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Looks at three sins which drive great military leaders - arrogance, ambition and vanity and looks at how these attributes manifested themselves in the WWII leadership of Field Marshall Montgomery and General MacArthur.

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Katherine English
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Looks at three sins which drive great military leaders - arrogance, ambition and vanity and looks at how these attributes manifested themselves in the WWII leadership of Field Marshall Montgomery and General MacArthur.

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Lessons in Modesty.
4 June 2017 | by rmax304823See all my reviews

Shakespeare was thinking categorically when he wrote: "In peace there's nothing so becomes a man as modest stillness and humility; but when the blast of war blows in our ears, then imitate the action of the tiger; stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, disguise fair nature with hard-favor'd rage." When you feel the blast of war, you have to retain some of that modest stillness and humility you had in peacetime, otherwise you are vulnerable to what the Japanese called "the victory disease" after World War II. At the beginning, too many victories, too fast, leading to the conclusion that the enemy is impotent.

This episode covers frankly a number of Big Blunders by military leaders, some familiar names (Montgomery, too arrogant in thinking he was better than any other leader) and some not so familiar (Townsend, so ambitious that he sacrificed thousands of his men, hoping for promotion), and MacArthur (who committed the mortal sin of vanity). President Truman, who was given to unprintable epithets, called MacArthur "his Majesty" and wanted to have a meeting with him "if he'd come down from his cross."

Townsend may have been the worst example. In World War I he traveled up the Tigris River in Iraq in an attempt to conquer the legendary city of Baghdad. He didn't do it. He holed up with thousands of his men in the city of Kut and finally surrendered, after which his Turkish captors set him up in a palace with fine food, servants, and a yacht for his personal use. All of his men, on the other hand, went into Turkish prisons and the majority did not survive.

The lessons taught in this program are, of course, applicable to leaders in all fields, perhaps especially relevant to politicians. It's easy for them to think too highly of themselves and overreach. When a successful Roman general entered the capital city with his prisoners and treasures, a slave accompanied him on his chariot, whispering, "Remember thou art mortal."


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24 February 2000 (UK) See more »

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