Small Wars Journal

Why Do We Often Fail to Correctly Measure Success in Wars?

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A list of some of the greatest generals of the last two hundred years would probably include Erwin Rommel, Erich von Manstein, Robert E. Lee, Jean-Andre Massena, and Napoleon Bonaparte.  I doubt that too many people would dispute those choices (though some might want to add some other names).  What they have in common is that they were all spectacularly successful on the battlefield.  Ultimately, however, they were all losers.  At any rate, they were on the losing side.  What then makes us think of them as great?  What normal measure of success includes ultimate failure?  Of course, one can argue that most of the above had no control over the strategic level, etc.  The central question, however, still stands.  Generals with, arguably, more consistently successful records such as Wellington, Montgomery and Bradley are often overlooked, despite their having good records and being on the victorious side.  Is it because they did virtually nothing spectacular?  Simply put, they often ground out victories through sheer dogged determination (at least they seemed to).  Do we then not rate them because they worked without much flash?   

We seem to consider the former list great because they provided glorious tactical and, sometimes, operational victories.  However, if physical success on the battlefield cannot be translated into part of a larger aim, it strikes me that any such victory is largely irrelevant even if it does do a great deal of physical damage to the enemy.  2003 anyone?  On the other hand, a tactical or operational failure that does contribute to the bigger picture is more useful than a brilliant success that does not (First Tet being the most obvious example of the former). 

The type of victories that provide a clear decision at the end of a tactical engagement make it easy for those observing to put their finger on what happened and who won.  In that light, perhaps it is not surprising that a less-clear victory, a stalemate, or even a failure make it difficult for an observer to see the true value of the action.  That value might become apparent only many years later: the ongoing argument about the futility of the Battle of the Somme being a good example.  Largely based on the evidence of this battle, Field Marshal Haig often is portrayed as an unthinking and unskilled commander.  That might well be true, but does it really matter?  Ultimately, he led the British and Commonwealth Army to some of the greatest victories in its history at the end of a successful war.  Thus a better question might be did the Battle of the Somme (or indeed any of the other bloodbaths of WWI) get the Entente Powers closer to their goal of ending the war on their terms?  If it did, then it should be viewed in those terms.  The exchange, or not, of mere geography should not be the only measure of success, neither should the level of destruction inflicted upon the enemy.  That is, unless these measures can clearly be linked to the purpose of the war.  Likewise, if pure bloody attrition did the job, and all wars are in essence attritional struggles (whether of material or will), then why the desire for something more flash that did not? 

Beating up on the Iraqi Army in 2003 was merely round one of a fight.  It might have looked spectacular.  There was even something cool called a “Thunder Run”.  But, despite the valor and tactical success of the service members themselves the leadership of the force failed to translate this into strategic success.  Historically, generals that failed to do this were fired.  I suggest that the US Armed Forces have become all too focused on the illusion of progress provided by tactical victories or great sweeping maneuvers (the flash), and they have lost sight of the central goal of conflict.  That is, what the government wants from it.  That’s why no senior leaders got fired for the mess of either conflict.  Of course, I’m sure there’s more to it but it will do for a start.  

What, then, does this mean for the U.S.?  Did the U.S. government and the armed forces’ senior leaders correctly measure success in Afghanistan or Iraq?  The original goals calling for the removal of terrorist havens, the destruction of the Taliban and the creation of friendly democratic states, now seem fatuously far-fetched.  Al-Quaeda has spread to new areas, the Taliban is waiting us out, and Afghanistan and Iraq are hardly democratic.  Is that really what success looks like? 

Of course, none of this is to suggest that the original ends were achievable.  Nor that success is easily measured.  That being said, why then did the senior leadership not clearly point this out or find something that was.

Perhaps, next time, before the U.S. sticks its finger in another electric outlet the President and the senior leaders of the Armed Forces should remind themselves that success is achieving what we set out to do.  Getting part way there is not good enough.  After all, if I set out to eat a donut, the job’s not done til I’ve chewed and swallowed it.  Neither is the job done if I end up with a cannoli instead.  However, tempting that might be.

Senior leaders might also do well to heed Clausewitz: “war therefore is an act of violence to compel our opponent to fulfil our will.” (book one, chapter one, part two: J.J. Graham translation).  He also had some wise words on understanding the nature of the conflict before deciding to jump in.  But that’s another story.

Categories: metrics - Iraq - Clausewitz - Afghanistan

About the Author(s)

 

Dr. Nicholas Murray is an associate professor in the Department of Military History at the US Army Command and Staff College. His book The Rocky Road to the Great War (Potomac Books) is due out this year, along with an edited book Pacification: the lesser known French campaigns (CSI). He recently published ‘Officer Education: What Lessons Does the French Defeat in 1871 Have for the US Army Today?’ in the Small Wars Journal. His views are his own.

Comments

Move Forward

Sun, 04/14/2013 - 6:52pm

<blockquote>Beating up on the Iraqi Army in 2003 was merely round one of a fight. It might have looked spectacular. There was even something cool called a “Thunder Run”. But, despite the valor and tactical success of the service members themselves the leadership of the force failed to translate this into strategic success.</blockquote>
This seemingly implies that the military, and more specifically the general purpose ground force, failed somehow. If Paul Wolfowitz and company planted the seed, Bush listened, and Rumsfeld thought we could do it on the cheap...how is that the fault of any Soldier?

Others say we should not have disbanded the Baathist and largely Sunni Iraqi Army. First of all, that was Ambassador Bremer's decision. However, how would an intact Sunni Army have worked with an election creating Shiite leadership? Wouldn't a guerilla force with an existing chain of command have been even more effective and more likely to attempt to overthrow its government had it not been disbanded?

Others say we should have anticipated that Iranian and Iraqi Shiites would have aligned despite a decade of war between Iran and Iraq. Again, why is that kind of civil leadership anticipation the purview of military Generals? The death squads, mosque bombings, ethnic relocation are all the fault of civil leadership...not military.

<blockquote>Historically, generals that failed to do this were fired. I suggest that the US Armed Forces have become all too focused on the illusion of progress provided by tactical victories or great sweeping maneuvers (the flash), and they have lost sight of the central goal of conflict. That is, what the government wants from it. That’s why no senior leaders got fired for the mess of either conflict. Of course, I’m sure there’s more to it but it will do for a start.</blockquote>

What was the historical precedent that would have led any General to believe that both the Sunni and Shiite insurgencies and mutual genocide would evolve as it did? Was there not a peacekeeping Bosnian precedent that seemed to work pretty well? Did the Generals and ground component not adjust as required to a tough situation thrust upon them in Iraq? Did the military leaders in Afghanistan have the troop resources (authorized by civil leaders) to adapt prior to 2009?

<blockquote>What, then, does this mean for the U.S.? Did the U.S. government and the armed forces’ senior leaders correctly measure success in Afghanistan or Iraq? The original goals calling for the removal of terrorist havens, the destruction of the Taliban and the creation of friendly democratic states, now seem fatuously far-fetched. Al-Quaeda has spread to new areas, the Taliban is waiting us out, and Afghanistan and Iraq are hardly democratic. Is that really what success looks like?</blockquote>IIRC, General Dempsey's 1st AD was already packed up and on its way home when the Shiite's started making trouble and he and his were recalled to fix it. Does anyone seriously believe that a small SF/SOF element could have handled that or any of the stability ops security?

If enemies adapt and modify their goals and means of achieving them, why can't Armies and civil leaders? Contrary to what some seem to believe, these elected Iraqi and Afghan leaders do not work for us. We can't tell sovereign leaders what to do. If their decisions make it harder for the military to succeed, why is that the fault of the ground component? If that sovereign leadership also has a patronage and corruption network, how is that the fault of our military as it tries to make life better for most host nation people with "build" money that is stolen? If nearly all State Department and USAID workers and contractors are few compared to the military and holed up in the Green Zone and Kabul, why is that the military's flawed policy?

If you want to fix the strategy problem, start with our civil leaders who must learn to exploit gains made in major combat operations to determine the right solution for elections and division of countries following an initial victory. If Sunnis and Shiites had been given parts of Iraq to rule PRIOR to holding elections, than maybe the respective leaders of their respective sectors would have been more likely to cooperate with our armed forces. Again, that is not a military shortcoming, it is a State Department and Presidential screw-up.

As for al Qaeda spreading elsewhere, that seems to be the result of our effectiveness in driving them out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Who knows how many terrorist acts were averted by killing al Qaeda members and forcing their leadership into hiding and eventual destruction. We certainly would not have gotten bin Laden or stopped Taliban/al Qaeda cooperation had we left immediately after 2002. If they appear to be succeeding in coopting the insurgency in Syria, that is the result of civil leadership recalcitrance to try to fix that situation. The longer we delay, the stronger al Qaeda will get there. Mere SF training and assistance does not solve the problem because we have no idea who we are training or where their weapons and training will end up.

We also would not have the Afghan air bases to support SF/SOF forces we speculate we could have left behind if we had left in 2002. A few hundred SF/SOF could not have begun to train the 300,000 man ANSF. We will see how the ANSF and post-2014 Afghan leaders deal with the Taliban after we draw down. It is nearly a certainty that the ANSF will be more capable of dealing with that threat than whatever warlord forces and small village police forces that SF/SOF could have trained if we had left immediately or trained only ALP. As long as we don't completely bail on the Afghans as we did the Vietnamese, airpower can stop any major Taliban offensive as it did the 1972 North Vietnamese Easter offensive.

When we start asking how to correctly measure success in warfare, start with the President and work your way down to a whole bunch of appointed and elected officials before you start blaming the military.

Bill C.

Mon, 04/15/2013 - 9:13am

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

Of late, I have thought that it is simply THE PURPOSE of the foreign entity -- a purpose that may be at direct odds with the wants, needs and desires of the local populations -- that causes the host government's legitimacy to be undermined.

For example:

a. Vietnam: The purpose of the United States is to separate the country into North and South. (The "enemy" wants a unified Vietnam.)

b. Afghanistan: The purpose of the United States is to cause the country's political, economic and social life to run along lines more similiar to our own. (The enemy wants Afghanistan's political, economic and social life to oriented, ordered and organized along other than modern western lines.)

If significant segments of the Vietnamese population do not wish to see their country divided into North and South -- and if significant segments of the Afghan population do not wish to see their country transformed along modern western lines -- how then can the "host" nation governments of these countries, working largely for us to accomplish these significantly unpopular and undesired goals, ever hope to achieve legitimacy and/or "success?"

Thus, should we simply face facts and understand that we cannot have it both ways:

a. Have host nation governments pursue our highly unpopular (and, thus, highly unrealistic?) goals and objectives and

b. Have these same host nation governments be considered, in the eyes of their people, as legitimate?

Thus, how to, as COL Jones suggests, measure "success" in these instances -- not so much from the standpoint of "war" -- but more so from the standpoint of "conflict?"

Herein understanding, as I tried to indicate above, that legitimacy re: the host nation government cannot logically be (1) expected or (2) used as a measurement of success; this given that the job the foreign entity has given the host nation government to do (or which it has undertaken of its on volition) is (a) exceptionally unpopular and, thus, (b) works specifically to undermine said legitimacy.

Robert C. Jones

Sun, 04/14/2013 - 11:16am

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill,

Much of the problem is that we give far too much credence to the external measures that we apply to these situations; measures that often help the insurgent as much as they do the party we seek to place or sustain in power, but that are otherwise largely moot in the larger context of the conflict as a whole.

In Vietnam the WEST created the artificial construct of "North" and "South" Vietnam states in the midst of an on-going and overarching insurgency designed and intended to apply a Maoist insurgency strategy to liberate and consolidate the entire region under a single, self-determined system of governance. Our actions did indeed grant a formal, legal sanctuary to the insurgents in the North, but it did not somehow magically convert the insurgency into a state on state Clauswitzian war between north and south, with an associated, but somehow separate Vietcong insurgency in the South. That is pure Western hubris and fantasy.

The insurgency continued, and as you well know, the Maoist model ebbs and flows like the tide, always seeking to build up to a climactic war-like conventional campaign to destroy the state's military and capture his capital. Which is exactly what Giap ultimately was able to do once our support was withdrawn. Early attempts, such as Tet in '68, failed - but that is part of the ebb and flow of Maoist insurgency. To say we "defeated" or "suppressed" the Vietcong insurgency in the South is true in part, as we did achieve that effect. But it is completely flawed in that it does not recognize how the Vietcong element fit into the larger Maoist campaign plan. We won a battle, but we clearly lost the insurgency.

But this goes to my point. We are so blinded by modern (post Napoleon) Western military theory on warfare that we attempt to force every situation that we confront into that convenient, familiar model. In fact, as soon as I post this the dogmatic protectors of Clausewitz and US Military doctrine will immediately become defensive, as it challenges their clean, simplistic view of their professional art. Far easier to write off insurgencies as simply "too complex" to understand, and not all that important in the big scheme of things, so no worries to write those bad experiences off. This is also why we measure the wrong things. We measure things that are important for war and warfare - but not so much for revolutionary insurgency. Also, our lessons learned are largely tactical ones. A study of TTPs applied, which worked best to create these "suppression" effects we place so much stock in, and what approaches to applying those TTPs were most effective to that end. All the time ignoring that these were all battles fought enroute to losing the overall campaign.

We can do better. But first we must turn loose of the bad thinking we cling to so dearly, and then we must assume risk and reach out to embrace new theory better suited to these types of conflicts. The lessons of Western colonialism and containment and CT operations offer hints, but in no way provide the answer.

Oh, and yes, it can be this simple. Often the answer to complexity is indeed simple once one begins to look at the problem with a fresh perspective and focuses upon what is truly important. We have not done that yet, and there is little appetite to do so.

Bill M.

Sat, 04/13/2013 - 8:51pm

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

Bob,

I understand your view on the Vietnam War and disagree with your conclusion. While we may not have defeated the insurgency, we certainly suppressed it, and it didn't play a decisive role in the fall of S. Vietnam, in fact it was the conventional North Vietnamese military that defeated S. Vietnam. Our academic community has pushed a one dimensional interpretation of the war for many years that doesn't appear to have a lot of critical thought behind it, and it tends to distort our view of the world in my opinion.

In hindsight stepping in to replace the French certainly appears stupid and shortsighted, but not sure what it would have looked like prior to our involvement? Especially the political pressure at home not to lose another country to communism after China fell to Mao. As you know decisions are not made simply in the context of the country of concern, but in global and more importantly domestic political context. I think one of the most relevant lessons from Vietnam to current security challenges is that our lack of true understanding led us to make some really dumb assumptions and decisions based on those assumptions. I think Lirelou's and Mike in Hilo comments at:
http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/why-the-us-lost-the-vietnam-war#commen…
provide much needed alternative interpretations that aren't nearly as simple as either Gen Keane or you summarized, yet there is some truth in both of your assessments.

I really wonder what our national narratives will be on Iraq and Afghanistan 10 years from now? Then how that narrative will shape future decision making and military doctrine? How it will shape our assumptions about the world?

As for not making the distinction in doctrine about who's political primacy, I don't believe that is correct, but to validate I'll have to go out in the garage and dig up some of the older doctrinal models. Just because it is in doctrine doesn't mean we practiced it, so in cases like Vietnam you're still right, but I was making reference to our quiet engagement in a number of countries over the years where we had success with very small levels of support focused on host nation legitimacy.

What I can't recall off the top of my head is if we ever pulled support from a particular nation once we started supporting it after we realized we were betting on the wrong horse? That may be the ultimate challenge for us based on national pride.

Robert C. Jones

Sat, 04/13/2013 - 4:44pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill,

As you know, this is the little corner of conflict that I spend a great deal of time working and thinking about. Often in ways that are at odds with the majority opinion, and certainly with US doctrine. Yes, we recognize a primacy of politics - but the critical question is "whose politics are we prioritizing"??? Too often it is our own.

That works in war, but not in an intervention in someone else's internal revolution, even if it was our intervention that kicked the revolution into motion. More than politics and the role of politics in war as fairly described by CvC in his excellent study of war and warfare - what we are talking about in these types of conflicts is more fairly described as "governance."

The governance of the host nation and the perceptions of that governance as held by the various populace groups across the total population affected by said system of governance.

We tend to go into such situations with our eye on the bigger picture of what we think will be best for us in our overall scheme of policy and strategy on a global scale. Rightfully so, and you are right, just like in sports, one can lose a lot of games and still make the playoffs and ultimately win the big prize. But we should stop and ponder why we always lose a certain type of conflict. To date we have either written it off as bad luck, or more often reassessed reality to color a clear loss as some sort of a marginal win (I am so tired of hearing "experts" like General Jack Keane publicly proglaim "we defeated the insurgency in Vietnam, it was only after we left that the nation of South Vietnam was defeated by the nation of North Vietnam in conventional warfare" - that is such self-serving delusional BS that it defies description).

But while CvC did indeed study and discuss resistance insurgency, he did not adequately or accurately explore revolution. Resistance is a continuation of war. A government and military have been defeated or surrendered, but a population is still in the fight. That is war. Two external parties competing violently for survival or dominion. But when this competition takes place internal to a single system, as in the case of revolution, it is a very different matter regardless of how similar it may appear. We don't make that distinction in our doctrine, and it is our Achilles heel as a nation, certainly as a military profession.

Bill M.

Sat, 04/13/2013 - 2:47pm

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

Bob,

I tend to agree with your comments, especially in regards to our activities in Afghanistan, yet it still doesn't seem that simple to me. First off the military has had doctrine for "conflict less than war" for decades that recognizes the primacy of the political/diplomacy over the military, and in my opinion prior to 9/11 in many cases it seems we were moderately effective at it for a large and clumsy Superpower. Maybe declaring a war on terrorism in hindsight will prove to be one of more stupid strategic mistakes we made as a nation? I don't know, but when we tie our strategic objectives in Afghanistan to Al-Qaeda, it just seems we're building our own quagmire by focusing the tactical.

Strategy is tough concept to get a grip on, at least for me, because strategy and strategic effects that appear absent at the lower level (country level) often appear present at the larger level, and over time even when we have strategy failures at the country level (perhaps Afghanistan, definitely Vietnam), we do have, intentional or not, strategic successes at the larger level over time and over a larger geographical region as we did during the Cold War. I don't want to give us too much credit, because sometimes I think we stumble into success, but still our broader approach did seem to work. This is not an argument that it couldn't have been done better, just that we got to our strategic transition point in regards to the USSR.

We can't accurately predict the future and we can't measure our way to success. EBO thinking has had a toxic effect on our ability to think strategically. We tend to measure by taking snap shots throughout a relatively short period of time, but we need to stop looking at the world as though it can be accurately represented as stats on a PowerPoint chart. We only fool ourselves and put our nation at risk by doing so, because we're missing the larger picture. If we're thinking strategy it seems to me we should be watching the movie, not the snap shots in time, the movie is the long narrative and long trends to identify what is important and where we should shape. Focusing on stats will keep us glued to the tactical level, and even at that level will prove to be misleading.

Robert C. Jones

Sat, 04/13/2013 - 1:29pm

Actually we measure success in "wars" fairly well. Where we struggle to assess progress accurately is when we intervene in the internal, civil emergency, revolutionary conflicts of others.

War is war, but not all conflict is war. We need to recognize that our military doctrine has a glaring hole right through the middle of it, and that we fall into that chasm again, and again and again.

In the current case of such an intervention in Afghanistan we truly have no "strategy" other than what Gian Gentile and many others call "a strategy of tactics." That is a fail assessment. Look at what we measure to determine our tactical success. Nothing more than a laundry list of various tactical programs and conditions. Number of individuals captured or killed in raids; number of violent attacks; number of villages "cleared"; number of host nation security forces trained; etc, etc. Apparently the hope is that somehow the sum of all of these tactical, objective actions and activities will equal to strategic success. That is not a hope I would put much money on, better one dropped their entire paycheck on their favorite number in roulette.

As we have not strategy, and we have nothing strategic to measure. When strategic factors for such interventions in these types of conflicts are offered up, they are immediately discounted or discarded as being far too inconvenient to the progress of the current tactical agenda, or simply as too subjective and too hard to measure, analyze and report.

After all, how does one measure the degree of sovereignty perceived by the overall population of some place in the system of governance that is currently over them?? More importantly, if one truly makes perceptions of host nation sovereignty a critical, strategic metric, how can one possibly justify the routine pushback by foreign military commanders when the head of that sovereign government asks them to make changes to their TTPs that would surely damage the scores being put up against the current program of tactical metrics?? Or that might force changes to the current campaign plan??

In war, the sum or metrics may well add up to strategic success. Destroy enough enemy equipment, capture or kill enough soldiers, cover enough miles and ultimately one ends up at "victory." But this is not that type of conflict at all, and such measures are at best indicators of a potential larger success.

Consider Allied operations in Europe in 1944 and 45. Ike famously compromised tactical success that could have come from weighting either Montgomery or Patton because he knew that the pursuit of tactical advantage in that manner may well cause the entire strategic objectives of the war to be lost or severely compromised. But we make no such compromise of tactical programs in support of strategic objectives in Afghanistan. Largely because we do not have any. Not real ones. Instead we chase tactical successes and measure them carefully, and applaud our successes publicly - while in private we nervously ponder why it seems we are actually losing in the face of such victory.

Fuchs

Sat, 04/13/2013 - 6:31am

In reply to by Bill C.

The benefit of facing Moscow's dictator and later oligarchy was obvious. The hot conflicts which ensued were in part ill-advised, but strongly believed to be essential to avoid being strangled piecemeal.
Freedom was at stake back then.

I don't think it's fair to compare the Cold War to the Muslim terror hysteria. Some countries have convinced themselves that their freedom was at stake in the more recent meta-conflict, but got it entirely wrong. Excessive responses were the only freedom-endangering thing about it.
_________

Clausewitz having thought of war as uncertain or not is immaterial here. You need a really good justification if you go killing people. People who kill humans without a really good justification are mere murderers.

Now what does this tell us about a conflict where few benefits (and thus an essential part of its justification) are visible even years after the act?

Bill C.

Sat, 04/13/2013 - 12:03am

In reply to by Fuchs

Did Clausewitz not compare war, generally, to gambling?

"There is no human affair which stands so constantly and so generally in close connection with chance as war." (Or something along these lines.)

Re: "value" being more visible in the future, not sure the following is a good example or argument, but here goes:

The Cold War:

Did taking a stand against communism -- which, at times, included war (with mixed results) -- could the value of these actions (if any) be easily and properly discerned immediately following these wars? Or could the value of these actions (or lack thereof) be more easily and more clearly understood much later, once the Cold War had been won and was over?

Fuchs

Fri, 04/12/2013 - 12:39pm

In reply to by Bill C.

Explain to me how a deadly course of action deviating from the normal could be taken and justified without having at least an idea of its benefits. How could such an action with predictable killing of humans be justified if the benefits aren't even clear a decade later?

War should not be gambling for politicians.

Besides, why would anyone believe that the "value" be more visible in the distant future? Will we develop a device to observe alternative time-lines?
Why would "value" be more visible in the future, rather than being obscured by apologists?

Bill C.

Fri, 04/12/2013 - 11:42am

"Success in War" to possibly be viewed and measured in consideration of our overall foreign policy goals and objectives, to wit:

"... to create a more secure, democratic and prosporous world for the benefit of the American people and the international community."

Thus, did the battles fought in Iraq and Afghanistan help us to achieve these goals? If so, then should they be viewed in those terms?

In this light, maybe we and the author could take counsel from his own words:

"... perhaps it is not surprising that a less-clear victory, a stalemate, or even a failure make it difficult for an observer to see the overall value of the action. That value might become apparent only many years later ..."

At this much later time, might our national civilian leadership, our generals and our actions taken on their watch be viewed in a much more positive (or, indeed, an even more negative) light?

About the generals:
LeMay is barely known in Germany and I've never read him mentioned by any German officer.
Rommel was no great general - he was a great Colonel. The Brits and with them the anglophones merely admire him because they couldn't handle him.
_________

Mr. Murray gets a very fundamental point wrong. He expects "success" in warfare. Warfare isn't really about success. It's about waste.
http://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.de/2013/04/disappointments-in-war.h…

There is not much to gain with warfare any more ever since we stopped conquering new areas for settlement and/or economic submission of locals.
The only Western wars which clearly improved the winning people's life during the last couple centuries were wars for independence or political freedom.

The whole notion that you could go to war voluntarily in a distant place and be better off with it than without doing so is very questionable.
Keep in mind the USA did not declare war on Germany in 1941 before Hitler did so. Canada and other nations which sided with the British in '39 had no real say in the outcome of WW2.
Conflicts such as Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan have very little benefits to show for the costs.

Mark Pyruz

Wed, 04/10/2013 - 4:48am

The greatest general of World War II was "Iron Ass" LeMay, and he was on the winning side. It was a time when the General flew with his bombers in combat to troubleshoot tactical doctrine and even flew a fighter plane to have a look-see at ground operations at Normandy. Unthinkable today. He was feared by his enemies far more than Rommel, arguably even more so than Zhukov. Technically adaptive and utterly ruthless towards the enemy, combatant and non-combatant alike.