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Ed Driscoll

Interview: Victor Davis Hanson on The Savior Generals

June 25th, 2013 - 12:04 am

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In his latest book, fellow PJM columnist Victor Davis Hanson explores that unique, and exceedingly rare, military man, the savior general. Or as the subtitle of the new book puts it, How Five Great Commanders Saved Wars That Were Lost — From Ancient Greece to Iraq. 

These men range from Themistocles and Belisarius to the Civil War’s General Sherman, Matthew Ridgway, in Korea and David Petraeus in Iraq. They became “savior generals” in VDH’s estimation, because each salvaged a war that appeared to have been hopelessly lost by a previous general whose name and ego caused him to make a hash of the fight. In some cases, their battlefield predecessors, such as MacArthur in Korea, were fighting the last war all over again, instead of responding to the conditions of the current battle. How did the savior generals VDH chose for his book manage to rise to the top ranks of their respective armies, and yet keep their ego in check? How did they learn to stay flexible and respond to the battles they were tasked to fight? And how does a savior general learn how to balance the warfare of politics, versus the actual warfare on the battlefield?

During our 28-minute long interview, Victor will discuss:

● What can we learn from the generals of antiquity?

● How did VDH narrow his list of “savior generals” down to five, and which men didn’t make the cut?

● What are the current states of Iraq and Afghanistan in the Obama era?

● Why “savior generals” often have unfortunate post-military careers.

● Is America’s culture still capable of producing further savior generals?

● The complex relationship between America’s hard left and the military.

● How VDH’s home state of California is surprisingly resilient, despite the best efforts of its politicians to destroy it.

And much more. Click here to listen:

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Transcript of our interview begins on the following page; for our many previous podcasts, start here and keep scrolling.

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All Comments   (23)
All Comments   (23)
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First search was for Patton. He was demoted by FDR for slapping two hospitalized soldiers for PTSD. He was demoted from three star to two star general, And he was assigned to the fake First Army Group that deceptively occupied Hitler with a northern attack. When he was subsequently allowed to command a real Army, he would have probably liberated much of Eastern Europe from Communism. But FDR deliberately prevented him from doing it.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
FDR was a drooling idiot for the last few months before April, 1945. Harry Hopkins (a Soviet spy) was running WW II anyway. And he did tell Ike to reign Patton in, so that nobody could get in the Red Army's way in taking over all of Central Europe. That was Stalin's plan and the US followed it like a zombie. The story about Patton slapping the soldiers was boosted by some Soviet media assets. Ike forever dishonored himself by going full blast on Operation Keel Haul after the war was over. We didn't stop appeasing the USSR until 1989, when it went away. Now we have to appease Russia. Ike put the cherry on top by throwing the Hungarian Freedpm Fighters under the bus, as well as sandbagging Britain, France, and Israel in favor of a bunch of rag-head A-holes at Suez, both in the same year.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
Nice interview, I think I'll get the book for my my high schooler. I read him the list of names and he knew the stories of 4 of the 5.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
"All Petraeus did in Iraq"

Was drop casualties amongst our troops from 130/month to 0. Zero. Because his COIN strategy was successful.

And in Afghanistan, he was never told to go win it with the resources he requested, he was it turns out told go there sit around while Obama won the by force of his personal emanations.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
"What are the current states of Iraq and Afghanistan in the Obama era?"
Thanks to Petraeus, a disaster, and worst of all disasters bought at a very high price..
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Not Iraq when Petraeus left. The resumption of violence is the result of Obama's policies, and I don't see it was ever Obama's policy to win in Afghanistan--it was his assumption it would be won with no effort or input from his Oval Office.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Charles Martel was a brilliant strategic general and also a great tactical commander, who in the middle of battle was able to adapt his plans to his enemy's forces and movement and to defeat them repeatedly, even when, as at Tours, they were far superior in numbers of men and in weaponry. Charles Martel also had another quality, also totally missing in the sorry lot of today's American generals, including your beloved disgraced Petraeus, he could foresee the dangers of his foes, and prepared for them with great cunning using terrain, time and place to offset the enemy's superior weaponry and larger numbers and adapted, over and over again, to the enemy on the battlefield, gracefully adjusting to compensate for the unforeseen and seemingly unforeseeable.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
BTW, you left out Charles Martel, perhaps the greatest general of all. Chief Joseph was a much better general than Petraeus. Petraeus never should have made it past 2nd Lieutenant in the Mexican army.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
I suppose you utterly missed the point of the book, which was solely to discuss generals who reversed effort assumed lost by the polities conducting them.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yahweh, David Petraeus
Would never okay the way you do your thing
Ding ding ding, ding, ding, ding
And you’ll get yours, David Petraeus
Coddlin’ and even sidin’ with that Islam stuff like you do
Boo hoo hoo, boo hoo hoo

Where have you gone, General George S. Patton?
Our nation turns its longing eyes to you
What’s that you say, David Petraeus?
You have banished ‘ol Blood and Guts far away
Hey hey hey, hey hey hey

Coo coo ca-choo, David Petraeus
Mohammad appreciates you more than you will know
Woo woo woo, woo woo woo
Allah uses you, yes,David Petraeus
He may grant some short reprieve to those infidels who humanity betray
Hey hey hey, hey hey hey
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Do you have a problem?
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Do you have a brain and a clue?
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well,frankly I'm astounded and appalled that Arthur Wellsley isn't on this list
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, I think he was concentrating on perhaps longer campaigns.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Petraeus betrayed his country before he betrayed his wife, by Diana West [http://www.jewishworldreview.com/1112/west1111612.php3#.UKYUVWcjXJ4]
COIN doctrine approaches war from an ivory tower, a place where such theories thrive untested and without hurting anyone. On the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, however, the results have been catastrophic. Tens of thousands of young Americans answered their country's call and were told to accept more "risk" and less "protection." Many lost lives, limbs and pieces of their brains as a result of serving under a military command structure and government in thrall to a leftist ideology that argues, in defiance of human history, that cultures, beliefs and peoples are all the same, or want to be.
Attributing such losses to Petraeus' see-no-Islam COIN is no exaggeration. In his 2010 COIN guidance, Petraeus told troops: "Walk. Stop by, don't drive by. Patrol on foot whenever possible and engage the population." As the Los Angeles Times reported last year, "The counterinsurgency tactic that is sending U.S. soldiers out on foot patrols among the Afghan people, rather than riding in armored vehicles, has contributed to a dramatic increase in arm and leg amputations, genital injuries and the loss of multiple limbs following blast injuries."
Indeed, the military has had to devise a new category of injury -- "dismounted complex blast injury" -- while military medicine has had to pioneer, for example, new modes of "aggressive pain management at the POI (point of injury)" and "phallic reconstruction surgery."
But not even such COIN sacrifices have won the "trust" of the Islamic world. On the contrary, we have seen spiraling rates of murder by our Muslim "partners" -- camouflaged by the phrase "green on blue" killings. COIN commanders, ever mindful of winning (appeasing) "hearts and minds," blame not the Islamic imperatives of jihad but rather summer heat, Ramadan fasting and the "cultural insensitivity" of the murder victims themselves. Such is the shameful paralysis induced by COIN, whose manual teaches: "Arguably, the decisive battle is for the people's minds. ... While security is essential to setting the stage for overall progress, lasting victory comes from a vibrant economy, political participation and restored hope."
Notice the assumption that something called "overall progress" will just naturally follow "security." Another theory. It didn't happen in Iraq. It hasn't happened in Afghanistan. Since nothing succeeds like failure, the doctrine's leading general was rewarded with the directorship of the CIA.
There is more at work here than a foundationally flawed strategy. In its drive to win Islamic hearts and minds, COIN doctrine has become an engine of Islamization inside the U.S. military. To win a Muslim population's "trust," U.S. troops are taught deference to Islam -- to revere the Quran; not to spit toward Mecca (thousands of miles away); and to condone such un- or anti-Western practices as religious supremacism, misogyny, polygamy, pederasty and cruelty to dogs. Our military has even permitted Islamic law to trump the First Amendment to further COIN goals, as when ISAF commander Petraeus publicly condemned an American citizen for exercising his lawful right to freedom of speech to burn a Quran.
This explains why the reports that CIA director David Petraeus went before the House Intelligence Committee in September and blamed a YouTube Muhammad video for the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, sounded so familiar. Whatever his motivation, it was all too easy for Petraeus to make free speech the scapegoat for Islamic violence. But so it goes in COIN-world, where jihad and Shariah (Islamic law) are off the table and the First Amendment is always to blame.
If there is a lesson here, it is simple: A leader who will betray the First Amendment will betray anything.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't begin to have the patience to Fisk your stupidity. The COIN approach adopted by Petraeus has nothing to do with any Ivory Tower. It replaced an Ivory Tower approach, and it was successful.

It is also not being used in Afghanistan, and was not tailored to Afghanistan in the first place.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Diana West: "Spontaneous protest, unplanned attack: That was Petraeus' testimony as CIA director three days after U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in Benghazi, Libya.
Within 24 hours of the attack, however, the White House and top officials at the State Department, the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies knew that no protest, spontaneous or other, had taken place. They knew the U.S. had been hit on the 9/11 anniversary by a planned attack by al-Qaida affiliates. Ruppersberger's account, then, indicates Petraeus deceived the committee. When committed knowingly, as former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy recently pointed out, such deception is a felony.

This same phony story -- that "extreme groups" took advantage of a "spontaneous" protest over a YouTube video to mount an "unplanned" attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi -- would be repeated by the Obama White House for two weeks, climaxing in the president's U.N. address on Sept. 25. There, President Obama cited the video six times and declared to the world body, dominated by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (an Islamic bloc of 56 nations plus the Palestinian Authority): "The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam."

Blaming the YouTube video for the violence was, in effect, blaming free speech, which is also OIC policy. Additionally, it denied the reality of the planned jihad attack, which, by extension, denied that al-Qaida-style jihad terrorism still exists at the vanguard of expansionist Islam.
To date, the media haven't asked President Obama and his top officials, why? Why the administration-wide cover-up? Why didn't military help get to Battleground Benghazi? Without coming clean, President Obama has been re-elected, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mentioned as a 2016 presidential candidate, and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice floated as the next secretary of state.

And Petraeus? On Nov. 12, Fox News reported that "congressional leaders," believing Petraeus lied to them in September, had "already considered charging Petraeus with perjury, but said they planned to withhold judgment until he testified this week." (Under oath or not, it is a crime to lie to federal officials.) We have heard no such tough talk since."

And BTW - Diana West: "Even though it appears the former CIA director lied to the House Intelligence Committee on Sept. 14, and may have lied again to the same committee on Nov. 16, he is starting to slip out of the inner ring of Benghazi cover-up suspects. We are losing sight of his official role in the deception as the media lens ossifies over a tawdry love triangle. For this, he must be thankful. Maybe to ensure the good fortune continues, Petraeus has hired Bob Barnett, the $975-per-hour Washington superlawyer to officials with issues and/or big book deals, to manage what reports call Petraeus' "transition to civilian life."
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
I agree,this was a moment of shame for Petraeus.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
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