the pacific theater?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Sparkon

    Douglas MacArthur, who doesn’t really have a signature victory (maybe Inchon) but expertly executed the pacific theater?
     
    Gen. MacArthur managed to have his entire air force caught on the ground many hours after Pearl Harbor, and much of it was destroyed. He had much more warning than Kimmel and Short did at Pearl Harbor, but where the Pearl commanders were reprimanded, and reduced in rank, "Dugout Doug" MacArthur got the Medal of Honor.


    Dugout Doug MacArthur lies ashaking on the Rock
    Safe from all the bombers and from any sudden shock
    Dugout Doug is eating of the best food on Bataan
    And his troops go starving on.

    Dugout Doug’s not timid, he’s just cautious, not afraid
    He’s protecting carefully the stars that Franklin made
    Four-star generals are rare as good food on Bataan
    And his troops go starving on.

    Dugout Doug is ready in his Kris Craft for the flee
    Over bounding billows and the wildly raging sea
    For the Japs are pounding on the gates of Old Bataan
    And his troops go starving on…

    --Anonymous, 1942

     

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  54. bored identity would go with General Winter-worked every time, and will work again:

    pj130709011916.jpg (JPEG Image, 755 × 1131 pixels)

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  55. anonymous says: • Disclaimer
    @anonitron1
    Where my boys Suvorov and Belisarius at? Marlborough and Savoy?

    Not to mention Giap, the Duke of Alva and Wellington–the latter who is very underrated even though he whipped The Corsican’s army twice–the first time in Spain during the Peninsula Campaign and the second time of course at Waterloo. As a footnote the late British military historian, John Keegan, when asked who was the best of the WW II German generals he replied “Albert Kesselring”. The interviewer was at a loss for words, thinking he would have chosen Rommel, Guderian or Manstein. And it has to be said that Kesselring did succeed in pretty much keeping the Allies bottled up in Italy via a skillful use of the mountainous terrain which he turned to his advantage.

    As to your boys, though I have heard of him I am not familiar with Suvorov but if he was on the level of Belisarius, Churchill/Marlborough or the great Eugene you get no argument from me.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Wellington never lost a battle in the field. He was a master of picking out where he'd fight. He was a counterpuncher, superb at inducing the enemy to attack him on the precise battlefield he'd scouted as most favorable for making a stand.

    He wasn't as good at siege warfare, though.

    , @NickG

    when asked who was the best of the WW II German generals he replied “Albert Kesselring”
     
    Grinning Kesselring lost the battle of Britain for the Bosch.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  56. TWS says:

    Captain Wilton Parmenter.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  57. Danindc says:

    Have you anti Irish bastards never heard of Fightin’ Phil Sheridan?? He won the Civil War damn near by himself. Then brought the savages to heel out west.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  58. @anonymous
    Not to mention Giap, the Duke of Alva and Wellington--the latter who is very underrated even though he whipped The Corsican's army twice--the first time in Spain during the Peninsula Campaign and the second time of course at Waterloo. As a footnote the late British military historian, John Keegan, when asked who was the best of the WW II German generals he replied "Albert Kesselring". The interviewer was at a loss for words, thinking he would have chosen Rommel, Guderian or Manstein. And it has to be said that Kesselring did succeed in pretty much keeping the Allies bottled up in Italy via a skillful use of the mountainous terrain which he turned to his advantage.

    As to your boys, though I have heard of him I am not familiar with Suvorov but if he was on the level of Belisarius, Churchill/Marlborough or the great Eugene you get no argument from me.

    Wellington never lost a battle in the field. He was a master of picking out where he’d fight. He was a counterpuncher, superb at inducing the enemy to attack him on the precise battlefield he’d scouted as most favorable for making a stand.

    He wasn’t as good at siege warfare, though.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Charles Erwin Wilson II

    He wasn’t as good at siege warfare, though.
     
    Seige warfare sucks.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  59. Heinz Guderian gets my vote. He was not a political general or really a field general as much as he was a strategist. Using Blitzkrieg, the Germans came within an ace of pulling off the greatest crime of the millennium. Sun Tzu probably should be #1, but he was over there and I am over here.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Old Palo Altan
    Crime? Since when has defending one's nation against naked aggression (the declaration of war against Germany by perfidious Albion and the French harlot on September 3rd 1939) been considered a crime?
    Half of France (the better half) was thrilled by the defeat of the wretched Republic; England would have happily provided its own Pétain, had Hitler's love for the British Empire not blinded him to his one and only opportunity in the summer of 1940.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  60. J.Ross says: • Website
    @Drakejax
    Zhukov. He commanded the largest armies in history's largest military operations in history's largest war. And he ultimatelly won his war. You can't put Western generals even in the same category for never having engaged in the type of epic operations Zhukov conducted. Take away Zhukov, and maybe Germany's last stand on the Oder River holds long enough for an accomodation with the west.

    Zhukov does deserve more credit than he is normally given. The idea that Soviet doctrine consisted of selflessly ordering hordes of peasants to zergrush is a simplification, and the exact impression Zhukov wanted to give to American commanders postwar for obvious reasons. However Zhukov proved his boldness and strategic brilliance before the German side of the war, when he quickly knocked out a Japanese attempt to take Siberia, which forced the Japanese to give a separate peace.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  61. In contrast, Alexander the Great went 9-0 but he doesn’t match up to Napoleon in this methodology because he just didn’t fight enough …

    Peak value vs. Career value

    Read More
    • Replies: @Brutusale
    As college coaches complain when the bowl game rankings are being debated: we can't help it that we didn't play them.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  62. @rogue-one
    Genghis Khan seems very impressive general to me. He (lost and) won several battles before he could unify Mongols. His invasion of Khwarazmia was almost perfect. Mongols under him & his successors conquered Russia where weather defeated Napoleon.

    It seems Genghis Khan was at least as good as Alexander the Great and superior to Hannibal in his victories.

    I think a lot of the credit that goes to Genghis Khan should actually go to Subutai, who was the top military strategist for both Genghis and his successor Ogedai.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  63. @Jack Hanson
    Any success the US military had on the ground was in SPITE of its generals. It was the strength of the enlisted and company level NCOs who were responsible for a lot of what could be called victories in the Middle East that weren't commando raids.

    Mattis might be the only flag rank commanding troops worth a damn right now outside of SOCOM...and maybe inside of it as well. You really have to have been in the military pre Obama to appreciate how badly the military`s morale and cohesion were ruined in the name of social justice.

    Anyone in right now should pray to God right now that we don't get in a war with Russia or the Norks anytime soon. We are due for a Teutoburg Forest level rout.

    We are due for a Teutoburg Forest level rout.

    Damn.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  64. @rogue-one
    Genghis Khan seems very impressive general to me. He (lost and) won several battles before he could unify Mongols. His invasion of Khwarazmia was almost perfect. Mongols under him & his successors conquered Russia where weather defeated Napoleon.

    It seems Genghis Khan was at least as good as Alexander the Great and superior to Hannibal in his victories.

    It seems Genghis Khan was at least as good as Alexander the Great and superior to Hannibal in his victories.

    No. Belisarius. Rommel was close, but no one did more with less.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Autochthon

    [N]o one did more with less.
     
    Lee? Jackson? Surely Cortes?
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  65. @Steve Sailer
    Wellington never lost a battle in the field. He was a master of picking out where he'd fight. He was a counterpuncher, superb at inducing the enemy to attack him on the precise battlefield he'd scouted as most favorable for making a stand.

    He wasn't as good at siege warfare, though.

    He wasn’t as good at siege warfare, though.

    Seige warfare sucks.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  66. Suvorov? (never lost a battle)
    Chaka Zulu?

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  67. Mr. Anon says:
    @anonitron1
    Where my boys Suvorov and Belisarius at? Marlborough and Savoy?

    Belisarius won a lot of battles and won back a lot of territory for the Eastern Roman Empire. His exploits are recounted, in fictional form and highly entertainingly, in Robert Graves novel General Belisarius. It’s not nearly as well known as I, Claudius, but it ought to be. Well worth a read.

    Read More
    • Replies: @dfordoom

    His exploits are recounted, in fictional form and highly entertainingly, in Robert Graves novel General Belisarius.
     
    The novel is actually called Count Belisarius. And I agree, it's superb and deserves to be more widely known.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  68. Twinkie says:

    This is like “What is the best rifle in the world?”

    Without context, it’s all meaningless.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  69. Mr. Anon says:
    @Jack Cade
    Simply insufficient criteria. Greatest in terms of what? Killing people? Establishing a lasting state? Doing the best with less? At first I would have said Caesar, but reflecting further, it's probably more important to look at what resulted of all this generaling. Establishing the Roman Empire, The United States, the Khanate, all seem very impressive. One can't win the game if there are no rules!

    Simply insufficient criteria. Greatest in terms of what? Killing people? Establishing a lasting state? Doing the best with less?

    In terms of doing right by his nation and its people, one should mention Franco. He kept his country from (possibly) becoming a Soviet satellite, and then kept his country out of WWII.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonym
    One might also mention Pinochet. He pioneered free helicopter rides. In terms of death of political opposition, a few tens of thousands is light refreshment for a communist regime.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augusto_Pinochet
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  70. @Buck
    Subutai, without question. The Blitzkrieg was an offshoot of his tactics.

    Although your argument that the armies and tactics were so different as to make comparisons of commanders suspect. Still, Subutai was the most successful in human history.

    Another thing that should be mentioned is what kind of civilization was left after the battles fought. Julius Ceasar’s death eventually lead to the creation of the Roman Empire which ruled for nearly 400 years. Napoleon also gave France the Civil Code and educational reforms, as too did Frederick the Great.

    From a civilization, government, cultural standpoint, education, literature, art, etc. what exactly did Subutai’s victories lead to after his death?

    Answer: He was basically forgotten in the West. In other words once the Mongol invasions ended, so too did the relevance of Subutai from a cultural/civilization standpoint.

    He was a good fighter and added to one’s understanding of warfare in general but from a civilizational standpoint nothing more.

    A better fighting thug. Just like his chief thug Ghengis Khan. Barbsarians basically. Any barbarian can fight and conquer tons of armies, even countries who are outnumbered or differ in consistent level of fighting forces.

    It takes a civilized person to create a lasting civilization. Of which Ghengis Khan and Subutai were not.

    After all, what lasting civilization (form of government, education, etc) did the Mongol hordes create?

    Nothing. Disappeared into the winds from which they came, never to return.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Hodag
    Your dismissal of the Mongol Empire is unwarranted. The Mongols created dynasties in China, Persia and the sub-continent, the Moghul Empire (nee Mongol) ruled until the Mutiny in 1857! One of their bannermen took Constantinople and kept it until today, and but for spring rain and the Poles they would have taken Vienna.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  71. PaulD says:

    I feel I should point out here that Napoleon actually LOST his final battle…. to Lord Wellington & Marshal Blucher at Waterloo. Napoleon was a military genius as well as a flawed character. Napoleon’s vanity led to 2.5 million Europeans being killed. He is no hero!

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  72. @Jack Hanson
    Any success the US military had on the ground was in SPITE of its generals. It was the strength of the enlisted and company level NCOs who were responsible for a lot of what could be called victories in the Middle East that weren't commando raids.

    Mattis might be the only flag rank commanding troops worth a damn right now outside of SOCOM...and maybe inside of it as well. You really have to have been in the military pre Obama to appreciate how badly the military`s morale and cohesion were ruined in the name of social justice.

    Anyone in right now should pray to God right now that we don't get in a war with Russia or the Norks anytime soon. We are due for a Teutoburg Forest level rout.

    I was in the military just after Vietnam, and morale was in the toilet. I would imagine the SJW crap, the ops tempo and multiple deployments have taken their toll, but I doubt morale is as bad now as it was in the late ’70s. Let’s put it this way: I was in a store in the US last month, and when a young guy in BDUs walked in I heard two people thank him for his service. In my day, you never heard that, and though it got markedly better under Reagan, I didn’t really see much of that until Desert Storm.

    As for taking on the Norks, Russians, or Chinese, it would be a dicey proposition in the best of times.

    As for Mattis, they didn’t give him the call-sign ‘Chaos’ for nothing.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Jack Hanson
    I think its been purposefully covered up how badly the Bergdahl verdict was a blow to morale in the service.

    This along with the fact tranny surgeries are getting prioritized over stuff like guys getting their burn scars worked on is absolutely disgusting.

    It used to be that a guy, sufficiently motivated, could ride this out in a unit like the 101st, 82nd, or try for Ranger Batt or SF. Right now the schmuck in charge of SFAS is chasing his next star trying to jerk around standards so that he can claim he pushed through the first female Green Beret.

    Its absolutely disgusting how careerist the military is now the Army. From the looks of things in the Navy, they're not alone.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  73. Anonym says:
    @Mr. Anon

    Simply insufficient criteria. Greatest in terms of what? Killing people? Establishing a lasting state? Doing the best with less?
     
    In terms of doing right by his nation and its people, one should mention Franco. He kept his country from (possibly) becoming a Soviet satellite, and then kept his country out of WWII.

    One might also mention Pinochet. He pioneered free helicopter rides. In terms of death of political opposition, a few tens of thousands is light refreshment for a communist regime.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augusto_Pinochet

    Read More
    • Replies: @Mr. Anon
    Pinochet was very much in the mold of Franco. Fascism with a human face, one might call it.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  74. rogue-one says:
    @syonredux

    His invasion of Khwarazmia was almost perfect.
     
    Though not, I suspect, from the perspective of the inhabitants...


    John Man, in his Genghis Khan: Life, Death, and Resurrection makes a rough guess that 1.25 million people were killed in Khwarezm in two years-- that's out of a pre-invasion population estimated at 5 million...

    I guess Genghis Khan’s advisors told him: “Mr. Khan, I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed, but I do say no more than 10 to 20 million killed, tops! Uh, depending on the breaks.”

    That said, I think these numbers are highly exaggerated. The mongols were about 100k in number, tops. It seems unrealistic that they would have been able to kill 1.25 million within a few years.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Neoconned
    I forgot about Giap.

    I'd throw Ho Chi Minh in there as well.

    Fought the Japanese, French and then us and arguably beat all three.

    Or as Minh famously said "you may kill ten of ours for every one of yours we kill but you will still lose and we will still win...."
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  75. Neoconned says:
    @rogue-one
    I guess Genghis Khan's advisors told him: "Mr. Khan, I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed, but I do say no more than 10 to 20 million killed, tops! Uh, depending on the breaks."

    That said, I think these numbers are highly exaggerated. The mongols were about 100k in number, tops. It seems unrealistic that they would have been able to kill 1.25 million within a few years.

    I forgot about Giap.

    I’d throw Ho Chi Minh in there as well.

    Fought the Japanese, French and then us and arguably beat all three.

    Or as Minh famously said “you may kill ten of ours for every one of yours we kill but you will still lose and we will still win….”

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  76. LondonBob says:
    @Citizen of a Silly Country
    Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. That guy was a beast.

    My understanding was that the Soviet (Russian) generals in the 1930s who were very familiar with Mongol tactics due to their history were putting together a Blitzkrieg-like strategy based on Subutai and other Mongol generals. The Russians allowed a number of German military strategists to come to the Soviet Union as part of an exchange program during the lovey period between Stalin and Hitler.

    The Germans were impressed by the strategy (in part because they had some similar ideas) and adopted many aspects. A few years later, Stalin killed most of top generals in a purge and the Subutai/Blitzkrieg strategy was lost to the Russians. But the Germans were all in and used it extremely effectively.

    History can be pretty cool.

    Generally acknowledged that the Germans copied Blitzkrieg from British experiments. Unfortunately JFC Fuller had more influence on the Wehrmacht than the British army.

    I would vote for Stonewall Jackson, but I think the gifted amateur Cromwell deserves a mention.

    Read More
    • Replies: @LondonBob
    Like Fuller, theorists of Blitzkrieg partly based their approach on the theory that areas of large enemy activity should be bypassed to be eventually surrounded and destroyed. Blitzkrieg-style tactics were used by several nations throughout the Second World War, predominantly by the Germans in the invasion of Poland (1939), Western Europe (1940), and the Soviet Union (1941). While Germany and to some degree the Western Allies adopted Blitzkrieg ideas, they were not much used by the Red Army, which developed its armored warfare doctrine based on deep operations, which were developed by Soviet military theorists Marshal M. N. Tukhachevsky et al. in the 1920s based on their experiences in the First World War and the Russian Civil War.

    Fuller was the only foreigner present at Nazi Germany’s first armed manoeuvres in 1935. Fuller frequently praised Adolf Hitler in his speeches and articles, once describing him as "that realistic idealist who has awakened the common sense of the British people by setting out to create a new Germany". On April 20, 1939 Fuller was an honoured guest at Hitler's 50th birthday parade, watching as "for three hours a completely mechanised and motorised army roared past the Führer." Afterwards Hitler asked, "I hope you were pleased with your children?" Fuller replied, "Your Excellency, they have grown up so quickly that I no longer recognise them."
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  77. bomag says:
    @NJ Transit Commuter
    Military geeks always want to focus on individual battles. The goal of a war isn’t to win a battle, it’s to win the war. By that measure:
    Napoleon: Loser. Couldn’t find a way to turn his tactical brilliance into political victory.
    German WWII generals (take your pick): Losers. Same comment as above.
    Zhukov, U.S. Grant: Winners. But they paid an awfully high cost for their victories.

    My vote would go for George Washington. Managed to weave and dodge against the British Empire, keeping his rag tag army barely alive for 7 years. If you look at some of the remarkable victories he scored then (the Trenton / Princeton campaign of Dec. 1776 - Jan. 1777 is amazing), his tactical genius shines through.

    All of this bought enough time to gain the French financial, logistic and military aid to beat the Brits. He knew exactly when and where to concentrate his combined arms (French navy + a large land force) to deliver the blow that convinced the British to quit after Yorktown. That’s the textbook definition of brilliant command according to Clausewitz.

    As if all of this wasn’t enough, measure the size of the accomplishment against the resources used. With an army that was never more than the size of a modern army division, he created the greatest and most powerful country in history.

    …definition of brilliant command

    Good points.

    But luck has some part of it. In hindsight, Rommel’s side bit off more that it could chew; he did the best with what he had.

    I discount Giap: fighting on home soil with fervent nationalism on his side; the arc of history almost certainly would have kicked out the colonialists and joined the country. He could have stayed home and the result would have been more material prosperity and less bloodshed.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Moses
    Giap expended his men like inconsequential kleenex.

    Still, he won. So there's that.

    French and American strategy in Vietnam was idiotic to put it charitably. "Street Without Joy" by Bernard Fall and "A Better War" by Lewis Sorley show that in abundance.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  78. Now that the hit-and-run commenters have cleared off, anyone care to comment about the actual Medium article?

    The crux of it is this chart:

    https://ethanarsht.github.io/military_rankings/

    which shows Napoleon as an immense outlier, but his outlying is mainly from having fought a lot. There were other generals with better win ratios, Napoleon just fought more than they did. Way more.

    The other prominent outlier is Robert E. Lee, who also outlies from having fought so much, but with negative rather than positive results. Possibly part of the reason for this is that unlike baseball WAR (Wins Above Replacement), in which every match is the same size, war WAR mixes large and small battles together, so losing a small battle cancels out winning a big battle. Glancing at Lee’s timeline, some of the losses were battles I hadn’t heard of before, so arguably Lee sacrificed small defeats for big victories.

    The other notable group is the rightward salient of winners including many well known names: Alexander, Caesar, Wellington, Zhukov, Frederick the Great, Hannibal, Grant, as well as some less known names: a couple of Tokugawa era guys, Oda Nobunaga and Takeda Shingen, and an early Muslim general, Khalid ibn al-Walid, who seems to have been responsible for most of Mohammed’s victories–as well as Mohammed’s early defeat when Khalid fought against the Muslims before he converted. Possibly Khalid’s record has enjoyed some retroactive burnishment as there seem to have been no contemporary sources for his career.

    Just below this is another tranche with names both expected (Stonewall Jackson, Nathan Bedford Forrest, PGT Beauregard, Kemal Ataturk) and surprising (McClellan, Douglas Haig, Ferdiand Foch).

    Read More
    • Replies: @Autochthon
    The idea Grant was a great general for what he achieved – if we can accurately employ that verb – is akin to the idea that a man who soundly beats his wife is a great pugilist. This clown took control in the waning days of a war of attrition against starving, bedraggled men cut off from supplies. To continue the domestic metaphor: the divorce was long since a fiat accompli, he just happened to be around when the ink dried on the decree. (And, no, nothing he did before being promoted to the top was especially impressive, either, unless you count managing to become a flag officer despite raging alcoholism as a laudable feat.)
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  79. Hodag says:
    @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    Another thing that should be mentioned is what kind of civilization was left after the battles fought. Julius Ceasar's death eventually lead to the creation of the Roman Empire which ruled for nearly 400 years. Napoleon also gave France the Civil Code and educational reforms, as too did Frederick the Great.

    From a civilization, government, cultural standpoint, education, literature, art, etc. what exactly did Subutai's victories lead to after his death?

    Answer: He was basically forgotten in the West. In other words once the Mongol invasions ended, so too did the relevance of Subutai from a cultural/civilization standpoint.

    He was a good fighter and added to one's understanding of warfare in general but from a civilizational standpoint nothing more.

    A better fighting thug. Just like his chief thug Ghengis Khan. Barbsarians basically. Any barbarian can fight and conquer tons of armies, even countries who are outnumbered or differ in consistent level of fighting forces.

    It takes a civilized person to create a lasting civilization. Of which Ghengis Khan and Subutai were not.

    After all, what lasting civilization (form of government, education, etc) did the Mongol hordes create?

    Nothing. Disappeared into the winds from which they came, never to return.

    Your dismissal of the Mongol Empire is unwarranted. The Mongols created dynasties in China, Persia and the sub-continent, the Moghul Empire (nee Mongol) ruled until the Mutiny in 1857! One of their bannermen took Constantinople and kept it until today, and but for spring rain and the Poles they would have taken Vienna.

    Read More
    • Replies: @YetAnotherAnon
    Absolutely. Didn't Kublai Khan decree a stately pleasure dome in Xanadu, filled with dulcimer-playing Abyssinian maids? If that's not civilised ...
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  80. @The Alarmist
    I was in the military just after Vietnam, and morale was in the toilet. I would imagine the SJW crap, the ops tempo and multiple deployments have taken their toll, but I doubt morale is as bad now as it was in the late '70s. Let's put it this way: I was in a store in the US last month, and when a young guy in BDUs walked in I heard two people thank him for his service. In my day, you never heard that, and though it got markedly better under Reagan, I didn't really see much of that until Desert Storm.

    As for taking on the Norks, Russians, or Chinese, it would be a dicey proposition in the best of times.

    As for Mattis, they didn't give him the call-sign 'Chaos' for nothing.

    I think its been purposefully covered up how badly the Bergdahl verdict was a blow to morale in the service.

    This along with the fact tranny surgeries are getting prioritized over stuff like guys getting their burn scars worked on is absolutely disgusting.

    It used to be that a guy, sufficiently motivated, could ride this out in a unit like the 101st, 82nd, or try for Ranger Batt or SF. Right now the schmuck in charge of SFAS is chasing his next star trying to jerk around standards so that he can claim he pushed through the first female Green Beret.

    Its absolutely disgusting how careerist the military is now the Army. From the looks of things in the Navy, they’re not alone.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  81. @rogue-one
    Yeah, Sabutai was a genius without a doubt. However, despite his impressive military talents and autonomy of action he never tried to overthrow Genghis Khan. Genghis too (as far as I know) never had a need to kill his ambitious generals (like Alexander & Parmenion). Managing highly successful & ambitious generals seems a very valuable skill for a strategist.

    I am not sure what the reasons for this could be. Perhaps Genghis was more of a military-religious figure like Muhammad rather than merely military leader figure like Alexander.

    Ghengis Khan is actually worshipped to this day by many Mongolians. However, the apotheosis Came only after his death, if I am not mistaken. The same occurred with Alexander, though: the ancients pagans built temples to him and glorified him, even whilst he was yet alive, as they did for Roman emperors.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  82. @Anon
    That title likely belongs to one of the Greeks who faced down and defeated the powerful Persian navy during the Greco-Persian wars (the second one in particular). Lord Nelson might deserve an honorable mention.

    The Persian navy was inferior to that of the thalassocratic Greeks; it’s the main reason for the outcome of those wars. The Sea of Marmura, the Mediterranean – these preserved the Greeks from much misery as have the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans the Americans.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  83. @Charles Erwin Wilson II

    It seems Genghis Khan was at least as good as Alexander the Great and superior to Hannibal in his victories.
     
    No. Belisarius. Rommel was close, but no one did more with less.

    [N]o one did more with less.

    Lee? Jackson? Surely Cortes?

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  84. LondonBob says:

    Napoleon is also odd because he essentially transformed the whole purpose of the state in to supporting his military adventures. He was only ever going to stop by being soundly defeated. Rather like Stalin, that he came from a minority ethnic group, ensured the necessary detachment to utilise the lives of the people as a mere means of self aggrandisement.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  85. CK says:
    @anonitron1
    Where my boys Suvorov and Belisarius at? Marlborough and Savoy?

    Suvorov commanded and won 18 battles ( and lost none ), in Mr. Arsht’s data set only four of Suvorov’s victories are used for the calculation of his WAR. Trusting Wikipedia for you base data is problematic.

    Read More
    • Agree: Autochthon
    • Replies: @Autochthon
    I generally stop reading anything if I encounter the phrase "according to Wikipedia."
    , @CK
    After further reading, Suvorov commanded Russian Troops in 63 battles over his career. The 18 listed in Wikipedia were the most well known. He went 63 and 0.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  86. Amigo says:

    No votes for the Lord of Hosts? He sure saved the Israelites an number of times, often in a spectacular manner. Plus He’s not done and will be victorious in the end.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  87. @Prof. Woland
    Heinz Guderian gets my vote. He was not a political general or really a field general as much as he was a strategist. Using Blitzkrieg, the Germans came within an ace of pulling off the greatest crime of the millennium. Sun Tzu probably should be #1, but he was over there and I am over here.

    Crime? Since when has defending one’s nation against naked aggression (the declaration of war against Germany by perfidious Albion and the French harlot on September 3rd 1939) been considered a crime?
    Half of France (the better half) was thrilled by the defeat of the wretched Republic; England would have happily provided its own Pétain, had Hitler’s love for the British Empire not blinded him to his one and only opportunity in the summer of 1940.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  88. NickG says:
    @anonymous
    Not to mention Giap, the Duke of Alva and Wellington--the latter who is very underrated even though he whipped The Corsican's army twice--the first time in Spain during the Peninsula Campaign and the second time of course at Waterloo. As a footnote the late British military historian, John Keegan, when asked who was the best of the WW II German generals he replied "Albert Kesselring". The interviewer was at a loss for words, thinking he would have chosen Rommel, Guderian or Manstein. And it has to be said that Kesselring did succeed in pretty much keeping the Allies bottled up in Italy via a skillful use of the mountainous terrain which he turned to his advantage.

    As to your boys, though I have heard of him I am not familiar with Suvorov but if he was on the level of Belisarius, Churchill/Marlborough or the great Eugene you get no argument from me.

    when asked who was the best of the WW II German generals he replied “Albert Kesselring”

    Grinning Kesselring lost the battle of Britain for the Bosch.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  89. David M says:

    Bonaparte’s career is the most conducive to statistical analysis because he fought so many battles and because technology and tactics were so similar across Europe and had been similar for a long time that they reflected about as level of a playing field ever for the purposes of measuring tactical talent.

    Actually, the Napoleonic wars were a period of rapid change in warfare. War went from being a limited affair fought by small professional armies in set piece affairs, to being fought by large conscript armies with more swift movement and more effective use of artillery. Stakes were also much larger. A large part of the reason that Napoleon succeeded at first was that he was so good at adapting to the changing situation, but then others figured it out as well. Wellington in particular knew how to neutralize Napoleon’s offensive tactics.

    It is a simplification to say that these changes were all developed by Napoleon, or that many of the changes weren’t already in motion before him. But he epitomized them, such that historians still describe tactics up to the American Civil War as Napoleonic. It was the adaption of rifled muskets that ended the era of Napoleonic tactics.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  90. @rogue-one
    Genghis Khan seems very impressive general to me. He (lost and) won several battles before he could unify Mongols. His invasion of Khwarazmia was almost perfect. Mongols under him & his successors conquered Russia where weather defeated Napoleon.

    It seems Genghis Khan was at least as good as Alexander the Great and superior to Hannibal in his victories.

    Tamerlane/Temur won even more victories and slaughtered more people – 5% of world population by some estimates.

    Marlborough as a general must rank high, never lost a battle AFAIK.

    No one’s mentioned Ranjit Singh – created the Sikh Empire out of nowhere, conquered the Afghans, never defeated. He saw a British display of quick-firing artillery intended to impress him, it did, just not the way intended, and he created a superb artillery force using mercenary veterans from the Napoleonic Wars.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ranjit_Singh

    But when he died, there was quarreling over the succession, just as there was when Temur died, and the Empire declined then fell to the Brits, who snaffled the Koh-I-Noor diamond from the Sikhs, who’d pinched it from the Afghans, who’d been given it by the Persians, who’d snaffled it from the Moghuls, who’d taken it from the Delhi Sultanate.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  91. No mention of St. Michael the Archangel, the first leader of a counter-revolutionary right wing death squad?

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  92. @Almost Missouri
    Now that the hit-and-run commenters have cleared off, anyone care to comment about the actual Medium article?

    The crux of it is this chart:

    https://ethanarsht.github.io/military_rankings/

    which shows Napoleon as an immense outlier, but his outlying is mainly from having fought a lot. There were other generals with better win ratios, Napoleon just fought more than they did. Way more.

    The other prominent outlier is Robert E. Lee, who also outlies from having fought so much, but with negative rather than positive results. Possibly part of the reason for this is that unlike baseball WAR (Wins Above Replacement), in which every match is the same size, war WAR mixes large and small battles together, so losing a small battle cancels out winning a big battle. Glancing at Lee's timeline, some of the losses were battles I hadn't heard of before, so arguably Lee sacrificed small defeats for big victories.

    The other notable group is the rightward salient of winners including many well known names: Alexander, Caesar, Wellington, Zhukov, Frederick the Great, Hannibal, Grant, as well as some less known names: a couple of Tokugawa era guys, Oda Nobunaga and Takeda Shingen, and an early Muslim general, Khalid ibn al-Walid, who seems to have been responsible for most of Mohammed's victories--as well as Mohammed's early defeat when Khalid fought against the Muslims before he converted. Possibly Khalid's record has enjoyed some retroactive burnishment as there seem to have been no contemporary sources for his career.

    Just below this is another tranche with names both expected (Stonewall Jackson, Nathan Bedford Forrest, PGT Beauregard, Kemal Ataturk) and surprising (McClellan, Douglas Haig, Ferdiand Foch).

    The idea Grant was a great general for what he achieved – if we can accurately employ that verb – is akin to the idea that a man who soundly beats his wife is a great pugilist. This clown took control in the waning days of a war of attrition against starving, bedraggled men cut off from supplies. To continue the domestic metaphor: the divorce was long since a fiat accompli, he just happened to be around when the ink dried on the decree. (And, no, nothing he did before being promoted to the top was especially impressive, either, unless you count managing to become a flag officer despite raging alcoholism as a laudable feat.)

    Read More
    • Replies: @NJ Transit Commuter
    @Autochthon

    Grant deserves credit for being an extremely competent, if not great, general for two reasons, in my opinion:

    1. His broader strategy in 1864-1865: If you look at his army alone he comes off as a butcher. It's worth remembering that the strategy he put in place was for his army to pin down and wear down the South, allowing Sherman to cut off the South's transport and supply. Not a pretty way to win, but extremely effective. Ended the war in a year, after the Union had struggled to find a winning strategy for four years.

    2. You are correct in saying he took control against a weakening opponent. But, he had the vision and discipline to execute the correct strategy against that opponent. A smart coach, up by two touchdowns in the 4th quarter will run the ball, punt and allow the other team to complete 5 yard passes in the middle of the field at will. Not very pretty football, but an extremely good strategy for winning the game. I think that analogy fits for the Civil War in 1864 - 1865.

    I think Eisenhower is similar to Grant. At Falise and the Battle of the Bulge, more tactically minded generals like Patton wanted to try an Eastern Front style pincer movement and cut off entire German armies. Good tactic if it works, but risky. Eisenhower had the greater wisdom to realize that he didn't need to take those risks. Keep leaning on the Germans and pounding them over a broad front and the Allies advantage in manpower and material would win.
    , @LondonBob
    Grant won in the West first, then won in the East. JFC Fuller is highly complimentary to Grant for his strategic vision, not so much Lee.

    An analysis of one of America's greatest soldiers which refutes the notion that Grant relied only on brute force to achieve his victories, demonstrating instead the mastery of mobility, surprise, judgement, and strategic co-ordination that made Grant the premier Civil War general.

    You need a good reason to go against JFC Fuller.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  93. @Hodag
    Your dismissal of the Mongol Empire is unwarranted. The Mongols created dynasties in China, Persia and the sub-continent, the Moghul Empire (nee Mongol) ruled until the Mutiny in 1857! One of their bannermen took Constantinople and kept it until today, and but for spring rain and the Poles they would have taken Vienna.

    Absolutely. Didn’t Kublai Khan decree a stately pleasure dome in Xanadu, filled with dulcimer-playing Abyssinian maids? If that’s not civilised …

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  94. @CK
    Suvorov commanded and won 18 battles ( and lost none ), in Mr. Arsht's data set only four of Suvorov's victories are used for the calculation of his WAR. Trusting Wikipedia for you base data is problematic.

    I generally stop reading anything if I encounter the phrase “according to Wikipedia.”

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  95. @Autochthon
    The idea Grant was a great general for what he achieved – if we can accurately employ that verb – is akin to the idea that a man who soundly beats his wife is a great pugilist. This clown took control in the waning days of a war of attrition against starving, bedraggled men cut off from supplies. To continue the domestic metaphor: the divorce was long since a fiat accompli, he just happened to be around when the ink dried on the decree. (And, no, nothing he did before being promoted to the top was especially impressive, either, unless you count managing to become a flag officer despite raging alcoholism as a laudable feat.)

    Grant deserves credit for being an extremely competent, if not great, general for two reasons, in my opinion:

    1. His broader strategy in 1864-1865: If you look at his army alone he comes off as a butcher. It’s worth remembering that the strategy he put in place was for his army to pin down and wear down the South, allowing Sherman to cut off the South’s transport and supply. Not a pretty way to win, but extremely effective. Ended the war in a year, after the Union had struggled to find a winning strategy for four years.

    2. You are correct in saying he took control against a weakening opponent. But, he had the vision and discipline to execute the correct strategy against that opponent. A smart coach, up by two touchdowns in the 4th quarter will run the ball, punt and allow the other team to complete 5 yard passes in the middle of the field at will. Not very pretty football, but an extremely good strategy for winning the game. I think that analogy fits for the Civil War in 1864 – 1865.

    I think Eisenhower is similar to Grant. At Falise and the Battle of the Bulge, more tactically minded generals like Patton wanted to try an Eastern Front style pincer movement and cut off entire German armies. Good tactic if it works, but risky. Eisenhower had the greater wisdom to realize that he didn’t need to take those risks. Keep leaning on the Germans and pounding them over a broad front and the Allies advantage in manpower and material would win.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  96. @Jus' Sayin'...
    As many other posters have pointed out, there are many dimensions to consider when evaluating military leadership. Among them are one's mastery of strategy versus tactics versus logistics; the quality of the enemies one must face, the quality of one's own forces, use of innovation, extent and difficulty of terrain, chances to prove one's self, one's ultimate impact on contemporary and long term history.

    Not enough attention is paid to Nathan Bedford Forest, whom Shelby Foote characterized as the Civil War's greatest tactician, . Forest had a superb understanding of weapons and tactics, the strengths and weaknesses of his own and his enemy's forces, and a profound knowledge of the terrain upon which he fought. He innovated tactics on an ad hoc basis, as necessary. On one famous occasion he predicted three days in advance, why, when, and where a battle would occur and laid out, almost to the minute, how the battle would play out. I know of no other military commander who ever displayed anything like this grasp of any tactical situation.

    Asked by a Union officer after the surrender who was his greatest general was, Robert E. Lee replied,
    “Sir, a gentleman I have never had the pleasure to meet General Nathan Bedford Forrest.” Forrest’s
    battle tactics were studied by Field Marshall Erwin Rommel and by General George S. Patton. The
    Institute for Military Studies concluded that Forrest’s victory at the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads was
    the most spectacular display of tactical genius in the War of Secession.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  97. Sparkon says:
    @Taco
    How can you compare a general like Napoleon (who was a tactical master but lost all of the important campaigns) with a general like Douglas MacArthur, who doesn't really have a signature victory (maybe Inchon) but expertly executed the pacific theater?

    Douglas MacArthur, who doesn’t really have a signature victory (maybe Inchon) but expertly executed the pacific theater?

    Gen. MacArthur managed to have his entire air force caught on the ground many hours after Pearl Harbor, and much of it was destroyed. He had much more warning than Kimmel and Short did at Pearl Harbor, but where the Pearl commanders were reprimanded, and reduced in rank, “Dugout Doug” MacArthur got the Medal of Honor.

    Dugout Doug MacArthur lies ashaking on the Rock
    Safe from all the bombers and from any sudden shock
    Dugout Doug is eating of the best food on Bataan
    And his troops go starving on.

    Dugout Doug’s not timid, he’s just cautious, not afraid
    He’s protecting carefully the stars that Franklin made
    Four-star generals are rare as good food on Bataan
    And his troops go starving on.

    Dugout Doug is ready in his Kris Craft for the flee
    Over bounding billows and the wildly raging sea
    For the Japs are pounding on the gates of Old Bataan
    And his troops go starving on…

    –Anonymous, 1942

    Read More
    • Replies: @Whoever

    Gen. MacArthur managed to have his entire air force caught on the ground many hours after Pearl Harbor, and much of it was destroyed. He had much more warning than Kimmel and Short did at Pearl Harbor
     
    MacArthur was not directly in charge of air operations.
    The Philippine Dept. Air Force was commanded by BG Henry Clagett. The USFEAF was commanded by MG Lewis Brereton, who had arrived in the PI on Nov. 4. Brereton did not sit on his hands after learning of the Pearl Harbor attack.
    Brereton, who had already developed plans to raid Japanese forces on Taiwan -- objective folders had been prepared, although they were incomplete, pending air recon -- went to see MacArthur's chief of staff MG Richard Sutherland, requesting permission to launch an attack.
    He was told by Sutherland to prepare a recon mission but hold it until receiving further orders. That was around 5:00 am. He still hadn't got orders at 0715, made a second request and was told by Sutherland to wait.
    About this time Brereton got a telephone call from Hap Arnold in Washington warning him of what happened at Pearl Harbor and emphatically requesting him not to let the same thing happen at Clark so he tried to reach MacArthur directly, but was told by Sutherland that MacArthur was in conference and couldn't talk to him. Over the next few hours, Brereton repeatedly called Sutherland for permission to launch, finally annoying him so much that he told Brereton not to call anymore -- when and if permission was granted, Sutherland would call Brereton.  At 10:15, MacArthur, having just been informed of Brereton's request by Southerland, called Brereton directly and told him to launch the attack.  But Brereton seems to have reconsidered launching a pre-emptive strike and told MacArthur that since the Japanese hadn't attacked Clark yet they might not be planning to, and he would hold off an attack on Taiwan, merely send a reconnaissance plane over Taiwan to get up-to-date weather and target data. He would still be able to launch his bombers against Taiwan in the afternoon. MacArthur agreed with that and left all decisions for offensive air operations in Brereton's hands.
    At 11:20, orders were cut specifying that the B-17s would attack two separate targets in Formosa "at the latest daylight hour today that visibility will permit." There were good reasons for this plan: The bombers could strike visually but be able to escape into the gloom of approaching night. But then Brereton seems to have changed his mind about delaying the strike to that late in the day, because at 11:56 he reported to Sutherland that he would have his bombers launched soon.  
    While this was going, the American fighter force on Luzon was busy. At 8 am, Iba radar picked up bogies 30 miles off the coast of Luzon heading for Clark. One squadron, the 17th, based at Nichols, was immediately scrambled, its 18 P-40Es ordered to patrol over Tarlac, 20-some miles north of Clark. At 8:15, the P-40Bs of the 20th squadron, based at Clark, were scrambled and also headed to Tarlac. Then the P-35s of the 34th Squadron, based at Del Carmen, were scrambled to patrol over Clark itself.
    The B-17s were sent aloft so they would not get caught on the ground.
    The 3rd Squadron's P-40Es at Iba, and the 21st Squadron's P-40Es at Nichols remained on the ground with the pilots in the cockpits, ready to scramble.
    While the US fighters were patrolling the approaches to Clark Field, the Japanese bombed Baguio and Tuguegarao, north of their patrol area.
    At 11:30 am, the B-17s returned to Clark and began being refueled and bombed up for the anticipated raid on Taiwan. The patrolling P-40s also came in to refuel at Clark. The P-35s set down at Del Carmen to gas up. The 17th's transient planes parked by the hangers to be first served with gas so they could get airborne again as quickly as possible while the 20th taxied back to their protected revetments, where they would wait to refuel until after the 17th was taken care of.
    At 11:40 am, Iba radar reported picking up bogies heading for the Manila area. The 3rd was ordered to scramble to intercept them. A few minutes later, radar reported another group of bogies heading also for the Manila area. The 21st was scrambled to intercept them. The P-35s of the 34th were now refueled, and they scrambled as well. At 12:15, the 17th was refueled and scrambled immediately.
    At 12:20, radar reported another group of bogies heading for Clark. The only fighter force available to intercept this new intrusion was the 20th, and it was held on the ground as its planes were finally refueled, as a reserve in case even more incoming enemy were reported. At 12:30, Iba radar reported a large formation of bogies approaching Iba field. At 12:35, Japanese bombers were seen by the 20th's pilots directly over the field and they scrambled without waiting for orders. As they did so, a pattern of over 600 132-lb daisy cutters walked across Clark field blasting shrapnel into the now fully fueled and bomb-laden B-17s and the scrambling P-40Bs, instantly creating an inferno. The bombing was followed by strafing runs on anything still surviving by Zeros. Only three P-40Bs got airborne.
    Overhead, the already scrambled planes were climbing through 18,000 feet as they attempted to engage the attacking enemy bombers, which were flying at 27,000 feet. These consisted of 106 twin engine bombers escorted by 85 Zero fighters. The Zeros fell on the P40Es and P-35As, engaging them in furious dog fights and preventing them from reaching the bombers.

    ***
    Why the delay of permission to launch the bombers?  Sutherland apparently interpreted the Nov. 28 War Dept. radiogram stipulating that "if hostilities cannot be avoided the USG desires that Japan commit the first overt act" to mean an overt act against the Philippines. So the attack on Pearl Harbor didn't count.
    There was hope, apparently, that the Japanese would not attack the PI as long as US forces there made no hostile moves against them.  
    Overflights of Formosa had been forbidden to avoid provoking the Japanese. Particularly after the Nov. 27 war warning, the USAAFFE was being very cautious, to the extent of not intercepting Japanese recon flights that flew down the coast of Luzon but outside territorial waters.

    ***
    Incidentally, many years after the event, I was introduced by my father to Joseph Moore, the then-young lieutenant who ordered the 20th to scramble in defiance of orders when he saw Japanese bombers overhead. As a result of his action, in seconds the 20th was destroyed and eight pilots were killed. He was one of the three pilots to get airborne. He led his trio against nine Zeros, shooting down one of them. He went on to have a long and distinguished career in the Air Force.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  98. dfordoom says: • Website
    @Mr. Anon
    Belisarius won a lot of battles and won back a lot of territory for the Eastern Roman Empire. His exploits are recounted, in fictional form and highly entertainingly, in Robert Graves novel General Belisarius. It's not nearly as well known as I, Claudius, but it ought to be. Well worth a read.

    His exploits are recounted, in fictional form and highly entertainingly, in Robert Graves novel General Belisarius.

    The novel is actually called Count Belisarius. And I agree, it’s superb and deserves to be more widely known.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Mr. Anon

    The novel is actually called Count Belisarius.
     
    Right you are. Thanks. It's been a while since I read it.

    Last time I checked, it didn't seem to be in print in the US; it was only available from the UK.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  99. Moses says:
    @bomag

    ...definition of brilliant command
     
    Good points.

    But luck has some part of it. In hindsight, Rommel's side bit off more that it could chew; he did the best with what he had.

    I discount Giap: fighting on home soil with fervent nationalism on his side; the arc of history almost certainly would have kicked out the colonialists and joined the country. He could have stayed home and the result would have been more material prosperity and less bloodshed.

    Giap expended his men like inconsequential kleenex.

    Still, he won. So there’s that.

    French and American strategy in Vietnam was idiotic to put it charitably. “Street Without Joy” by Bernard Fall and “A Better War” by Lewis Sorley show that in abundance.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  100. @Jus' Sayin'...
    As many other posters have pointed out, there are many dimensions to consider when evaluating military leadership. Among them are one's mastery of strategy versus tactics versus logistics; the quality of the enemies one must face, the quality of one's own forces, use of innovation, extent and difficulty of terrain, chances to prove one's self, one's ultimate impact on contemporary and long term history.

    Not enough attention is paid to Nathan Bedford Forest, whom Shelby Foote characterized as the Civil War's greatest tactician, . Forest had a superb understanding of weapons and tactics, the strengths and weaknesses of his own and his enemy's forces, and a profound knowledge of the terrain upon which he fought. He innovated tactics on an ad hoc basis, as necessary. On one famous occasion he predicted three days in advance, why, when, and where a battle would occur and laid out, almost to the minute, how the battle would play out. I know of no other military commander who ever displayed anything like this grasp of any tactical situation.

    Yeah, but he wanted to protect his people from Negroes and carpetbaggers after the war, so he has been unpersoned.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  101. @anonitron1
    Europe just wasn't militarily comparable to the sinosphere during the Mongol period. You could have invaded medieval Russia with dudes carrying assault rifles and gotten similar results.

    The real impressive things about the Mongols are their conquests of the Muslim world and China itself. Also the fact that they managed to coordinate the actions of multiple armies on a continental scale.

    Cavalry armed and skilled with composite, recurve bows effectively were assault rifles at that time; the enemies were all sort of running around with flintlocks or muskets by way of comparison….

    It goes to whether Subatai was a brilliant or whether he just happened to be the guy leading the folks with the overwhelming technological edge…

    (Mind you, I think he was brilliant, but this edge sure a Hell didn’t hurt him!)

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  102. Mr. Anon says:
    @dfordoom

    His exploits are recounted, in fictional form and highly entertainingly, in Robert Graves novel General Belisarius.
     
    The novel is actually called Count Belisarius. And I agree, it's superb and deserves to be more widely known.

    The novel is actually called Count Belisarius.

    Right you are. Thanks. It’s been a while since I read it.

    Last time I checked, it didn’t seem to be in print in the US; it was only available from the UK.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  103. Mr. Anon says:
    @Anonym
    One might also mention Pinochet. He pioneered free helicopter rides. In terms of death of political opposition, a few tens of thousands is light refreshment for a communist regime.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augusto_Pinochet

    Pinochet was very much in the mold of Franco. Fascism with a human face, one might call it.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  104. LondonBob says:
    @Autochthon
    The idea Grant was a great general for what he achieved – if we can accurately employ that verb – is akin to the idea that a man who soundly beats his wife is a great pugilist. This clown took control in the waning days of a war of attrition against starving, bedraggled men cut off from supplies. To continue the domestic metaphor: the divorce was long since a fiat accompli, he just happened to be around when the ink dried on the decree. (And, no, nothing he did before being promoted to the top was especially impressive, either, unless you count managing to become a flag officer despite raging alcoholism as a laudable feat.)

    Grant won in the West first, then won in the East. JFC Fuller is highly complimentary to Grant for his strategic vision, not so much Lee.

    An analysis of one of America’s greatest soldiers which refutes the notion that Grant relied only on brute force to achieve his victories, demonstrating instead the mastery of mobility, surprise, judgement, and strategic co-ordination that made Grant the premier Civil War general.

    You need a good reason to go against JFC Fuller.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Autochthon
    The western theatre was about as significant to that war as the China-Burma-India theatre was to the Second World War.

    (No one needs a good reason, a bad reason, or any reason at all to ignore a fallacious appeal to authority.)
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  105. LondonBob says:
    @LondonBob
    Generally acknowledged that the Germans copied Blitzkrieg from British experiments. Unfortunately JFC Fuller had more influence on the Wehrmacht than the British army.

    I would vote for Stonewall Jackson, but I think the gifted amateur Cromwell deserves a mention.

    Like Fuller, theorists of Blitzkrieg partly based their approach on the theory that areas of large enemy activity should be bypassed to be eventually surrounded and destroyed. Blitzkrieg-style tactics were used by several nations throughout the Second World War, predominantly by the Germans in the invasion of Poland (1939), Western Europe (1940), and the Soviet Union (1941). While Germany and to some degree the Western Allies adopted Blitzkrieg ideas, they were not much used by the Red Army, which developed its armored warfare doctrine based on deep operations, which were developed by Soviet military theorists Marshal M. N. Tukhachevsky et al. in the 1920s based on their experiences in the First World War and the Russian Civil War.

    Fuller was the only foreigner present at Nazi Germany’s first armed manoeuvres in 1935. Fuller frequently praised Adolf Hitler in his speeches and articles, once describing him as “that realistic idealist who has awakened the common sense of the British people by setting out to create a new Germany”. On April 20, 1939 Fuller was an honoured guest at Hitler’s 50th birthday parade, watching as “for three hours a completely mechanised and motorised army roared past the Führer.” Afterwards Hitler asked, “I hope you were pleased with your children?” Fuller replied, “Your Excellency, they have grown up so quickly that I no longer recognise them.”

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  106. @LondonBob
    Grant won in the West first, then won in the East. JFC Fuller is highly complimentary to Grant for his strategic vision, not so much Lee.

    An analysis of one of America's greatest soldiers which refutes the notion that Grant relied only on brute force to achieve his victories, demonstrating instead the mastery of mobility, surprise, judgement, and strategic co-ordination that made Grant the premier Civil War general.

    You need a good reason to go against JFC Fuller.

    The western theatre was about as significant to that war as the China-Burma-India theatre was to the Second World War.

    (No one needs a good reason, a bad reason, or any reason at all to ignore a fallacious appeal to authority.)

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  107. CK says:
    @CK
    Suvorov commanded and won 18 battles ( and lost none ), in Mr. Arsht's data set only four of Suvorov's victories are used for the calculation of his WAR. Trusting Wikipedia for you base data is problematic.

    After further reading, Suvorov commanded Russian Troops in 63 battles over his career. The 18 listed in Wikipedia were the most well known. He went 63 and 0.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  108. FPD72 says:

    Jan Zizka, who led Czech forces in the Hussite and Taborite wars in the early 15th century should at least get an honorable mention. In Wikipedia’s list of battles in which he commanded forces, he went 9-0 against the numerically superior Holy Roman Empire and it’s professional troops as well as competing troops during the following civil war. His innovative use of artillery, battle wagons (which presaged the modern use of tanks by over 400 years) and topography enabled the incepient-Protestant forces to hold off the Empire’s vastly numerically superior forces for several years.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  109. Whoever says: • Website
    @Sparkon

    Douglas MacArthur, who doesn’t really have a signature victory (maybe Inchon) but expertly executed the pacific theater?
     
    Gen. MacArthur managed to have his entire air force caught on the ground many hours after Pearl Harbor, and much of it was destroyed. He had much more warning than Kimmel and Short did at Pearl Harbor, but where the Pearl commanders were reprimanded, and reduced in rank, "Dugout Doug" MacArthur got the Medal of Honor.


    Dugout Doug MacArthur lies ashaking on the Rock
    Safe from all the bombers and from any sudden shock
    Dugout Doug is eating of the best food on Bataan
    And his troops go starving on.

    Dugout Doug’s not timid, he’s just cautious, not afraid
    He’s protecting carefully the stars that Franklin made
    Four-star generals are rare as good food on Bataan
    And his troops go starving on.

    Dugout Doug is ready in his Kris Craft for the flee
    Over bounding billows and the wildly raging sea
    For the Japs are pounding on the gates of Old Bataan
    And his troops go starving on…

    --Anonymous, 1942

     

    Gen. MacArthur managed to have his entire air force caught on the ground many hours after Pearl Harbor, and much of it was destroyed. He had much more warning than Kimmel and Short did at Pearl Harbor

    MacArthur was not directly in charge of air operations.
    The Philippine Dept. Air Force was commanded by BG Henry Clagett. The USFEAF was commanded by MG Lewis Brereton, who had arrived in the PI on Nov. 4. Brereton did not sit on his hands after learning of the Pearl Harbor attack.
    Brereton, who had already developed plans to raid Japanese forces on Taiwan — objective folders had been prepared, although they were incomplete, pending air recon — went to see MacArthur’s chief of staff MG Richard Sutherland, requesting permission to launch an attack.
    He was told by Sutherland to prepare a recon mission but hold it until receiving further orders. That was around 5:00 am. He still hadn’t got orders at 0715, made a second request and was told by Sutherland to wait.
    About this time Brereton got a telephone call from Hap Arnold in Washington warning him of what happened at Pearl Harbor and emphatically requesting him not to let the same thing happen at Clark so he tried to reach MacArthur directly, but was told by Sutherland that MacArthur was in conference and couldn’t talk to him. Over the next few hours, Brereton repeatedly called Sutherland for permission to launch, finally annoying him so much that he told Brereton not to call anymore — when and if permission was granted, Sutherland would call Brereton.  At 10:15, MacArthur, having just been informed of Brereton’s request by Southerland, called Brereton directly and told him to launch the attack.  But Brereton seems to have reconsidered launching a pre-emptive strike and told MacArthur that since the Japanese hadn’t attacked Clark yet they might not be planning to, and he would hold off an attack on Taiwan, merely send a reconnaissance plane over Taiwan to get up-to-date weather and target data. He would still be able to launch his bombers against Taiwan in the afternoon. MacArthur agreed with that and left all decisions for offensive air operations in Brereton’s hands.
    At 11:20, orders were cut specifying that the B-17s would attack two separate targets in Formosa “at the latest daylight hour today that visibility will permit.” There were good reasons for this plan: The bombers could strike visually but be able to escape into the gloom of approaching night. But then Brereton seems to have changed his mind about delaying the strike to that late in the day, because at 11:56 he reported to Sutherland that he would have his bombers launched soon.  
    While this was going, the American fighter force on Luzon was busy. At 8 am, Iba radar picked up bogies 30 miles off the coast of Luzon heading for Clark. One squadron, the 17th, based at Nichols, was immediately scrambled, its 18 P-40Es ordered to patrol over Tarlac, 20-some miles north of Clark. At 8:15, the P-40Bs of the 20th squadron, based at Clark, were scrambled and also headed to Tarlac. Then the P-35s of the 34th Squadron, based at Del Carmen, were scrambled to patrol over Clark itself.
    The B-17s were sent aloft so they would not get caught on the ground.
    The 3rd Squadron’s P-40Es at Iba, and the 21st Squadron’s P-40Es at Nichols remained on the ground with the pilots in the cockpits, ready to scramble.
    While the US fighters were patrolling the approaches to Clark Field, the Japanese bombed Baguio and Tuguegarao, north of their patrol area.

    [MORE]

    At 11:30 am, the B-17s returned to Clark and began being refueled and bombed up for the anticipated raid on Taiwan. The patrolling P-40s also came in to refuel at Clark. The P-35s set down at Del Carmen to gas up. The 17th’s transient planes parked by the hangers to be first served with gas so they could get airborne again as quickly as possible while the 20th taxied back to their protected revetments, where they would wait to refuel until after the 17th was taken care of.
    At 11:40 am, Iba radar reported picking up bogies heading for the Manila area. The 3rd was ordered to scramble to intercept them. A few minutes later, radar reported another group of bogies heading also for the Manila area. The 21st was scrambled to intercept them. The P-35s of the 34th were now refueled, and they scrambled as well. At 12:15, the 17th was refueled and scrambled immediately.
    At 12:20, radar reported another group of bogies heading for Clark. The only fighter force available to intercept this new intrusion was the 20th, and it was held on the ground as its planes were finally refueled, as a reserve in case even more incoming enemy were reported. At 12:30, Iba radar reported a large formation of bogies approaching Iba field. At 12:35, Japanese bombers were seen by the 20th’s pilots directly over the field and they scrambled without waiting for orders. As they did so, a pattern of over 600 132-lb daisy cutters walked across Clark field blasting shrapnel into the now fully fueled and bomb-laden B-17s and the scrambling P-40Bs, instantly creating an inferno. The bombing was followed by strafing runs on anything still surviving by Zeros. Only three P-40Bs got airborne.
    Overhead, the already scrambled planes were climbing through 18,000 feet as they attempted to engage the attacking enemy bombers, which were flying at 27,000 feet. These consisted of 106 twin engine bombers escorted by 85 Zero fighters. The Zeros fell on the P40Es and P-35As, engaging them in furious dog fights and preventing them from reaching the bombers.

    ***
    Why the delay of permission to launch the bombers?  Sutherland apparently interpreted the Nov. 28 War Dept. radiogram stipulating that “if hostilities cannot be avoided the USG desires that Japan commit the first overt act” to mean an overt act against the Philippines. So the attack on Pearl Harbor didn’t count.
    There was hope, apparently, that the Japanese would not attack the PI as long as US forces there made no hostile moves against them.  
    Overflights of Formosa had been forbidden to avoid provoking the Japanese. Particularly after the Nov. 27 war warning, the USAAFFE was being very cautious, to the extent of not intercepting Japanese recon flights that flew down the coast of Luzon but outside territorial waters.

    ***
    Incidentally, many years after the event, I was introduced by my father to Joseph Moore, the then-young lieutenant who ordered the 20th to scramble in defiance of orders when he saw Japanese bombers overhead. As a result of his action, in seconds the 20th was destroyed and eight pilots were killed. He was one of the three pilots to get airborne. He led his trio against nine Zeros, shooting down one of them. He went on to have a long and distinguished career in the Air Force.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  110. Brutusale says:
    @Milo Minderbinder

    In contrast, Alexander the Great went 9-0 but he doesn’t match up to Napoleon in this methodology because he just didn’t fight enough …
     
    Peak value vs. Career value

    As college coaches complain when the bowl game rankings are being debated: we can’t help it that we didn’t play them.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
Current Commenter says:

Leave a Reply - Comments are moderated by iSteve, at whim.


 Remember My InformationWhy?
 Email Replies to my Comment
Submitted comments become the property of The Unz Review and may be republished elsewhere at the sole discretion of the latter
Subscribe to This Comment Thread via RSS Subscribe to All Steve Sailer Comments via RSS
PastClassics
The unspoken statistical reality of urban crime over the last quarter century.
The “war hero” candidate buried information about POWs left behind in Vietnam.
The major media overlooked Communist spies and Madoff’s fraud. What are they missing today?
What Was John McCain's True Wartime Record in Vietnam?