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Old 08-19-2012, 09:57 AM   #51
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Re: GOAT Military Leader

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There is also another great American general from this time who is not only underrated but hardly remembered and that's Nathanael Greene. His battles were really too small to qualify him for true greatness in the sense of this thread, but he was still an outstanding military person.

What's really interesting about Greene is that he lost most of the battles he fought yet liberated the South from the British.

Best wishes,
Mason
Who doesn't remember one of the first people to figure out small unit tactics? Greene was remarkable in that he discovered how effectively rifle equipped men who could shoot accurately could be used. Our entire military philosophy is informed by his performance of small unit tactics. (although not always for the better... Please see our slow adoption of the smaller caliber assault rifle)
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Old 08-19-2012, 10:00 AM   #52
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Re: GOAT Military Leader

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On what basis? Are you under the impression that Khan's victories were easy? The Jin Dynasty and the Empire of the Khwarizmian Shah were no pushovers--on the contrary, they were probably the greatest military powers in Asia at the time. Genghis Khan had another big (military) advantage over Washington: he was utterly ruthless, whereas Washington was a gentleman. Give Khan an army against an enemy that expects war to be conducted by certain rules, and it's curtains. I'd say that if you gave Khan Washington's command, he smashes the British, presses the Native tribes into service, launches a coup against the Continental Congress (making himself into an American Cromwell with fewer scruples), turns Canada into a smoking wreck, and seizes everything West of the Mississippi he can get his hands on.
Hahaha yes. People forget that Khan had to first unite the Mongols before he could conquer the rest of the world. Considering how fractious and warlike the Mongols were I'd say the two tasks were of about equal difficulty.

Washington went into fixed battles with the British where he could not possibly win. Khan would have simply burned everything the British could get to and watched them starve. He would have harassed them constantly. He would not have played by the rules. That last sentence was a gross understatement
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Old 08-19-2012, 10:02 AM   #53
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Re: GOAT Military Leader

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Excellent post. 100% agree with every word.

This of course is speculation, but in addition unlike Washington he may have found a way to take the war across the pond to England. Any Brave Heart movie version of William Wallace fan might appreciate how this might have played out.
Much more likely to conquer Mexico than attack the British. He would have appreciated what a huge obstacle the Atlantic Ocean in the 1700's was. That ocean and the fact that the English people saw Americans as being English are the big reasons why we won our independence.

The British ruthlessly put down rebellions in other places... And if they had been able to get away with it at home they would have done the same to us.
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Old 08-19-2012, 03:43 PM   #54
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Re: GOAT Military Leader

I was wondering where all this love for washington was coming from. I don't recall reading much about him being a great military leader. In fact, I heard the opposite. That he lost every battle except his last one.

And I agree, the Brits "gave up" because it was a Vietnam-like situation. It got less and less worth it for them.
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Old 08-19-2012, 06:15 PM   #55
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Re: GOAT Military Leader

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I was wondering where all this love for washington was coming from. I don't recall reading much about him being a great military leader. In fact, I heard the opposite. That he lost every battle except his last one.

And I agree, the Brits "gave up" because it was a Vietnam-like situation. It got less and less worth it for them.
Washington, to his credit, was pretty good at undervalued skills like managing a withdrawal to save an army for a future engagement (which he put to use in New York), and his victories at Trenton and Princeton were fairly solid. However, with the exception of the all-important Yorktown (which solidified Washington's once-waning reputation), none of the major victories of the war were his. Gates had Saratoga (and as a result, almost took over the C-in-C position from Washington until his failure at Camden), Monmouth Courthouse only looks great in retrospect, and Greene deserves most of the credit for delaying Cornwallis and getting him into position for Washington.

EDIT: to add to this, a lot of Americans for some reason are brought up in grade/high school with the myth that Washington was a brilliant general, which is probably borrowed from jingoistic pre-1960s textbooks that aren't very critical of sources. Most of things that made Washington a successful and even admirable general, politician, and President lie in the fact that he didn't screw up situations that could have very easily been screwed up. That's also why Washington tends to come out in everyone's Top 5 list of Presidents (including the #1 spot in the 2p2 lolpolitard runoff), despite a relative paucity of achievements.
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Old 08-19-2012, 06:35 PM   #56
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Re: GOAT Military Leader

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Washington, to his credit, was pretty good at undervalued skills like managing a withdrawal to save an army for a future engagement (which he put to use in New York), and his victories at Trenton and Princeton were fairly solid. However, with the exception of the all-important Yorktown (which solidified Washington's once-waning reputation), none of the major victories of the war were his. Gates had Saratoga (and as a result, almost took over the C-in-C position from Washington until his failure at Camden), Monmouth Courthouse only looks great in retrospect, and Greene deserves most of the credit for delaying Cornwallis and getting him into position for Washington.

EDIT: to add to this, a lot of Americans for some reason are brought up in grade/high school with the myth that Washington was a brilliant general, which is probably borrowed from jingoistic pre-1960s textbooks that aren't very critical of sources. Most of things that made Washington a successful and even admirable general, politician, and President lie in the fact that he didn't screw up situations that could have very easily been screwed up. That's also why Washington tends to come out in everyone's Top 5 list of Presidents (including the #1 spot in the 2p2 lolpolitard runoff), despite a relative paucity of achievements.
Another exceptional post. Washington belongs more in the honorable mention category. Compared to someone like Napoleon who is very overrated by many in my opinion but is clearly at minimum a 2nd team candidate.
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Old 08-19-2012, 09:38 PM   #57
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Re: GOAT Military Leader

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Suvorov
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Old 08-20-2012, 03:08 AM   #58
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Re: GOAT Military Leader

I have nothing to contribute but I would like your guys' opinion of Hitler as a military mind.
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Old 08-20-2012, 04:46 AM   #59
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Re: GOAT Military Leader

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I have nothing to contribute but I would like your guys' opinion of Hitler as a military mind.
He was god-awful. The Allies had assassination attempts plotted out, and were pretty sure they could have killed him, but it would have been detrimental. I think they would have really been worried if a serious threat like Rommel was put in charge.

They (the Germans) knew they were in big big trouble with his leadership. Hitler wasn't a military man at all. He just commanded his forces to do things and be aggressive, and that only worked for so long.

A perfect example is when they had a meeting about how to defend the Normandy invasion. One general wanted to place tanks more inland, to save them for later. Rommel wanted them close to the beach, to engage as soon as the allies landed. Hitler chose to put them in between both options, making them useless in both situations.

We should be thankful that Hitler was in charge of their military. He was a colossal idiot that helped us win the war. Hell, if Hitler would have just not attacked Russia (which is generals begged him to do), the war could have been much more difficult.
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Old 08-20-2012, 04:47 AM   #60
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Re: GOAT Military Leader

He was ironically called Gr÷faz, an acronym for 'greatest commander of all time' in German, by his own generals after Stalingrad.
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Old 08-20-2012, 03:16 PM   #61
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Re: GOAT Military Leader

I think that Hitler is generally underrated by most. He clearly has been vilified and rightly so, but many of the others in this thread were not humanitarians either. He would not make my top 50 list but would probably be in my top 100. He reminds me a lot of Napoleon that he started out brilliant and ended up on the losing end of WWII and looking mad and a shell of his former brilliant self. Hitler also had a very talented group of military leaders around him in particular Heinz Guderian and Rommel who are clearly in my top 50. Guderian being in my top 25 and ahead of Washington who has been a topic of this thread.

If Hitler didn't lose confidence Guderian it may have been a far more difficult war for the Allies and a very different world today.
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Old 08-20-2012, 04:42 PM   #62
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Re: GOAT Military Leader

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I think that Hitler is generally underrated by most. He clearly has been vilified and rightly so, but many of the others in this thread were not humanitarians either. He would not make my top 50 list but would probably be in my top 100. He reminds me a lot of Napoleon that he started out brilliant and ended up on the losing end of WWII and looking mad and a shell of his former brilliant self. Hitler also had a very talented group of military leaders around him in particular Heinz Guderian and Rommel who are clearly in my top 50. Guderian being in my top 25 and ahead of Washington who has been a topic of this thread.

If Hitler didn't lose confidence Guderian it may have been a far more difficult war for the Allies and a very different world today.
Hitler is a weird case. At first, I thought there's no way we can consider Hitler as a military leader in the sense of this thread because he was not personally present for any of the major battles and operations of WW2 (subject to correction, I'm guessing he wasn't present). However, he did often dictate what the operations were going to be and so he does deserve a sizable chunk of credit or blame for them. I guess I would draw a parallel here to Octavian, who was not a battlefield general per se (he has a reputation for getting sick/squeamish at battles); Anthony famously took the lead against Brutus and Cassius at Philippi, and it was Agrippa (with Octavian's navy of course) who defeated Anthony at Actium. The difference is that Octavian won and succeeded in founding an empire that would last for ~500 years, while Hitler failed spectacularly.

I suggest we forget that Washington was ever mentioned. Also, we may be nearing the time for you to make your case against Napoleon
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Old 08-20-2012, 05:32 PM   #63
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Re: GOAT Military Leader

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I think that Hitler is generally underrated by most. He clearly has been vilified and rightly so, but many of the others in this thread were not humanitarians either. He would not make my top 50 list but would probably be in my top 100. He reminds me a lot of Napoleon that he started out brilliant and ended up on the losing end of WWII and looking mad and a shell of his former brilliant self. Hitler also had a very talented group of military leaders around him in particular Heinz Guderian and Rommel who are clearly in my top 50. Guderian being in my top 25 and ahead of Washington who has been a topic of this thread.

If Hitler didn't lose confidence Guderian it may have been a far more difficult war for the Allies and a very different world today.
I'm not sure he is underrated. When you hear testimony from some of the generals who served under him none of them (that I have read anyway) have spoken of his military capabilities in good terms. A common criticism were that his instructions were very vague with just large hand sweeps over maps. Add to that his costly failures to allow armies to withdraw to better defensive positions and the flaws in the military's arms development where Hitler would make decisions on a whim and then change them just as quickly and it appears that German victories were at times won despite him, rather than by him.
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Old 08-20-2012, 05:48 PM   #64
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Re: GOAT Military Leader

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Hitler is a weird case. At first, I thought there's no way we can consider Hitler as a military leader in the sense of this thread because he was not personally present for any of the major battles and operations of WW2 (subject to correction, I'm guessing he wasn't present). However, he did often dictate what the operations were going to be and so he does deserve a sizable chunk of credit or blame for them. I guess I would draw a parallel here to Octavian, who was not a battlefield general per se (he has a reputation for getting sick/squeamish at battles); Anthony famously took the lead against Brutus and Cassius at Philippi, and it was Agrippa (with Octavian's navy of course) who defeated Anthony at Actium. The difference is that Octavian won and succeeded in founding an empire that would last for ~500 years, while Hitler failed spectacularly.

I suggest we forget that Washington was ever mentioned. Also, we may be nearing the time for you to make your case against Napoleon
I should start making the case. I will start posting when I have a bit more time later. It is as this is a good time as any, because the way he failed in Russia like Hitler did in WWII is one of the huge blemishes anybody that wants to make the a top 10 case will need to resolve in my opinion.
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Old 08-20-2012, 06:39 PM   #65
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Re: GOAT Military Leader

The case for Hitler (boy, never thought I'd type that phrase) comes down to the fact that he was a fairly good visionary of what a fully mobile, combined-arms force could accomplish, but in terms of actual war planning or especially tactics, it's hard to credit him with much, and those things where he did have a hand in planning were not very good.

I don't really come down on the side of "if only he hadn't invaded Russia" camp, though. A Nazi-Soviet war was inevitable. His timing for invading the USSR actually wasn't too bad, and one does not simply conquer the Russian steppe (cue up the meme machines!). By far the greater mistake was trying to wage an extended air campaign against Britain, though once again I'm not entirely sure how avoidable that was given the disposition of the two forces.
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Old 08-20-2012, 09:01 PM   #66
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Re: GOAT Military Leader

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I don't really come down on the side of "if only he hadn't invaded Russia" camp, though. A Nazi-Soviet war was inevitable. His timing for invading the USSR actually wasn't too bad, and one does not simply conquer the Russian steppe (cue up the meme machines!).
Interesting thesis, what do you think would have been the timetable for inevitable?
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Old 08-20-2012, 09:28 PM   #67
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Re: GOAT Military Leader

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Interesting thesis, what do you think would have been the timetable for inevitable?
5 years at the outside IMO. Declassified Soviet documents indicate that Stalin was gearing up for war (he was caught by surprise because he figured the Nazis would try and finish off Britain first), and we know from the results of what happened that Russian industry, once engaged, churned out a frightening number of guns, artillery, tanks, and so on. The German High Command knew that if Stalin's industrial development plan was successful, they would be in very serious trouble. Meanwhile, the elimination of the "Communist threat" was always high on Hitler's to-do list. The eradication of communists and communism was one of the main planks that foisted the Nazis to success.

I am always hesitant to ascribe too much meaning to ideology when the politics of war and economics are involved, but in this case, it really is accurate to say that there could never be any peaceful coexistence between the Third Reich and the USSR for long (they'd already fought a proxy war against each other in Spain). That was in part what made Molotov-Ribbentrop so shocking, but both sides knew it was a temporary marriage of convenience (Hitler needed to avoid a two-front war from the outset, and Stalin needed a buffer zone for the inevitable conflict on the Eastern Front, lest his industry be savaged by the blitzkrieg right away).
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Old 08-20-2012, 11:49 PM   #68
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Re: GOAT Military Leader

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5 years at the outside IMO. Declassified Soviet documents indicate that Stalin was gearing up for war (he was caught by surprise because he figured the Nazis would try and finish off Britain first), and we know from the results of what happened that Russian industry, once engaged, churned out a frightening number of guns, artillery, tanks, and so on. The German High Command knew that if Stalin's industrial development plan was successful, they would be in very serious trouble. Meanwhile, the elimination of the "Communist threat" was always high on Hitler's to-do list. The eradication of communists and communism was one of the main planks that foisted the Nazis to success.

I am always hesitant to ascribe too much meaning to ideology when the politics of war and economics are involved, but in this case, it really is accurate to say that there could never be any peaceful coexistence between the Third Reich and the USSR for long (they'd already fought a proxy war against each other in Spain). That was in part what made Molotov-Ribbentrop so shocking, but both sides knew it was a temporary marriage of convenience (Hitler needed to avoid a two-front war from the outset, and Stalin needed a buffer zone for the inevitable conflict on the Eastern Front, lest his industry be savaged by the blitzkrieg right away).
Fascinating stuff. I think you're on the money that peaceful coexistence was impossible, but my initial thought is that the USSR would not have initiated aggression against Germany inside 5 years, unless there was a serious provocation like a violation of the terms of the non-aggression pact (; maybe the Soviets would have initiated if, having not invaded the USSR, Germany was bogged down invading Britain or something and there was a good opportunity for the Soviets to roll in, but that's like a level 2 counter-factual). I kinda doubt that the Germans genuinely feared the potential might of the Soviets, 1, 2 or 5 years down the road; rather their risk-reward calculation for invading in 1941 must have been very favorable. Success was predicated on doing it quickly (like a matter of months, one winter at worst) and decisively, and while it speaks against my thought here that the Germans did seriously underestimate the Soviet response, I think it's the case that the German invasion ended up helping to mobilize the Soviets far more than we should suppose that a slow build-up would have (without the invasion) over the same 2-3 year time span.* At any rate, I speculate that whether in 1941, in 1943 or in 1946, it will have been Germany's call on if there was a war with the USSR, and with the power of hindsight, fighting the soviets later would have been better; at the very least, no worse than invading in 1941.

* This may be the worst/densest sentence I have ever written on this forum.
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Old 08-21-2012, 06:31 AM   #69
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Re: GOAT Military Leader

I believe that Stalin "wasn't ready" when he was attacked, as mentioned. From what I read he thought he had a few (1-3) years before he had to deal with Hitler.

When the Germans attacked the Russians didn't really have an answer, in fact I think the Germans pushed 600 miles in the first few days. Once the Russian war machine started pumping out everything, the Germans were in trouble.

In fact, some people use the Russian war machine as one of the reasons why the US dropped the bomb on the Japanese - they wanted to chill the Russians out, not wanting to finally get rid of Hitler and then deal with another madman.

As far as military skills go, I believe both leaders were stubborn and stupid in the way they handled Stalingrad. Hitler wanted it because it was named after Stalin, and Stalin ordered his men to not take one step backwards - or his own men would shoot them. I'm pretty sure it was the bloodiest battle in human history, with the fighting going from room to room. One of the expressions was something like "we captured the kitchen but were still fighting for the living room", and that the soldiers were so close they could hear each other breathing. The city was a ruin, and they were fighting over rubble. The military casualties were bad, but so were the civilians, many of whom starved to death.

Bad bad stuff.
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Old 08-21-2012, 12:59 PM   #70
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Re: GOAT Military Leader

Would love to see you guys do a draft on military leaders.
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Old 08-21-2012, 03:24 PM   #71
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Re: GOAT Military Leader

I'd take hannibal all day #1 pick.
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Old 08-21-2012, 03:47 PM   #72
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Re: GOAT Military Leader

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I suggest we forget that Washington was ever mentioned. Also, we may be nearing the time for you to make your case against Napoleon
Napoleon at times showed brilliance as a military leader that would make him on paper GOAT worthy, but I think anyone deserving of the title or even the top ten designation would not have the numerous failures he had.

Napoleon marched into Egypt in 1798 with his army in an attempt to conquer Egypt and thus cut British trading routes to the Middle-East and India and give the French naval dominance in the Mediterranean. Napoleon easily took over Egypt but as he was conquering Egypt, the British fleet, commanded by Lord Nelson, destroyed the French fleet and left Napoleon and his army stranded.

Although militarily the Egyptian campaign accomplished very little, the French presence in Egypt had great significance in other areas particularly Napoleon's popularity. Napoleon took with him many experts to Egypt to study the artistic and literary treasures of the country. Their most significant find was the Rosetta Stone, the key to understanding ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Because of his failure to accomplish his goals for Egypt, Napoleon returned to France with only a small portion of his soldiers. To his luck, the French people had not heard of his defeat in Egypt and had been falsely told that it had been a great success because of the cultural achievements. This gave him immense support from the French people. Had the French people known of his miltary failure when he arrived back in France, there would have been little chance of him ever reaching anywhere near as high as he eventually did.

Napoleon Bonaparte ineffective leadership during the invasion of Russia of 1812 also resulted in campaign failure which calls in to question if other early success of his career make him a GOAT candidate. I say no. The invasion of Russia in 1812 was a clear turning point for Napoleon military career. The aftermath this failed invasion shattered his reputation as a tactical genius and severely questions his ability as a great military leader. The total number of Napoleon's Army (Grande Armee) outnumbered the Russian 2 to 1. Napoleon's relying on methods from prior campaign to make logistical preparation was a huge blunder. Napoleon had always lived off the land in his campaigns in order to forestall a supply problem. The Russian utilized scorch earth tactics to destroy any supplies they had so it prevent Napoleon's army from using it. The Grande Armee could not live off the land as they did prior campaigns because of weather and the harsh terrain of Russia. When he reached Moscow in September, he found it burning. There was nothing there which could feed and house his troops for the winter so he was forced to turn back toward home just as winter was setting in. His Grand Army ran out of supplies, and soldiers died of disease and the bitter cold of the Russian winter. They were equipped only in summer uniforms. Russian troops and people continually attacked them as they trudged along home. Only about 40,000 survived the march.

Contrast that with someone like Cesar who faced a quality opponent like Pompeii and was out numbered in his decisive battle. Napoleon's Army (Grande Armee) outnumbered the Russian 2 to 1. Cesar accomplished this after winning many impressive battles against lesser foes of various strength. Cesar had the boldness of Napoleon, the tactical genius, better administrative skills, won his major battles, and beat highly skilled opponents. A far better GOAT candidate if you ask me. Cesar is just one example and not even my GOAT even though he is a clear Top 10 selection.

Napoleon showed innovation a young commander, and reformed his army very much like Marius who was mentioned earlier in the thread. Sure Napoleon did not expect the scorch earth tactics and figured if he took Moscow Russia would fall, but a true GOAT candidate should have been prepared unexpected possibilities. Napoleon actually fought the type of war in Moscow (attrition) that he himself was brilliant against in earlier complains. This one failure alone calls in to question his GOAT status.

As many of you know Napoleon was not completely defeated by the disaster in Russia. The following year he raised an army of around 300,000 French troops supported by a quarter of a million French allied troops to contest control of Germany in an another very large campaign. Despite being outnumbered, he won a large victory at the Battle of Dresden. It was not until the decisive Battle of Nations that he was finally defeated and afterwards no longer had the troops to stop the Coalition's invasion of France. Napoleon did still manage to inflict a series of losses and a series of minor military victories on the far larger Allied armies as they drove towards Paris, though they captured the city and forced him out of power 1814.

I have not even brought up the train wreck of Waterloo or the one country that Napoleon could never influence or invade, Great Britain. Having experienced that he could not defeat the British because of its superior navy, Napoleon established the Continental System, a French-imposed blockade of Europe against British goods. He figured if he couldn't beat Great Britain with warfare, he would do it with economic warfare. This strategy of course was ineffective so Napoleon lost both economically as well as militarily to England also knocking him out of consideration for my top 25 GOAT list of military greats.
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Old 08-21-2012, 04:28 PM   #73
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Re: GOAT Military Leader

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I think that Hitler is generally underrated by most. He clearly has been vilified and rightly so, but many of the others in this thread were not humanitarians either. He would not make my top 50 list but would probably be in my top 100. He reminds me a lot of Napoleon that he started out brilliant and ended up on the losing end of WWII and looking mad and a shell of his former brilliant self. Hitler also had a very talented group of military leaders around him in particular Heinz Guderian and Rommel who are clearly in my top 50. Guderian being in my top 25 and ahead of Washington who has been a topic of this thread.

If Hitler didn't lose confidence Guderian it may have been a far more difficult war for the Allies and a very different world today.

Aaand it's official. You don't know anything about military history. Hitler was directly responsible for the following:

1) Dunkirk
2) Invasion of Russia
3) Battle of Britain being an air battle rather than a land battle... This direcly after Goehring had already proven rather conclusively that he couldn't accomplish much from the air at... Dunkirk.
4) Stalingrad
5) Massive expenditures on the V weapons program
6) the assignment of most of the jet aircraft propulsion work to making a light bomber instead of an interceptor... Despite the fact that every factory in Germany was getting the lights bombed off regularly.

This barely scratches the surface. There's way more. His leadership of the German war machine was a huge **** up from start to finish. In fact he's the kind of opponent who makes generals look like geniuses. See Montgomery.
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Old 08-21-2012, 04:57 PM   #74
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Re: GOAT Military Leader

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You have to look at the situation though. If the British were lead by Ghengis Khan we would now be British. If the colonies were lead by Ghengis Khan we would probably also now be British
nah, if the British had won then you'd all be Canadians today...
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Old 08-21-2012, 05:15 PM   #75
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Re: GOAT Military Leader

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Aaand it's official. You don't know anything about military history. Hitler was directly responsible for the following:

1) Dunkirk
2) Invasion of Russia
3) Battle of Britain being an air battle rather than a land battle... This direcly after Goehring had already proven rather conclusively that he couldn't accomplish much from the air at... Dunkirk.
4) Stalingrad
5) Massive expenditures on the V weapons program
6) the assignment of most of the jet aircraft propulsion work to making a light bomber instead of an interceptor... Despite the fact that every factory in Germany was getting the lights bombed off regularly.

This barely scratches the surface. There's way more. His leadership of the German war machine was a huge **** up from start to finish. In fact he's the kind of opponent who makes generals look like geniuses. See Montgomery.
He did have some bright moments in the early stages (following Guderian's advice against that of most other generals, for one thing) but it's clearly not enough to put him anywhere near this list.



There seems to be a distinct absence of WW2 Allied generals in this thread - is it because it's about the best Military Leaders rather than tactical/strategical prowess alone?
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