One thing that irks me when discussing generals...

Feb 2015
640
washington
#1
Two people will usually be discussing General X and General Y when one of them resorts to the argument that General X only won because he had an advantage(terrain, numbers, stupid opponent etc). They then use this to discredit to General X as if by saying he only wins when his opponent makes a mistake. This somehow justifies that General X never did anything impressive because he always faced opposition that was weaker in some way and due to that he is not a great general.
But thats how people win!!! By exploiting the adavantages into their favor! Its almost as they expect both sides to be completely equal in every single way and only then when one side wins is it an impressive victory. If two people sit down to play a game of chess they both have the same number of pieces and starting board position but they are certainly not equal. One player is aimply more cunning than he other and he will win. Just because his opponent is not as intelligent as him does not take away from his victory. Yes opposition matters to some extent but in the end its the one who uses the most of everything to his advantage to win that deserves credit and not to be torn down like what they accomplished could be done by any random stranger on the steet.

I apologize if this feels ranty, I just thought it could use sharing
 
Nov 2015
21
America
#2
I agree, to an extent. Give the example(s) that you are thinking of.

Perhaps, Napoleon defeat of incompetent Russian Tsar at Austerlitz then defeat at Waterloo by a competent general, the Duke of Wellington?
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
26,598
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#3
In absolute who wins has got the merit to have won ... this is obvious.

Then, like in sport or in the chess game, a victory can be easy or heavy, like a defeat can be tremendous or honorable.

Usually I tend to use a kind of inverse equivalences [not in mathematical sense!] as central axis:

honorable defeat = easy victory

by extension we can say that

very honorable defeat = very easy victory

In fact, when on a side we record a very honorable defeat, it's almost automatically that on the other side we record a heavy, difficult victory.

That is to say that giving 100 points for a victory and 0 points for a defeat, we should decrease that value by 60 in case of a very easy victory, while in case of a very honorable defeat we should give those 60 points to the defeated general.

So that, at the end, a very honorable defeat values more than a very easy victory [60 vs 40 points].
 
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Feb 2015
640
washington
#4
I agree, to an extent. Give the example(s) that you are thinking of.

Perhaps, Napoleon defeat of incompetent Russian Tsar at Austerlitz then defeat at Waterloo by a competent general, the Duke of Wellington?
A big one was Hannibal at Cannae. Ive seen some people say that he only won because the Roman commander(was it varus?) was an idiot and walked into a trap. Completely discounting the fact Hannibal was outnumbered(especially in terms of infantry) but he still managed to pull off a perfect double envelopment.

There were some other examples but thats the best one I can think of at the moment.
 
Jun 2013
745
Agraphur
#5
Well there are differences between a general that create advantages and simply have them as function of say a larger army, richer state.

To actually somehow fairly evaluate generalship you have to isolate those factors from the generals personal impact.

Roman armies were largely successful regardless of which political amateur was commander in chief, Ceaser's victories over other Roman generals says more about his personal ability then the conquest of Gaul.

It's really only against substantial adversity that you can measure such leadership ability.
Like discussions about american world war II generals, if you always face inferior opposition mediocrity is enough to win. You will never know if a general is exceptional until he bucks the odds, someone who repeatedly does so demonstrate genius. Which why Hannibal still is so revered despite losing everything in the end.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,247
#6
Disagree mostly you do have to consider all the factors in really evaluating a Generals performance.

The pre-battle manoeuvring is part of the Job, to ensure that all things are not equal on the day. Working out you team and organisation is often part of not, and often successful generals do a lot well before that battle to get there in the most advantageous position and they deserve credit for that.

If I beat up some chess non-competition player in a game where they just outright drop pieces in an unforced error it's not particularly any great argument for my strength as a chess player.
 
Oct 2015
363
Belfast
#7
I think The battle of Gettysburg is a case in point. Had Lt. Gen. Ewell been taking stupid pills? His subordinate commander, Isaac Trimble saw that Culp's Hill was unoccupied and undefended. He tried to draw Ewell's attention to this, only for him to pull rank and tell Trimble to more or less, "Shut up".

Culp's Hill overlooks the Taneytown Road and also faces Cemetery Ridge, where Gen. Meade took the high ground. The road was used as an effective supply line.

I really don't blame Isaac Trimble for throwing down his sword in protest to General Lee.
 

Willempie

Ad Honorem
Jul 2015
5,209
Netherlands
#8
Uhm no. If Kasparov beats Karpov and I beat my idiotic neighbor's son, that wouldn't put my chess skills in any similar league.
 
Mar 2012
3,474
Redneck Country, AKA Texas
#9
IMO, battles should be analyzed individually. Not all battles were made equal, and each general's plan for every battle he fought is different.
 

Fire_Raven

Ad Honorem
Jul 2010
2,776
Oregon
#10
Disagree mostly you do have to consider all the factors in really evaluating a Generals performance.

The pre-battle manoeuvring is part of the Job, to ensure that all things are not equal on the day. Working out you team and organisation is often part of not, and often successful generals do a lot well before that battle to get there in the most advantageous position and they deserve credit for that.

If I beat up some chess non-competition player in a game where they just outright drop pieces in an unforced error it's not particularly any great argument for my strength as a chess player.
I agree and you have to add in their ability to maintain an excellent logistic train. Just about any semi-competent commander can win a battle under the right conditions but it takes a very good and competent General to not only win a battle but keep his army in shape to fight the next battle.
There are also the random events out of the control of the general on the battlefield. Using the previous example of Waterloo, what if the Prussians did not show up on the battlefield when they did, what if the French cavalry spiked the British guns they over ran? Then Wellington may of been defeated or possibly killed in the battle. It doesn't mean he was incompetent or outgeneraled by Napoleon since he did everything he could to determine the battles outcome. Just to use a modified version of a modern phrase "crap happens"
 
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