Arjuna
 
Reply Sun 12 Sep, 2010 08:24 am
Who is it?

What is the philosophical outlook of a general? Is there a fundamental similarity among them? Or are they different? Is the outlook of a general different from that of average people?

Is it true that we "can't handle the truth?"
 
BumbleBeeBoogie
 
  0  
Reply Sun 12 Sep, 2010 08:35 am
@Arjuna,
Philosophical outlook of a general? You do post strange questions.

A General doesn't have a philosophy. They are trained to achieve their mission and to protect their troops. They train their officers their troops to do the same thing.

BBB
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Sep, 2010 08:50 am
@BumbleBeeBoogie,
And do you have an opinion on which was the greatest? Isaac Asimov said it was Hannibal.
BumbleBeeBoogie
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Sep, 2010 09:04 am
@Arjuna,
The greatest general doesn't exist yet, as far as my research indicates.

The greatest general will be one that negotiates a peace before beginning a war. Chances are that general will be a woman. Mothers are always negotiating peace before their children make war at each other.

BBB
0 Replies
 
kennethamy
 
  2  
Reply Sun 12 Sep, 2010 09:07 am
@Arjuna,
Arjuna wrote:

Who is it?

What is the philosophical outlook of a general? Is there a fundamental similarity among them? Or are they different? Is the outlook of a general different from that of average people?

Is it true that we "can't handle the truth?"


I don't know the general answer to your question, but I am now reading a wonderful book called, The Ghosts of Cannae: Hannibal and the Darkest Hour of the Roman Republic
Robert L. O'Connell on my Kindle, and if anyone deserves to be called the greatest of all generals it was Hannibal. As the author says, Hannibal seemed to be able to see into the minds of the opposing Roman generals , and anticipate what they would do with unerring accuracy. His invasion of Italy over the Alps with a bunch of elephant was a stupendous achievement (we still do not know just what passage he took) and his ability to win battle after battle as he took on Rome on its home turf while gathering allies from the disaffected people (the Gauls and Celts) was a marvel of strategy combined with diplomacy. And the battle of Cannae (August 2, 216 BC) in the south of Italy where he took on the Roman army, and with an ingenious strategy which involved luring the Romans to attack in the center while he enveloped them from either wing, and crushed them, is still studied in war colleges now, and has been emulated (although with less success) many times since. I the battle of Cannae it is estimated that between fifty and sixty thousand Romans were killed in one day which is a greater than any casualty toll in any one day's battle ever since then topping even the one day slaughters in World War I at Paschandale, and even topping the one day slaughters on the Russian front in World War II. Until he was defeated at the battle of Zama (October 19, 202 BC) just outside of Carthage (in what is now called Tunisia) by the great Roman general, Scipio Africanus, he made Rome's life a living hell. The book by O'Connell is vivid.

Hannibal won battle after battle. How else do you gauge the greatness of a general? The function of a general is to win battles, and when he performs that function he is a great general. Maybe not only if he performs that function, but certainly not unless he performs that function.
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Sep, 2010 09:34 am
@kennethamy,
Would you say Hannibal was great because of what he accomplished with limited resources?

Ultimately he failed to achieve his goal. Did he actually create the opposite of his goal: did he actually strengthen Rome?
0 Replies
 
BillRM
 
  2  
Reply Sun 12 Sep, 2010 09:51 am
@kennethamy,


Quote:
The function of a general is to win battles, and when he performs that function he is a great general.


The function of a great military leader is to win wars not battles.

Quintus Fabius Maximus known as the delayer was a far better military leader then Hannibal not by winning battles against Hannibal but by refusing to commit the Roman armies to major battles with him in Italy.

He contain the man and wore Hannibal forces down while the Romans attacks Carthage forces in the others theaters of the conflict where Hannibal did not lead and won.

The Romans in fact won that war without the need of being able to beat Hannibal.
0 Replies
 
kuvasz
 
  2  
Reply Sun 12 Sep, 2010 11:59 am
Alexander the Great, or Khalid ibn al-Walid, neither of whom ever lost a battle.
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Sep, 2010 12:22 pm
@kuvasz,
Interestingly, Asimov's tone about the Greeks suddenly changes when he gets to Alexander. It goes from something thrilling and inspired to the opposite. He thought of Alexander as a punk. I'm not sure why.

If you think of generals in terms of their legacy, Alexander would be high on the list. William the Conqueror never lost until his last fight... as I recall. Where would we put him in terms of affect on the world?

More on Khalid ibn al-Walid?
roger
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Sep, 2010 01:46 pm
@Arjuna,
Do you have a title for the book in which Asimov expressed the opinion? It might be worth checking out if my library has it.
Ceili
 
  2  
Reply Sun 12 Sep, 2010 02:19 pm
Just saw an interesting documentary that states the opposite in reference to Hannibal.
In it, they give him the fact that he most definitely won an incredible battle, but he never really won the war. He was cruel, not an inspirational leader, and his army was most of the time very poorly run. His initial win over Rome was in part because he took advantage of the romans inadequate leadership. The army was led by two different men, neither of which had a military background, and had conflicting vision. Hannibal spent his time madly inventing or thinking up ideas for the perfect war machine and the best he came up with was the elephant, that in the end, proved to be a failure as well.
It's said that the victors write the history books, and in the case of Hannibal, his history was written for and by men who wanted to look good. So, they made him a fantastic character that only made their win all the more great.
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Sep, 2010 02:32 pm
@roger,
The one about Hannibal is in a history of the semitic people. He wrote one called The Near East, but I don't think that was it... although that's a good one.

The one about Alexander was in The Greeks - A Great Adventure.

Asimov's books are fantastic. They work well for me to become introduced to a topic because I need a "skeleton" or pattern in order to absorb information. That's how he wrote. Take care, though, he wasn't an academic historian. For instance I discovered that some of what he said about Hannibal was Roman propaganda.. not necessarily believed by historians.

I read a good book called "Carthage" once. Unfortunately I don't remember the name. It was written by a historian. Real historians examine many different pieces of information to construct theories. You don't get as good a narrative out of it, but you get a better understanding of the academic field of History.
kennethamy
 
  2  
Reply Sun 12 Sep, 2010 02:43 pm
@Ceili,
Ceili wrote:

Just saw an interesting documentary that states the opposite in reference to Hannibal.
In it, they give him the fact that he most definitely won an incredible battle, but he never really won the war. He was cruel, not an inspirational leader, and his army was most of the time very poorly run. His initial win over Rome was in part because he took advantage of the romans inadequate leadership. The army was led by two different men, neither of which had a military background, and had conflicting vision. Hannibal spent his time madly inventing or thinking up ideas for the perfect war machine and the best he came up with was the elephant, that in the end, proved to be a failure as well.
It's said that the victors write the history books, and in the case of Hannibal, his history was written for and by men who wanted to look good. So, they made him a fantastic character that only made their win all the more great.


He did not merely win one incredible battle. He won one incredible battle after another. Een the elephant worked, sometimes, although it wasn't (it is true) a resounding success. Don't you think, thought, that the fact that he invaded Italy and kept the Romans on the run for over 15 years in their home turf while he was cut off from any chance of supplies or reinforcement from Carthage says something? According to O'Connell, Hannibal's rapport with his troops was very close. He slept and ate among them and shared their deprivations and hardships. And they remained loyal to him throughout. The best they could do was try to delay him, and harass him, using the tactics of Fabius Maximus, but they could not win a pitched battle against him all the time he was in Italy. Not even when he was heavily outnumbered. The fabian tactics were a confession that the Romans could do no better. No one thinks it was something they would have preferred to do.
BillRM
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Sep, 2010 02:56 pm
@kennethamy,
Quote:
using the tactics of Fabius Maximus, but they could not win a pitched battle against him all the time he was in Italy. Not even when he was heavily outnumbered. The fabian tactics were a confession that the Romans could do no better. No one thinks it was something they would have preferred to do.


They did not however need to beat him in Italy to win the war and that is the point his nation/city state lost the war no matter how many battles he won.
north
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Sep, 2010 03:02 pm

Rommel should be considered here

he did the best he could with the resourses he had
BillRM
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Sep, 2010 03:21 pm
@north,
Quote:
Rommel should be considered here
he did the best he could with the resourses he had


Robert E Lee come to mind in a similar manner.
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Sep, 2010 03:56 pm
@BillRM,
Lee was fighting in his own territory. Wouldn't that be an advantage?

And wasn't Hannibal ultimately defeated by a storm that destroyed supplies coming in from Carthage as he laid siege to Rome?

Storms. They can make you or break you.
BillRM
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Sep, 2010 04:54 pm
@Arjuna,
Quote:
Lee was fighting in his own territory. Wouldn't that be an advantage?


Yes, but in all others regards he was fighting a far stronger opponent.
0 Replies
 
BillRM
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Sep, 2010 05:10 pm
@Arjuna,
Quote:
defeated by a storm that destroyed supplies coming in from Carthage as he laid siege to Rome?


He was recalled by Carthage to try to protect that city/state from the Roman armies moving on them.

He did have problems with getting reinforcements but from the first his plans was to turn the Roman allies to his side not getting a great numbers of extra troops and supplies from Carthage.

Rome however held on to their allies for the most part.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Sep, 2010 05:28 pm
@BillRM,
BillRM wrote:

Quote:
Rommel should be considered here
he did the best he could with the resourses he had


Robert E Lee come to mind in a similar manner.


All generals do the best they can with the resources they have. Rommel's resources were very great. Lee, for the the first part, was fighting a deeply divided Union which did not have the support of the Northeast. His great mistake was to advance to Gettysburg.
 

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