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Question: Who was the best military leader?
Zhukov   -0 (0%)
Alexander the Great   -4 (16%)
Attila the Hun   -0 (0%)
Napoleon Bonaparte   -4 (16%)
Robert E. Lee   -3 (12%)
Rommel   -1 (4%)
Ghengis Khan   -5 (20%)
Joan of Arc   -0 (0%)
Saladin   -0 (0%)
Hannibal   -1 (4%)
Julius Caesar   -1 (4%)
Other   -6 (24%)
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Total Voters: 25

Author Topic: Greatest military leader in history  (Read 2628 times)
politicus
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« on: March 25, 2012, 02:42:24 pm »
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An impossible question since the conditions they operated under where so different. But give it a shot. Who were the greatest commander of all times?
« Last Edit: March 25, 2012, 04:52:44 pm by politicus »Logged

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« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2012, 08:43:38 pm »
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Perhaps P.C. Scipio or Subotai

Others that I would put ahead of your list are:
Maurice de Saxe   
Gustavus Adolphus
Francois Eugene (Prince of Savoy)
Arthur Wellesley (Duke of Wellington)
John Churchill (Duke of Marlborough)
Kalid ibn Al-Walid
Cyrus the Great




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« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2012, 08:47:16 pm »
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Horatio Nelson- Admirals always get overshadowed by Generals in these discussions
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« Reply #3 on: March 25, 2012, 10:18:49 pm »
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Ghengis gets my pick....though I probably like Hannibal the most.  One could also make good arguments for Alexander and Zhukov.  Joan and Saladin are way out of their league here.
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« Reply #4 on: March 25, 2012, 10:45:43 pm »
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Subutai on land, probably Nelson on water.
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« Reply #5 on: March 26, 2012, 04:05:26 am »
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Napoleon. Hands down. He was self-made unlike people like say Alexander (who is massively overrated anyways).

Him any maybe Erich Von Mainstien.
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« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2012, 07:58:20 am »
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Horatio Nelson- Admirals always get overshadowed by Generals in these discussions
Good point. But I think it is because their actions are generally less important. Naval battles can of course be crucial (and often has been), but most wars are after all decided by military campaigns on land.
Nelson is without doubt the greatest naval commander of all times.
« Last Edit: March 26, 2012, 08:00:18 am by politicus »Logged

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« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2012, 10:35:52 am »
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Depends on the criteria you're using. Are you looking for an innovative genius, or an extremely succesful conqueror? Do you care at all about the succes of the leader beyond the battlefield? Would you object to the leader in casu also being a ghoulish mass murderer? And so on,...

That said, I'd say Napoleon might indeed warrant a mention on any shortlist, though he also made some very bad calls on crucial moments.
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politicus
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« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2012, 10:55:05 am »
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Depends on the criteria you're using. Are you looking for an innovative genius, or an extremely successful conqueror?
The greatest had to have both qualities IMO. But ultimately success must be the most important criteria.

Do you care at all about the success of the leader beyond the battlefield?
No, that is clearly irrelevant.

Would you object to the leader in casu also being a ghoulish mass murderer?
We are talking about his abilities as commander, not moral habitus.
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« Reply #9 on: March 26, 2012, 01:32:59 pm »
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Horatio Nelson- Admirals always get overshadowed by Generals in these discussions
Good point. But I think it is because their actions are generally less important. Naval battles can of course be crucial (and often has been), but most wars are after all decided by military campaigns on land.
Nelson is without doubt the greatest naval commander of all times.
Admirals actions less important? I know you are not trying to be offensive but I do take offense to that-
And you ever heard the phrase "he who rules the sea rules the world?" Think of the British Empire- think of how WWI started out of a shipbuilding competition between Britain and Germany- look at how the USA now controls the world's waters...

Genghis Khan diidn't need a navy since he conquered only land but since the 18th century I believe there is nothing more important then seapower.
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« Reply #10 on: March 26, 2012, 02:01:26 pm »
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What! No option for Charles XII? I shall report this anti-Swedish bigotry (Wink ). This is the Swede that nearly toppled the czarship of Peter the Great and would have, in my opinion, had he not been shot in the foot and forced to lead from a stretcher at Poltava.
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« Reply #11 on: March 26, 2012, 02:07:35 pm »
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LOL at Lee making the list and getting a vote.
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« Reply #12 on: March 26, 2012, 02:20:17 pm »
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LOL at Lee making the list and getting a vote.
It is really a breath of fresh air to see someone else who does not buy into the Lee Myth. I applaud you, sir! Honestly, has no one ever heard about the Cheat Mountain Campaign of 1861 (well, except for Samuel R. Anderson).
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politicus
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« Reply #13 on: March 26, 2012, 02:34:56 pm »
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What! No option for Charles XII? I shall report this anti-Swedish bigotry (Wink ). This is the Swede that nearly toppled the czarship of Peter the Great and would have, in my opinion, had he not been shot in the foot and forced to lead from a stretcher at Poltava.
Well, this list is compiled by a Dane so you may be right ...;-) Gustav 2. Adolf and Karl 12. were great commanders.

I included Lee because this is an American forum, but I tend to agree with you. I thought about Patton too, but decided against it.

Wellington, Marlborough, Subutai and Prince Eugen are clearly also good contenders. 
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« Reply #14 on: March 26, 2012, 03:25:39 pm »
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Subutai once won running cavalry battles in Poland and Hungary on successive days. Even though both countries were bigger then and shared a border around what is now Ruthenia, they still had the Carpathians along all of said border. Subutai wasn't physically present at both battles but he coordinated both, in an era of difficult communications.
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« Reply #15 on: March 26, 2012, 03:29:18 pm »
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Horatio Nelson- Admirals always get overshadowed by Generals in these discussions
Good point. But I think it is because their actions are generally less important. Naval battles can of course be crucial (and often has been), but most wars are after all decided by military campaigns on land.
Nelson is without doubt the greatest naval commander of all times.
Admirals actions less important? I know you are not trying to be offensive but I do take offense to that-
And you ever heard the phrase "he who rules the sea rules the world?" Think of the British Empire- think of how WWI started out of a shipbuilding competition between Britain and Germany- look at how the USA now controls the world's waters...

Genghis Khan diidn't need a navy since he conquered only land but since the 18th century I believe there is nothing more important then seapower.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Influence_of_Sea_Power_upon_History
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« Reply #16 on: March 26, 2012, 03:38:45 pm »
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Patrick1- I am very familiar with Mahan and that is very relevant...he also inspired the Great White Fleet
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« Reply #17 on: March 26, 2012, 03:47:26 pm »
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Of the list - Napoleon.

Overall - Subutai
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« Reply #18 on: March 26, 2012, 04:26:29 pm »
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Patrick1- I am very familiar with Mahan and that is very relevant...he also inspired the Great White Fleet

I agree with you that sea power is being very underrated.  I quite like the quote below.

"When word of a crisis breaks out in Washington, it's no accident that the first question that comes to everyone's lips is: 'Where's the nearest carrier?'"

President Bill Clinton
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politicus
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« Reply #19 on: March 26, 2012, 04:51:01 pm »
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Patrick1- I am very familiar with Mahan and that is very relevant...he also inspired the Great White Fleet

I agree with you that sea power is being very underrated.  I quite like the quote below.

"When word of a crisis breaks out in Washington, it's no accident that the first question that comes to everyone's lips is: 'Where's the nearest carrier?'"

President Bill Clinton


The US is in many ways an island nation because of the isolation of America from the rest of the world so of course naval power - especially air carriers - are important to you. But if we look at military leadership throughout history most of the important campaigns have been fought on land.
My own country is an island nation and almost all of our war heroes where admirals, so I am not biased against naval commanders, but if you look at the top commanders that changed history, you will find more generals.

But lets have two separate threads - one army, one navy.
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« Reply #20 on: March 26, 2012, 04:58:59 pm »
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Patrick1- I am very familiar with Mahan and that is very relevant...he also inspired the Great White Fleet

I agree with you that sea power is being very underrated.  I quite like the quote below.

"When word of a crisis breaks out in Washington, it's no accident that the first question that comes to everyone's lips is: 'Where's the nearest carrier?'"

President Bill Clinton


The US is in many ways an island nation because of the isolation of America from the rest of the world so of course naval power - especially air carriers - are important to you. But if we look at military leadership throughout history most of the important campaigns have been fought on land.

Pretty much the same could be said about the British Empire. Due to being an island nation they needed a strong navy to defend themselves (British ground forces were almost always quite weak when compared to other powers), as well as to become a global power.

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My own country is an island nation and almost all of our war heroes where admirals

As of my country, the situation was totally opposite. We never relied on the navy and when Poland was a great power, we were land-based power. At some point, Polish-Lithuanian Navy was consiting just a few corsair ships at Baltic Sea. Well, our geographic location speaks for itself.
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« Reply #21 on: March 27, 2012, 05:21:42 pm »

I included Lee because this is an American forum, but I tend to agree with you. I thought about Patton too, but decided against it.

What about Washington?  While he had his weaknesses at the tactical level, he was superb at the strategic level.

Lee was the reverse.  A superb tactician especially when on the defensive, but weak on strategy.

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« Reply #22 on: March 28, 2012, 11:33:46 am »
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Lee was good, maybe great (probably not).  He had the huge of advantage of having bad generals facing him.  Don't get me wrong, I like Lee, he was likely the best (overall) general in the US Civil War, but he gets a lot more praise than he deserves.

Some of the guys on this list were decent generals that history placed at the right time and place, and because they were not in over their head, managed to do what they were supposed to do.  Others went way above and beyond what history laid in their lap.  Genghis is one of those.
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Quote from:   Martha Gellhorn for The Atlantic 1961
The unique misfortune of the Palestinian refugees is that they are a weapon in what seems to be a permanent war...today, in the Middle East, you get a repeated sinking sensation about the Palestinian refugees: they are only a beginning, not an end. Their function is to hang around and be constantly useful as a goad. The ultimate aim is not such humane small potatoes as repatriating refugees.
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« Reply #23 on: March 28, 2012, 11:40:30 am »
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dead0man- I agree with your analysis of Lee...McClellan and Burnside gave him glory thru their failures
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« Reply #24 on: March 28, 2012, 11:50:46 am »
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Aye.  And I should be clear, McClellan wasn't a HORRIBLE general.  He was great at getting ready for battle.  It was when it came time to fight that he was a complete disaster.
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Quote from:   Martha Gellhorn for The Atlantic 1961
The unique misfortune of the Palestinian refugees is that they are a weapon in what seems to be a permanent war...today, in the Middle East, you get a repeated sinking sensation about the Palestinian refugees: they are only a beginning, not an end. Their function is to hang around and be constantly useful as a goad. The ultimate aim is not such humane small potatoes as repatriating refugees.
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