Was Khalid bin Walid the greatest general ever?

Mar 2016
640
Antalya
#22
Considering the expansion of The Caliphate, they had good generals. Otherwise, they would probably fail to expand.
How are we empirically defining "greatest general?" I typically shy away from such titles unless there is a quantifiable list of qualities or traits we are using to measure "greatness."
How do you know Mozart is one of the greatest composers of all times? War is an art, and when you see a good practitioner you know it.
 
May 2018
332
Michigan
#23
Considering the expansion of The Caliphate, they had good generals. Otherwise, they would probably fail to expand.


How do you know Mozart is one of the greatest composers of all times? War is an art, and when you see a good practitioner you know it.
War is less of an art than music, if such a thing is possible. There are quantifiable results: victory or defeat. The best music has is becoming a platinum record, or popularity. Further, the purpose of war, as it is in peace, is a more perfect peace. We can elucidate the nature of a peace thanks to economic indicators, general happiness and whether or not subsequent bloody conflicts occur.

Richard Gabriel puts it best in his biography of Scipio Africanus listing strategy, tactics, diplomacy, logistics etc...as quantifiable subjects a general must master, and thus be measured against. I'd directly quote, but I am on my phone.
 
Jan 2016
954
Victoria, Canada
#24
He's in the top 6 of all time in my book. As regards the sources, the only thing that can definitely be said that is unreliable is the numbers of his and his opponents' forces. Even if one chooses to totally disregard sources like Waqidi, Baladhuri, Tabari etc., Khalid's impact on the Middle East from 632 to 638 is undeniably enormous, which one understand if they just look at the maps:



The common argument, of course, is that the Romans and Persians were worn down. There is a level of truth in that, but then again, the Romans had been even more worn down after the Second Punic War, yet the Seleucids and Macedonians not only weren't able to beat them in the next decade when they tried to, but were decisively defeated by them. So, beating two empires - even worn down - with a rag-tag army of Bedouins who were good at small-level skirmishes but hadn't witnessed a serious pitched battle until then, requires exceptionally high quality of generalship and is one of the great military deeds of history, a "human tsunami" unprecedented until then and bested only by that of the Mongols six centuries later.

In my book he is not number 1 (that has to be Genghis Khan followed by Alexander and Napoleon), but he is up there with Hannibal, Caesar, Timur and Marlborough.
It's worth noting that the map gif is quite innacurate, especially regarding dates. Cilicia and Armenia were only conquered in the late 7th to early 8th centuries, not in the first years of Muslim expansion as shown here, Africa was only taken from the Romans in 698, half a century after what's shown (also being followed by the conquest of Berber north Africa and Iberia, likewise shown here anachronistically), and Crete and Sicily remained entirely under Roman control until the 9th century, and were never part of the major caliphates regardless.
 
Jan 2016
462
Macedonia
#25
Crete and Sicilly are obviously inaccurate - I noticed this as well - and the Western part of North Africa (although it is true that the whole of Egypt and Libya was conquered as early as the 640s). Cilicia and parts of Armenia seem to have been conquered in Khalid's 638 thrust, but then abandoned and only re-conquered by the Umayyads.
 
Mar 2016
640
Antalya
#26
War is less of an art than music, if such a thing is possible. There are quantifiable results: victory or defeat. The best music has is becoming a platinum record, or popularity. Further, the purpose of war, as it is in peace, is a more perfect peace. We can elucidate the nature of a peace thanks to economic indicators, general happiness and whether or not subsequent bloody conflicts occur.

Richard Gabriel puts it best in his biography of Scipio Africanus listing strategy, tactics, diplomacy, logistics etc...as quantifiable subjects a general must master, and thus be measured against. I'd directly quote, but I am on my phone.
How does he measure tactics, diplomacy, logistics, strategy? Can you elaborate his methodology?
 
Jan 2015
5,075
Ontario, Canada
#28
what were the names of those other generals? Wiki gives the names of 11 corps, of which 8 were dispatched much later, and the three that fought from the start were those of Khalid, Amr ibn al-As and Ikrimah ibn Abi Jahl. We know that Ikrimah ibn Abi Jahl was defeated twice by Musaylima and as a result lost independent command and his corps was placed under the orders of Khalid. Amr's name (in L. V. Vaglieri's History of Islam which sources Baladhuri and Tabari) is mentioned only once (in the suppression of the Quza'a). The rest of the operations of the Ridda Wars, from start to end, were commanded by Khalid, first as corps commander and then as head of the entire army.

It's during these campaigns that he rose from a corps commander (that he had been under Abu Sufyan and Muhammad) to the level of the leader of an entire army. So it is obvious that his contribution was outstanding.

The mere fact that for 13 centuries European historians writing on the Arab conquests didn't mentioned their generals, didn't evaluate their talent, or just called it a matter of luck, is negligence in my book. At least Gibbon - who had read Tabari, Waqidi and Baladhuri - calls Khalid "the fiercest of the Arab warriors". Just that. That's as much as serious Western historiography cared to say about him (of course, not a word about his tactics/strategy or the tactics/strategy of the Arabs in general). I do call this negligence.
Sorry I forgot to respond to this.

The other generals who commanded troops in the Ridda Wars and subdued the rest of Arabia.
To my knowledge Khalid didn't command troops in the conquest of Yemen or Oman etc. Though he was a strategic adviser to Abu Bakr. Was he appointed to command all the troops as the overall commander?

I don't doubt that Khalid was likely the best general Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman had. But what I am suggesting is that sources are very skewed in favour of the Arabs and by extension Khalid himself. Due to this I approach the subject cautiously. Also throwing it out there that Muhammad is underappreciated and often overlooked.
 
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Jan 2015
5,075
Ontario, Canada
#29
Gabriel is okay, but he makes really overextended points sometimes.
Gabriel is okay... Sometimes his analysis isn't that extensive.
Looking at some of his sources I was appalled that he referenced Harold Lamb in his Subutai book. Harold Lamb was a novelist and his books were historical novels, he does try to justify this by saying that Harold Lamb did lots of research but I mean... really, using novels as a source? For this reason the only books Gabriel has that should be used are his books for which there exist English sources.

He has a lot of interesting ideas which he doesn't really flesh out. I remember watching him on the History Channel like 8 years ago. In the war documentary series Battles BC, he was on episodes about Moses, Joshua and David... what isn't that mythology? It would have been better had he explained his reasoning and went into detail about his sources. In his book about Egypt he said that the Egyptians might have had 100,000 men total but I find this hard to believe and he barely explained this idea. A recurring issue with Richard Gabriel, though I would be open to these ideas if he simply explained it.
 
Nov 2010
6,890
Cornwall
#30
It's worth noting that the map gif is quite innacurate, especially regarding dates. Cilicia and Armenia were only conquered in the late 7th to early 8th centuries, not in the first years of Muslim expansion as shown here, Africa was only taken from the Romans in 698, half a century after what's shown (also being followed by the conquest of Berber north Africa and Iberia,.
I think Carthage was evacuated in 698. But it was the last foothold (Ceuta defected to the Visigoths) and surrounded. If you look at North Africa as a whole, that was just the end of the process. There was a general jewish rebellion against arab rule, which included North Africa, earlier than that. Moreno makes note of a jewish berber tribe, led by a female, in that revolt
 

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