While a controversial figure, General Douglas MacArthur was a talented and outspoken military leader. In this episode, Wes O’Donnell talks to AMU military history professor Dr. Kelly Jordan about the leadership traits, and pitfalls, of General MacArthur and where he ranks as a military leader.
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Wes O’Donnell: Welcome to the podcast. I’m your host, Wes O’Donnell, a veteran of the U.S. Army Infantry and the U.S. Air Force. Today, we’re going to talk about great military leaders, specifically another one of my personal favorites, General Douglas MacArthur.
My guest today is Dr. Kelly Jordan. Kelly is an Associate Professor of Military and National Security Studies at American Military University and has an incredible knowledge of great military leaders of the past and what we can learn from them today. I know I’ve learned a lot just from this ongoing series. I feel like I should be paying you tuition, Kelly. So, it’s great to have you on the podcast.
Dr. Kelly Jordan: Well, it’s great to be here and I just want to share that I have been promoted from associate to full professor, so this will be my first run as a full professor.
Wes O’Donnell: Outstanding. Well, congratulations.
Dr. Kelly Jordan: Thank you.
Wes O’Donnell: So, let’s start our conversation by talking about General Douglas MacArthur, Mr. “I Shall Return” himself. But, before we start, as a military historian, can you provide us with a brief review of how you determine what makes a great military leader?
Dr. Kelly Jordan: You bet, Wes. And, what we use here in this series is what we use in our class that we teach at AMU, Military Studies 512: Great Military Leaders. And, what we end up doing is we use a combination of applying the idea of “greatness” to military leaders to create a special meaning.
So, when we talk about a great military leader, we talk about someone who was a military genius, who demonstrates a mastery of the art of war while leading in battle. So, that identifies three essential components and within each of those three essential components, it is comprised of three essential elements.
So, in terms of military genius, the three essential elements are the eye of command plus intellect plus creativity. We use those three essential elements to determine if someone satisfies the requirements of the essential component of a military genius.
The same for a master of the art of war. The essential elements for that are the theory of war plus the science of war and experience. And then, the final component is leading in battle or war, and that is comprised of courage, vision, and morality.
So, we use these three essential components to determine whether an individual qualifies as a legitimate great military leader. They have to satisfy all three to do so. And then, we use the three essential elements to determine if an individual satisfies the requirements of an essential component, and they also help identify the strengths and weaknesses of the individual being assessed.
Overall, this approach is unique because it combines the historical approach of using credible historical information as evidence with the social science method of using a standardized framework as an evaluative tool to make an assessment that is both rigorous and objective. So, that’s how we do this, Wes.
Wes O’Donnell: Thanks for that, Kelly. I know you’ve used this analysis with Alexander the Great and Frederick the Great. Now, we turn this analytical framework to somebody slightly more modern, General Douglas MacArthur. So, can you provide us with a brief biographical sketch of Douglas MacArthur?
Dr. Kelly Jordan: Certainly. And, I’ll start by saying a very recent assessment of him by renowned military historian Cole Kingseed said that most recently no modern American commander has generated more controversy than Douglas MacArthur.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt once described him as the second most dangerous man in America, the first being Governor Huey P. Long of Louisiana. Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall once chastised MacArthur for having a court rather than a military staff.
His subordinate commanders viewed MacArthur’s penchant for self-promotion and publicity as bordering on megalomania. The soldiers in the ranks had widely divergent views of him, with some questioning his courage and others seeing him as a fearless leader who shared their hardships.
So, with that level of diversity in thought, it is good to get a basic understanding of his biography. I note that the sources on MacArthur are so varied too that even his definitive biographer, D. Clayton James, was criticized for being, quote, “Too balanced and objective in his treatment of MacArthur.” So, love him or hate him, he evokes strong emotions.
Douglas MacArthur was an American general who lived from 1880 to 1964, serving as a general officer in active duty for an astonishing 34 years. A larger-than-life controversial figure, MacArthur was talented and outspoken and in the eyes of some, far too egotistical.
After being born as the son of an Army officer, he attended and graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1903 at the top of his class and helped to form and lead the 42nd Division in France during World War I. He went on to serve as superintendent of West Point, chief of staff of the Army, and field marshal of the Philippines, where he helped organize its military forces.
During World War II, he commanded one of the theaters in the Pacific and famously, as you said, returned to liberate the Philippines in 1944 after it had fallen to the Japanese. Overseeing the occupation of Japan at the war’s end, MacArthur led the United Nations forces during the start of the Korean War, but later clashed with President Harry Truman over war policy and was removed from command.
MacArthur then returned home after being away from the United States for an extended time, lived in a suite in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, and died in 1964. That’s kind of the brief outline of his life.
Wes O’Donnell: That’s excellent. I gave a presentation once about Operation Downfall, which was the invasion of the main islands of Japan that never happened because we had dropped the two atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But, for reality’s sake, I’m curious how Douglas MacArthur—this might be a conversation for another time—would have handled that situation. But, for us, can you set the stage for the real-life situations and opportunities that Douglas MacArthur faced in his time?
Dr. Kelly Jordan: Sure. So, while I mentioned that he fought in World War I, he wasn’t in combat for very long. So, most of what I’ll talk about today focuses on his time during World War II and in Korea.
So, in World War I, he had retired from the Army in 1937 and was serving as a field marshal, and in 1941, with expansionist Japan posing an increasing threat, MacArthur was recalled to active duty and named commander of U.S. Army Forces in the Far East. On December 8th, 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor, his air force in the Philippines was destroyed on the ground in a surprise attack by the Japanese who soon invaded the Philippines. MacArthur’s forces retreated to the Bataan Peninsula where they struggled to survive.
In March of 1942, on orders from President Franklin Roosevelt, MacArthur, his family, and members of his staff made a daring escape from Corregidor Island in PT boats and under the cover of darkness to Australia. Shortly afterward, Philippine forces fell to Japan in May of 1942 and MacArthur uttered his famous promise, “I shall return.”
In April of ’42, MacArthur was appointed the supreme commander of allied forces in the southwest Pacific and awarded the Medal of Honor for his defense of the Philippines. He spent the next two and a half years commanding the island-hopping campaign in the Pacific before famously returning to liberate the Philippines in October of ’44.
So, to set the stage, his most pressing strategic issue in World War II was how to plan and execute an offensive in the southwest Pacific area using the limited resources with which he was provided. America was prosecuting a global war for survival predicated on a Germany-first strategy, and MacArthur had to find ways to succeed within his area of responsibility in the Pacific with the resources allocated to him.
Advancing methodically and strategically from Australia to Japan while conserving his limited resources became the driving force behind MacArthur’s decision-making during World War II.
Just briefly to get us from then to Korea, in December of ’44, MacArthur was promoted to the rank of General of the Army, a five-star general, and was given command of all Army forces in the Pacific.
On September 2nd, 1945, MacArthur officially accepted Japan’s surrender aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. From 1945 to 1951, as Allied commander of the Japanese occupation, MacArthur oversaw the successful demobilization of Japan’s military forces as well as the restoration of its economy, the drafting of a new constitution, and numerous other reforms.
During this period, in June of 1950, Communist forces from North Korea invaded the Western aligned Republic of South Korea, launching the Korean War. As the senior military officer in the area, Douglas MacArthur was put in charge of the American-led coalition of the United Nation forces.
The most pressing strategic need facing MacArthur in Korea was how to plan and execute an offensive to achieve the Allied objective of preserving a free and independent, non-Communist Republic of Korea without widening the war or bringing the Chinese into the conflict.
America was prosecuting a limited war under the auspices of the United Nations and an international coalition, and MacArthur had to find a way to accomplish his strategic objective with the resources allocated to him under the limitations of the conflict intended to prevent the Korean War from becoming World War III.
So, as we can see, Wes, he faced significant challenges both in World War Two and in the Korean War.
Wes O’Donnell: Hmm. You know, as we talk about these military leaders, it occurs to me that many of these leaders have their ways of making war. Did Douglas MacArthur have a particular way of making war?
Dr. Kelly Jordan: He certainly did and what’s interesting about him is having served as a general officer for 34 years, he was present and he was a part of developing the distinctive American way of war that developed during this period and also that he used in both World War II and Korea.
So, his tactics and approach can kind of be summed up as follows. He employed a relatively loose control of his subordinate commanders with regards to tactics, but not in terms of objectives or publicity.
So, he used, what we would call today, mission command and allowed subordinates to determine how best to achieve the desired results, but he pushed them hard and expected success from them, and he wasn’t very good at sharing credit.
He made extensive use of envelopments and turning movements to avoid the strength of the enemy by identifying or creating an assailable flank or rear to produce a relative numerical superiority and turn the enemy out of position to gain an advantage and facilitate a successful assault.
MacArthur also made extensive use of amphibious warfare to transport troops between islands and along coasts and allow them to strike at the most advantageous time and place to achieve their objective. In fact, he conducted, by some accounts, 56 amphibious assaults, all of which succeeded.
MacArthur was also focused on achieving operational victory in concert with his rule, so that meant that he focused on winning a series of battles. He came to embrace and make extensive use of airpower as a way of avoiding the enemy’s strength and reducing the power of his opponents while also protecting his resources, which leads me to the final part of his approach. And that was an overriding and enduring concern regarding casualties to preserve his limited resources and also, as he viewed it, a moral imperative when leading American military personnel. It’s also important to note that MacArthur’s approach to warfare focused on making the most effective use of the resources available to him at the time. So, that kind of sums up MacArthur’s approach.
Wes O’Donnell: Hmm. That’s fascinating. Before we started recording, you had mentioned to me that Douglas MacArthur was almost an academic. He was a devoted student of war. Can you share some of his thoughts on the making of war with us?
Dr. Kelly Jordan: Certainly. In fact, one chronicler of him says that he may have been better suited to be a professor than a soldier. He certainly had that kind of incisive mind. So, MacArthur considered the study of the conflict of war as an intellectual exercise and he believed that the art of war could be studied and mastered with suitable effort.
It was reported that MacArthur’s library contained over 5,000 volumes, making it among the largest private collections ever assembled. MacArthur read and studied the campaigns of Caesar, Gustavus Adolphus, and other successful commanders, viewing military history as the laboratory of a professional soldier.
Serving as a general officer on active duty from 1918 to 1951, MacArthur was steeped in the American way of war that developed during that period. This way of war relied primarily on the use of combined arms and integration of forces to achieve the maximum amount of combat power at the decisive place and time.
Combined arms was important because it stressed the mutually supporting relationship between and among the arms, which included the infantry, artillery, tanks, and aircraft. The contributions of both engineers and signal troops were important, especially during bridging operations.
MacArthur was an avowed fan of the infantry. He grew up in an infantry-centric Army and that’s the way that he fought. So, even though in World War II when tanks became so important in the European theater, for MacArthur and the combat operations in the Pacific, the infantry remained the focus of how he fought.
Speaking of how he fought in the Pacific, it’s important to note that MacArthur disliked the term island hopping. He believed that it conveyed the notion that he was taking each island in his path instead of being highly selective about which ones to take.
He preferred the term leapfrogging to island hopping because he thought that that better conveyed his approach. His leapfrogging campaign in the southwest Pacific during World War II bore certain similarities to the approaches of both Alexander the Great and Frederick the Great in that it avoided attacking the enemy’s strength and instead found or created an assailable flank or rear for his attacks to succeed. That was the hallmark of Alexander with his cavalry and that was old Fritz’s way of doing things with his oblique order.
So, based on advancing ideas like this, MacArthur was described by many, including himself, as a military genius because of his vast knowledge of both military history and military operations.
Wes O’Donnell: So, how was MacArthur in actual combat?
Dr. Kelly Jordan: Well, you know, it’s interesting. There are some people out there who he got tagged with a very unfortunate, and I think undeserved nickname, of Dugout Doug during the time in the Philippines, which was as inaccurate as it was unfair.
MacArthur was ridiculously courageous in combat personally. In fact, he was cited seven times for gallantry in action in World War I alone, and then he also received the Medal of Honor in World War II. So, this is a guy who was personally brave in combat.
In practice, he was also prudent and adroit, taking the initiative to achieve a decisive victory, but not to annihilate an opposing force, which may have been too costly in terms of losses, however attractive it may have been to him militarily.
Perhaps even more importantly, achieving a decisive tactical victory while losing the fewest number of troops possible also allowed MacArthur to continue his advances when others, both his opponents and his allies, thought he might not have the resources to be able to do so.
In many ways, MacArthur thus embraced an approach for most of his career that was more akin to a strategy of attrition than it was to a strategy of annihilation, although the drive to the Alou in Korea was probably the most striking example of him pursuing a strategy of annihilation, to his detriment.
For the most part, however, MacArthur believed that achieving tactical victory and operational success was far more effective for him in a situation than pursuing the destruction of an enemy force. A decisive victory for MacArthur had more to do with allowing him to retain the initiative than it did with the complete destruction of an opposing force.
On campaign, MacArthur dressed very plainly, in the khakis that we know of him, open collar, no tie. He traveled around in an open Jeep. He generally operated behind enemy—in front of enemy lines where it was safe. But, he was personally fearless and often risked his safety to get a better look at or an understanding of the specific combat situation. He was undeniably courageous, as I had talked about.
One other aspect of him is his temperament. MacArthur had generally poor relationships with most of his subordinates. With his staff, however, he had a very different relationship. Personal loyalty far outweighed talent when appointments were concerned and each member of his staff was ferociously loyal to him.
A very few generals earned his trust and these generals, he treated well. The rest of the officers rarely came to his attention unless they performed conspicuously well or poorly. The discipline he expected of his soldiers was not remarkable for being either too harsh or too lenient for the time. So, that’s kind of how he was in combat.
Wes O’Donnell: So, now that our listeners have this background in mind, what were some of MacArthur’s most important military actions?
Dr. Kelly Jordan: I’m going to highlight one from each, one from World War II and one from Korea. In World War II, Operation Cartwheel was his masterpiece, which lasted from June to December 1943. It was designed to retain and exploit the initiative in the southwest Pacific theater gained once they had recaptured Port Moresby in late 1942.
So, he launched a two-pronged drive converging on the Japanese-held base at Rabaul. MacArthur was in overall command of Operation Cartwheel and Admiral William “Bull” Halsey was leading the advance up the Solomons as far as Bougainville and then MacArthur, he personally commanded the forces that moved up along the coast of New Guinea.
Major General George Kenney directed the air aspects of the operation, building air bases to allow them to gain and retain air superiority above the ground forces. And then, once they did that, they attacked the Japanese bases in the areas to keep them pinned down and prevent them from moving their forces around to reinforce the Allied attacks.
MacArthur and Halsey launched their amphibious assault under the cover of Kenney’s air forces beginning in early summer of 1943 and had effectively isolated almost 100,000 Japanese troops at Rabaul by mid-December of 1943, which ended up, they thought they would have to take it but they ended up being able to bypass it, saving countless casualties on both the American side and on the enemy side.
So, not only was it a tremendously successful operation, but it also set the conditions in which American forces routinely avoided Japanese strong points and began striking deeper and deeper into the Japanese island empire, using Cartwheel as their model.
It established the model where Pacific commanders used for the remainder of the war, advancing by great bounds under the cover of Allied air superiority, to strike the Japanese where they were weakest, seizing ports and airfields and then using their newly acquired bases to take the next step forward. That was a tremendous operation that is definitely worthy of admiration.
But, MacArthur’s crowning glory occurred on September 15th, 1950 in the Korean War with Operation Chromite and the Inchon Landing. So, although Inchon had the worst physical characteristics imaginable, MacArthur and almost only MacArthur was convinced that the advantages of seizing it were worth the risk because the North Koreans were concentrated down south around Busan and they were vulnerable to an amphibious turning movement that would allow the UN Forces to envelop the North Koreans near Seoul and then provide an anvil for the Eighth Army hammer that broke out of Busan and then advance north to Seoul.
The tidal conditions dictated that the attack had to occur on September 15th. Ned Almond’s 10th Corps, led by the U.S. First Marine Division, under the cover of heavy naval gunfire and close air support, made the amphibious landing successfully at Inchon on September 15th, 1950.
The Eighth Army broke out of the Busan perimeter the next day and headed north towards Seoul, causing a general retreat of the North Korean forces which up to that point had been virtually undefeated, and this retreat turned into a little more than a panicked route.
On September 26th, the two American forces linked up near Osan, which is just south of Inchon, cutting off elements of eight Communist divisions in the southwest. Two days later, American forces liberated Seoul and using this approach that he had mastered in the Pacific during World War II, MacArthur’s turning movement and envelopment of the North Korean forces combined with the breakout of the Eighth Army from Busan reversed the strategic situation in Korea and gave the UN Forces the initiative for the first time in the war. By October 1st, MacArthur’s forces had almost completely expelled the North Korean forces from South Korea and occupied positions along the 38th parallel.
So, as remarkable as Operation Cartwheel was as a model for the rest of World War II, the Inchon Landing ranks as one of the most decisive actions of the 20th century and it’s said with little qualification by even those that are not prone to compliment MacArthur that MacArthur demonstrated a high level of military genius on that day in the Inchon Landing.
Wes O’Donnell: Now, this is all great information. Going back to the criteria that you identified at the beginning for determining what makes a great military leader, how does MacArthur rate as a military leader?
Dr. Kelly Jordan: Well, this is interesting because he is revered in American history. There’s a statue of him at West Point and all that. But, what we’re finding, it’s within the last 25 years, the scholarship has begun to penetrate the veneer that lasted for so long about MacArthur and we’re now starting to see below the surface. So, what I’m going to say using that criteria might be a little controversial but it is certainly based on the scholarship that’s out there.
In terms of a leader in battle, even though he was tremendously courageous, I would offer that MacArthur knew how to command, that is, to exercise authority, very well. But, he did not know how to lead in the sense that we understand the concept.
So, in those three elements that we use, in terms of courage, no question that MacArthur was personally brave. But, we find that he demonstrated it with decreasing frequency throughout his career. I will reiterate that notions of him being referred to as a coward or being called Dugout Doug were both very unfair and inaccurate.
In terms of vision, of the second element of this, he was able to see the strategic big picture at times, but I would say that his ego turned his vision more towards himself. So, he was never viewed as one of the strategic leaders of World War II. He was viewed as a very competent theater commander, no one was talking about replacing him, but there was a cost with putting up with MacArthur’s ego.
In terms of morality, the last component of leader in battle and war, there’s no question that MacArthur was a highly moral individual, in terms of personal conduct. But, his vanity strained his personal integrity and the problem with that was that it caused his superiors to question and then begin to doubt his assessments.
For example, he would issue daily communique in World War II that we’re finding very clearly now were not always based on the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Now, the pretext for him was that he believed he needed to write them in such a way that allowed him to win the info battle every day out there. That’s not enough to entirely excuse them on their own for being such, in some cases, tremendous distortions of the truth.
Another thing is that amid a very difficult war that MacArthur always led us to believe he was fighting, he was uncommonly interested in domestic politics and he trotted out his political interests to essentially blackmail Washington into following his plans and allocating more resources than he would have otherwise deserved.
Now, he did that because he thought that’s what he needed to do to get the appropriate amount of resources for his theater and he also wanted to keep the story attractive and do whatever he thought was necessary to get his influence felt so far away in Washington. These are reasonable goals, but he achieved them with fairly dubious means.
The last two things I’ll talk about are kind of his method. His willingness to fight in the press and to feel like he had to win every war in there was maybe understandable but it’s unclear whether he did that based on a genuine concern or that he wanted people to realize that he was succeeding despite these overwhelming challenges, which was true.
And, finally, what we see over the course of World War II and in the Korea is an increasing sense of paranoia in his demeanor that caused him to see and make enemies of anybody who wasn’t clearly on his side, and that really tended to polarize anyone above him in the chain of command and made it very difficult for them to work with him.
So, in terms of a military leader, we have three essential elements in there. I think he fails to satisfy two of the three of those elements in there. There’s no question that he was personally courageous, but, in terms of vision and morality, doesn’t tend to stack up on terms of him as a leader.
Wes O’Donnell: So, how does MacArthur rate as a master of the art of war?
Dr. Kelly Jordan: As a master of the art of war, this is relatively his strongest area in there. Theory of war is the first element of this. He was comfortable and capable with the abstract, but he was neither remarkable nor exceptional in this regard. He didn’t make any unique contribution to the art of war, like Alexander’s use of cavalry or Frederick’s use of the oblique order. It was the U.S. Navy who rightfully deserves credit for developing the amphibious assault doctrine. MacArthur simply used them very, very well.
In terms of the science of war, this is probably where he was strongest, as he possessed an exceptional memory and a very quick grasp of detail. And, he was renowned for his ability to make decisions that we would call acts of knowledge stemming from his learnedness, his memory, and his grasp of detail.
He also had experience. As I said, he served as a general officer alone for 34 years on active duty. But, what’s interesting is that the experience component is generally what shapes your judgment. So, you have the theory of war and the science of war and then experience teaches you how to apply it.
And, in fact, we find that MacArthur is not renowned for his acts of judgment. He wasn’t one of the great strategists. He did help in some areas over there, but he was recognized overall, as I said, as an excellent theater commander. They weren’t looking to relieve him, but he wasn’t particularly great.
So, I think he does satisfy all three of the areas, theory of war, the science of war, and experience, and this is his relatively strongest evaluation as a master of the art of war.
Wes O’Donnell: So, how does Douglas MacArthur rate as a military genius?
Dr. Kelly Jordan: Great question. MacArthur was very fond of referring to himself as a genius and encouraged that he be referred to as a genius. But, I think the historical record, in my assessment of him, is that he was undeniably brilliant, but he was not a military genius, in terms of how we’ve defined the term.
Now, we define that term in terms of three areas. Having intellect, creativity, and the eye of command. So, in terms of intellect, he was unquestionably learned and brilliant. Now, as I said, his mind was more akin to that of an academic than of a soldier. He possessed a phenomenal memory for details and spectacular extemporaneous oratorical skills. He had the ability to right on his feet and to transfix an audience with his ability to deliver tremendously stirring orations.
So, this all allowed him to demonstrate his intellect along with his pitch-perfect timing. But, he was more of a performer in this regard, and Eisenhower once commented that he studied dramatics under MacArthur for seven years.
In terms of creativity, we don’t see much creativity from MacArthur. Except for Inchon, which I talked about, most of what he did was fairly conventional. He was even a latecomer into the leapfrogging strategy. He had to be sold on that idea. So, he’s capable, but not necessarily remarkable.
And, in terms of the eye of command, being able to see things that others can’t see, he may have possessed it at times. He certainly was the only one that possessed it in terms of Inchon and maybe in the development of Operation Cartwheel. He did not demonstrate this capability consistently, reliably, or on the level of other great commanders like Alexander the Great and Frederick the Great.
So, as a military genius, I think that he fails to satisfy two of the three. He certainly makes the mark for intellect, but in terms of creativity and eye of command, there’s not enough there to suggest that he was remarkable or exceptionally proficient in either area.
Wes O’Donnell: So, I think I see where this is going and I hope this doesn’t upset too many of our listeners. But, this is the million-dollar question: Does MacArthur qualify as one of history’s great captains?
Dr. Kelly Jordan: Using the criteria and the methodology that I’m using, no, he does not because you have to qualify in all three of the essential areas to do it and he doesn’t qualify as a leader and he doesn’t qualify as a genius. However, MacArthur was unquestionably an officer of what one author described as of rare and brilliant ability who occasionally demonstrated it and served at the nation’s highest level for many decades.
So, as a result of this analysis that I’ve conducted using this framework, I would offer that MacArthur is better understood as being a learned military ruler rather than a great military leader or great captain. And, I think that the sobriquet of William Manchester’s probably the most famous biography of him, of him being an American Caesar is quite appropriate and accurate for him.
Wes O’Donnell: So, what is the relevance of Douglas MacArthur for today’s warfighters, for today’s military leaders?
Dr. Kelly Jordan: I think that’s a great question over here because he’s someone that we can kind of relate to and he fought much more, as you said in the opening there, in more modern times than either Alexander or Frederick the Great. So, I would say that I would break that down in terms of three areas.
In terms of substance, MacArthur is a person, he was a brilliant, but flawed individual who I think became confused between the needs of his own ego and the needs of the nation.
His method of arguing his case in the press, providing superiors neither the ability nor the information to refute him, was unprofessional. And, while he justified it in terms of being the best way to achieve his assigned and desired objectives, it probably did more harm than good in terms of overall civil-military relations.
In terms of process, I think that the study of MacArthur helps highlight the connections and value of approaching assessments like this using a framework and a methodology like we’ve used in this series so far, having a standardized framework and using history as evidence, and then to make that objective assessment over there.
And, finally, in terms of practicality, I would note that, as I said, he was an effective commander but he was not a great leader. I think that that highlights that commanding is very different from leading and that both require discreet skills and constant efforts.
And then, going down the final thing in terms of leading, I think that it is essential to establish and maintain a respectful relationship with those you lead. It isn’t enough even for someone as brilliant as MacArthur to lead from on high and keep oneself above the fray and too distant from those being led and to treat them with anything less than the respect that they deserve.
So, one of the enduring lessons from MacArthur is I think is that command is different than leadership and leadership requires you to establish and maintain a respectful relationship with those who you lead, Wes. And, I think that’s something we can all learn from MacArthur.
Wes O’Donnell: Well, Kelly, this has been such a great conversation. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Dr. Kelly Jordan: I think that in terms of MacArthur, he’s someone that I like applying this framework to someone who isn’t as so spectacularly good as Alexander the Great. You know, Frederick the Great is an interesting test for it because he’s eight and eight in the battlefield so he’s not, that’d get you fired in today’s NFL.
But, MacArthur is someone who’s really interesting because there are examples and there is evidence of brilliance in there. But, I think that this shows that brilliance in one area can’t make up for deficiencies in other areas and I think that’s an important thing to learn about this and I think that’s one of the things that the study of great military leaders can help us understand where it’s really essential to be good and what the ramifications are if you’re particularly good or are not particularly good in those areas.
Wes O’Donnell: Well, again, Kelly, as an amateur historian myself, I love chatting with subject matter experts like this. I know our listeners love it. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise today for this episode. And, to our listeners, thanks for joining us. Be well and stay frosty.