Gifted Generals Change History

The success of General Petraeus’s surge in Iraq illustrates a universal truth that gifted generals change the course of events

Here’s General Allenby, who did for the Ottoman Empire in WW1:

Allenby was arguably one of the most successful British commanders of the war, utilizing strategies he developed from his experiences in the Boer War and on the Western Front towards his Palestinian Campaigns of 1917-8. His management of the Battle of Megiddo in particular, with its brilliant use of infantry and mobile cavalry, is considered by many to be a precursor to the Blitzkrieg tactics so widely employed during World War II.

Lawrence of Arabia said of Allenby:

“(He was) physically large and confident, and morally so great that the comprehension of our littleness came slow to him”

Allenby’s gift was the result of a lot of battle experience, great intelligence, and massive leadership skills.

Successful US generals in WW2 had similar profiles – both Generals MacArthur and Patton fought in Mexico and WW1, were very clever, and inspirational leaders.

Critics focus on the autocratic leadership styles of Allenby, MacArthur and Patton. I think that’s misguided, since they simply reflected the late-industrial hierarchic societies they came from.

General Petraeus (the name is Dutch) is another gifted general:

The Iraq War was a major factor in Democrats taking over the House and Senate. There were other issues as well…But without a doubt, impatience with Iraq played a crucial role in Democratic wins last year. The American people rejected an unsuccessful war plan and a lack of progress on the ground.

But there’s tremendous change in Iraq. Evidently General Petraeus is as brilliant of a commander as military experts said he was. Previously lawless regions are now calm enough to rebuild, towns that were written off as lost to terrorists, like in al-Anbar province, have now become relatively secure.

While everyone is quick to say that Iraq is still a dangerous place, it’s immensely safer than before.

He’s a man of our times – his “battle” experiences are peacekeeping missions in Haiti and Bosnia – and like every successful entrepreneur, he’s a great team builder (my ellipsis):

Before leaving for Iraq (in 2007) Petraeus recruited a number of highly educated military officers, nicknamed “Petraeus guys” or “designated thinkers,” to advise him as commander, including Col. Mike Meese, head of the Social Science Department at West Point and Col. H.R. McMaster, famous for his leadership at the Battle of 73 Easting in the First Gulf War and in the pacification of Tal Afar more recently, as well as for his doctoral dissertation on Vietnam-era civil-military relations entitled Dereliction of Duty.

While most of Petraeus’s closest advisers are American military officers, he also hired Lt. Col. David Kilcullen of the Australian Army…

Lesser leaders surround themselves with small minds, and by choosing this gifted and eclectic crew (who must be hell to manage) Petraeus confirms his leadership skills and intelligence.

He’s not solely responsible for the success of the surge – al Qaeda’s mass-murder of civilians has turned Iraqis against it. But without Petraeus, the US faced ignominious defeat and the Iraqis a descent back into darkness.

Still, the Dem are still working to hamstring Petraeus:

The Democrats realize the problem they face with Iraq is the fact that it is improving.

House Majority Whip, James Clyburn, said that if General Petraeus brings positive news from Iraq it would, “be a real big problem for us.”

But the American people won’t stand for this treason.

Thus do gifted generals change the course of history.


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