“In war men are nothing. The Man is everything” Bonaparte


"Another prominent Syrian Arab Army (SAA) commander has received a promotion this week as the military’s high command looks to finalize roles for next year.

According to a military source, Major General Zaid Saleh has been named the Deputy Director/Vice President of the Syrian Republican Guard, effective immediately.

Major General Saleh was previously the commander of the Republican Guard’s 30th Division that was leading operations in the Aleppo Governorate; he will now oversee operations all over northern Syria.  AMN


Bonaparte in his Maxims made the statement quoted in the title.   You may not want to believe that but what would the Grande Armee have been without him personally,?  What would the Afrika Korps or later Panzer Armee Afrika have been without Erwin Rommel?  The Army of Northern Virginia without Lee, indeed the IXth Legion Hispana without Caesar?  They would have been good troops but not at the level to which they reached.

The SAA has survived a horrendous war.  In the process New Men were summoned up out of Syria's brown earth. Clausewitz spoke for the ages in Vom Kriege in predicting that this process is inevitable in a army that survives a long, hard war.

Suheil Hassan of the Tiger Forces, and the late Issam Zahreddine  are the best known of the New Men, but there are surely others.

There is been  certain amount of talk here of which petite ordure of  a civilian politician will succeed Bashar Assad when the Russians, Americans, Turks and Iranians combine to force him from office.  What a joke! Bashar will not go willingly.

Look at this Man, Zaid Saleh.  Look at him!  Look at the eyes.  Bashar and his government are restructuring for the coming campaigning season.

This man's assignment is to restore the government's authority in Idlib and in the Turkish occupied areas.  There will be blood and fire in the NW.  pl  


This entry was posted in Syria, The Military Art. Bookmark the permalink.

66 Responses to “In war men are nothing. The Man is everything” Bonaparte

  1. Cortes says:

    Thanks, Colonel.
    But how sad is it that your advice seems to be unheard inside the Beltway!

  2. turcopolier says:

    Thank you . I needed a reminder of SST’s uselessness. But as the French climber says to Eastwood on the Eiger, “we will continue with style.” pl

  3. Peter AU says:

    Far from useless.

  4. Bill H says:

    Useless? I think not. How many know and can quote the words of the “still small voice, crying in the wilderness” today, twenty centuries later?

  5. JohnB says:

    I do hope you are correct, as the ideology behind 9/11 & 7/7 in the UK has been allowed to blossom in Idlib and will be poke like a dagger at the heart of Europe until destroyed.

  6. jld says:

    IMHO Zaid Saleh doesn’t look any better than the head choppers/liver eaters, he just happens to be “on the side fo the law”.

  7. turcopolier says:

    He is probably an Alawi and may not like liver. I didn’t say he looked like a choir boy. pl

  8. Annem says:

    I do not know whether he likes liver, but I can say that he is likely Alawi as he is from a region on the outskirts of Ladikia.

  9. LeaNder says:

    curious, …
    I hated liver before it was recommended to me. In the end I was able to eat it like a cat, raw.
    What’s the exact genesis of ‘liver eater’. If we stay with Popeye and spinach, he may have been created for some type of educational reason. But why liver eater to denote evil?
    All starting with Zeus and the eagle he sends to eat Prometheus liver at night?
    Concerning looks, eyes, pictures never give us anything about time, setting, mood, photographer, like or dislike of the person to be photographed:
    Situations room:

  10. Barish says:

    And what is the key criterion for that equivalency then, his bold nose or stern eyes?
    Do recall the one, boyish member of the Harakat az-Zinki gang beheaded a boy in July 2016 – even though the act itself is visually censored in the following snippet, the sound is not:
    That this lot requires a stern hand is an understatement. Independent of whether this particular individual was KIA or not as some reports have stated, his fellows who cheered him on still roam free. Going just by looks, Mr Salah looks up to the job of crushing their deranged dreams of califate.

  11. Barbara Ann says:

    If looks determined fighting ability our armies would be a sorry band indeed.
    To be made a Man, in the sense the Colonel uses, it is true that one has to have the good fortune to be on the winning side – or at least to survive. The prospects for the miscellany of jihadis in the Idlib DZ are not good.

  12. Cortes says:

    My wording was poor. Apologies.

  13. ashpool says:

    As someone following these events I did not see this reported elsewhere.

  14. Amir says:

    You were a reference source in, when I started my letter writing campaign to inform the Amy local-, state- & federal representatives (From Virginia’s State Secretary for Econimic to Veterans to my member of Congress or Virginia senators. ) and to avert the U.S. from becoming DHESH‘s Air Force. I’m not sure How effective it was but sorry how effective it was but surely not zero. Above that, I did receive two letters from the European Union parliament as well as the Belgian parliament in response to my petitioning, for which I can use you as a Source and a reference.

  15. turcopolier says:

    Barbara Ann
    You don’t get it. Not “a Man,” “THE Man.” This is not about masculinity. This is about highly successful military leadership produced in the flame of extended warfare. pl

  16. mike says:

    He is from Jableh on the coast. His son Ja’far was killed in a car-bombing in Jableh on the 5th of January, along with ten or so others killed and 30 to 40 wounded. That was only three weeks after General Saleh’s victory in Eastern Aleppo.
    The suitcases under his eyes look like he needs a good nights sleep.
    I’m not enthusiastic about Carlyle’s ‘great man theory’. Lee undoubtedly was a great man, but he got there due to the moxie and fortitude of the typical Confederate soldier. Same for Bonaparte, Rommel and Caesar. They all stood on the shoulders of their troops. Put them in lesser armies and they would have been good generals but not great ones.

  17. mike says:

    LeaNder –
    In this country we build statues to liver-eaters:
    But I believe current usage in Syria dates back to a 2013 video of Abu Sakkar cutting out a dead SAA soldier’s organs and eating them.

  18. turcopolier says:

    Without great leaders, great troops are not great. The USMC battle for Peleliu is something you and I have discussed. The 1st Marine Division was full of great, highly experienced soldiers, but Rupertus and Puller did everything in their power to screw the troops. pl

  19. Barbara Ann says:

    I understand the distinction Colonel. I was simply stating that @jld is right that Saleh had the good fortune to be on the right side. The crucible of the Syrian war doubtless created successful military leaders among the ranks of Daesh too, but increasingly few remain the right side of Paradise to be capable of putting those skills to use.

  20. mike says:

    Colonel –
    We can agree on Rupertus. I never understood your animus against Puller, a fellow Virginian of yours, a fellow VMI student, a great American, and a great general, a man who is even to this day admired and revered by all Marines and in particular by alumni of the 1st Marine Division.
    Puller led from the front like Zahredinne and that Russian general that recently was kia in Syria. The only subordinates I know of who spoke out against Puller were one or two of his staff officers who resented being at the front lines with him instead of being in the rear which they thought was the proper place for a Regimental HQ.

  21. turcopolier says:

    Puller was a bulldog. You marines like that. He destroyed the 1st Marine Regiment at Peleliu. pl

  22. mike says:

    Colonel –
    With all due respect, you are dead wrong on that call. But I suppose it was something taught at the Point. Perhaps a residue of Dougout Doug’s claims to greatness?

  23. turcopolier says:

    As you know, I was not a student at West Point. Puller was a great front line commander. “Doug out Doug.” How amusing. I guess you are unfamiliar with his record in WW1. Seems to me he did have the MoH. pl

  24. mike says:

    Colonel –
    I am aware of MacArthur’s WW1 record. He was certainly NOT hiding in a dugout or in a chateau. He went over the top with his men and good on him.
    The Dugout Doug nickname as you know came from his time during the Battle of Corregidor. Can’t say I blame him much with a young wife and child. I probably would have stayed in tunnel systems there also, and not contested orders to evacuate to Down Under. But what really drove the nickname was that he was awarded the Medal of Honor for Bataan & Corregidor, not for his heroic service in WW1. That IMHO was a definite miscarriage of the word ‘honor’.

  25. different clue says:

    The head choppers and liver eaters did it for pure pleasure. Whatever Zaid Saleh does or causes to be done to those people will be ” nothing personal, just bussiness.” He may well view it as cleaning up a Superfund Site. He certainly won’t view it as a wild weekend party on the beach, the way the jihadists do.

  26. turcopolier says:

    He was the theater commander. Where would you have had him be? His headquarters with its communications was in the Malinta tunnel complex. To attribute his actions to the presence of his family is really inappropriate. If you want to condemn him for something, do it for obeying FDR’s order to leave for Australia. pl

  27. mike says:

    Colonel –
    I mentioned his obeying orders to leave for Australia. See above where I said “…and not contested orders to evacuate to Down Under.”
    And it was some of his own troops at Bataan and Corregidor that gave him the Dugout Doug nickname, not me.

  28. charly says:

    One of the rebel fighters ate the liver of a soldier.

  29. turcopolier says:

    OK. Macarthur was an ass. Puller was a saint. The USMC won WW2 in the Pacific. ok? pl

  30. optimax says:

    The Bonaparte quote is portrayed quite well in a movie called Command Decision, starring Clark Gable, Walter Pigeon, Van Johnson, about the high cost in men and planes of the Flying Fortress’s bombing of military factories deep inside Germany.

  31. R.Eckels says:

    Which one?
    T’other piece I fried and ate?

  32. Fred says:

    The 8th air force suffered more casualties during the war than the marine corps. If you get the chance I recommend a visit to the Mighty 8th Air Force museum in Pooler SC.

  33. charly says:

    Khalid al-Hamad aka “Abu Sakkar”

  34. turcopolier says:

    “12 O’clock High” and “Pork Chop Hill” also make the same point the latter at the company command level. pl

  35. mike says:

    Fred –
    The Navy suffered more casualties than the entire Army Air Force, or the Marine Corps. US Army ground troops took the largest number.
    But Red Army casualties dwarfed the US casualties of all branches. The war against Hitler was won by the Soviets along with a great deal of help from US factory workers and farmers.

  36. turcopolier says:

    mike et al
    Yes, and without Zhukov and Konev the Red Army would not IMO have been so successful. p

  37. Fred says:

    You are getting to be rather predictable.

  38. optimax says:

    My father was a navigator on the Madame Shoo Shoo, 91st Bombardment group. He’s Jack Swisher in the following photo. He was 20yrs old in the picture.

  39. optimax says:

    Those were all great movies. I like the older war movies compared to the newer ones. From sports to the president, everything these days is about personal glory. And I’m sick of it.

  40. LondonBob says:

    ‘Moxie and fortitude of the typical Confederate soldier’ wasn’t much on show in the Western theatre. Far superior commanders in the East. Someone like Wellington or Cromwell made their troops what they were through training, management and leadership.

  41. turcopolier says:

    There were three theaters of war; eastern, western and trans-Mississippi. Which do you mean by “western?” pl

  42. mike says:

    Fred –
    Not sure what you mean by that, did my comment offend you? I hope you are not turning snowflake on us. There was no slur intended on the Eighth Air Force. BTW a better read on the air war over Germany is “Top Turret” by Oral Lindsey:

  43. optimax says:

    Of course Russia had more casualties; they were invaded. Also Stalin wasted many lives at the beginning of the invasion because he did not believe in tactical retreat and sent soldiers to the front line without rifles.
    As for the Ruskies running over the Kwantung Army in Manchukuo, the following reason for their quick defeat is a quote from wiki which corresponds to what Max Hastings wrote:
    “However, as the war situation began to deteriorate for the Imperial Japanese Army on all fronts, the large, well-trained, and well-equipped Kwantung Army could no longer be held in strategic reserve. Many of its front line units were systematically stripped of their best units and equipment, which were sent south against the forces of the United States in the Pacific Islands or the Philippines. Other units were sent south into China for Operation Ichi-Go.”

  44. mike says:

    London Bob –
    I assume you are referring to the militias. Yes, there was no moxie there, only blood lust. But I remain impressed with the average Johnny Reb at Chickamauga, Stones River, and Shiloh. Their leadership was not as good as the other side, and they were at a definite disadvantage in supplies, but the troops gave their all. Even at the Siege of Vicksburg. When Pemberton surrendered he had 32,000 casualties and his remaining troops were walking skeletons, eating their own shoes and belts, and suffering from all the diseases that go hand in hand with malnutrition: dysentery, scurvy, pneumonia, et al. Yet they fought on until commanded to lay down their arms by their own officers.
    I will have to take your word for it on Wellington and Cromwell. Wellington certainly was a damn fine troop leader, although my copy of Longford’s “Wellington” never once mentions training. Any references to his training regimen?
    Cromwell’s roundheads did well against the Royalists. But why was their reign such a short 20-year flash in the pan? And I was not impressed by their war against Irish priests. That seems more like blood lust than soldiering.

  45. Larry Kart says:

    One of the key “The Men’ in WW2 — Chester Nimitz.

  46. LondonBob says:

    Anything west of the Appalachian mountains, I pay as much attention to that area as the Confederate leadership did.

  47. Croesus says:

    Was Zhukov a Great Man or a glory- loving brute? I understand he used his troops like Kleenex.

  48. turcopolier says:

    I guess you did not get the point. Successful combat generals use their men like Kleenex. pl

  49. turcopolier says:

    IMO it is overstated to say that the CS government was indifferent to what happened west of the Appalachians but it is true that when you don’t have enough troops you have to concentrate somewhere. I guess we should see you as a member of the “Western Concentration Bloc.” pl

  50. Croesus,
    I think it is much too simple to dismiss Zhukov as a ‘glory-loving brute.’
    There is however an interesting discussion of contrasting Red Army leadership styles in a 2009 PhD thesis on Konstantin Rokossovskiy by Stephen Michael Walsh, into which unfortunately I have only had time to dip.
    (See https://dspace.lib.cranfield.ac.uk/bitstream/1826/4315/1/Walsh.pdf .)
    In any case, I am not competent to evaluate his argument. But two points made in his conclusion seem to me interesting. One is that Zhukov’s command style was that common among most of the major Soviet generals on the Eastern Front, but that Rokossovskiy’s was quite distinct:
    ‘In character and in style of leadership, Rokossovskiy was different from his peers and contemporaries. Rokossovskiy’s style of leadership was based on his authority, his dignitas, his referent, legitimate and expert power, not his formal coercive power. In a sense, he was part of the Red Army’s system, but not a product of it and his style of leadership was very much his own. A man whose record as a soldier bore comparison with any of his colleagues, Rokossovskiy led with fine judgement, moving betwixt and between different styles of leadership: authoritative, democratic and occasionally authoritarian with the ease of a natural leader. He was by instinct and considered judgement, primarily an authoritative leader, a man who, even in this Stalin’s Red Army, understood that in the final analysis, true leadership was borne of ability, trust and personal example, not the pitiless wielding of power. In Stalin’s state and Zhukov’s Red Army this was a radical philosophy of command and a truly distinct style of leadership, one that challenges the traditional image of Soviet military leadership during the Great Patriotic War.’
    Another point is that in one sense commanders like Zhukov were more ‘German’ than was Rokossovskiy. So Walsh notes that the very strong commitment to the ‘Napoleonic’ strand in the Clausewitzian tradition, and neglect of the other strand in that great thinker which emphasised the strengths which, in appropriate circumstances, the defence may have, antedated Stalin’s coming to power. It goes back to the victory of Tukhachevskiy over Aleksandr Svechin in the arguments of the ‘Twenties.
    In a longer historical perspective, one might then see the Pole, Rokossovskiy, may be, ironically, both a better Clausewitzian, and a more ‘Russian’ general than Zhukov. In Walsh’s view:
    ‘In contrast to Zhukov, Rokossovskiy’s deep operations were dominated by the idea of depth and the physical and psychological unhinging of the enemy rather than operational encirclement and annihilation. In this Rokossovskiy was the heir to Brusilov, Varfolomeyev and a long tradition of Russian military thinking stretching back into the nineteenth century, indeed back to Genghis Khan. Furthermore, in his rejection of what Aleksandr Svechin called the obsessive tyrannical needle of operations designed to annihilate the enemy force in the field, and in his criticism of an unthinking, blind commitment to relentless attack, Rokossovskiy’s operational art had much in common with Svechin, the intellectual father of Russian operational art.’
    An important and neglected part of the Gorbachev-era ‘new thinking’ was the recovery of Svechin’s ideas by figures like General-Mayor Larionov and Andrei Kokoshin, among others.
    A paper published by the Belfer Center at Harvard in June 2016 on ‘The German Blitzkrieg Against the USSR, 1941’ is also interesting in this context.
    (See https://www.belfercenter.org/sites/default/files/legacy/files/Blitzkrieg%20Final.pdf .)
    I have been wondering, ignorantly, whether elements in Svechin’s thinking – the very Clausewitzian insistence on the need to integrate the military and political dimensions of strategy, as well as the need carefully to judge when ‘attrition’ is appropriate, and when conditions are right for ‘destruction’ – may be relevant to the conduct of the war in Syria.

  51. turcopolier says:

    David Habbakuk
    We should be careful not to imply that there is anything simple about Clausewitz’ thinking. “Every combat is therefore the bloody and destructive measuring of the strength of forces, physical and moral; whoever at the close has the greatest amount of both left is the conqueror.
    In the combat the loss of moral force is the chief cause of the decision; after that is given, this loss continues to increase until it reaches its culminating-point at the close of the whole act. This then is the opportunity the victor should seize to reap his harvest by the utmost possible restrictions of his enemy’s forces, the real object of engaging in the combat. On the beaten side, the loss of all order and control often makes the prolongation of resistance by individual units, by the further punishment they are certain to suffer, more injurious than useful to the whole. The spirit of the mass is broken; the original excitement about losing or winning, through which danger was forgotten, is spent, and to the majority danger now appears no longer an appeal to their courage, but rather the endurance of a cruel punishment. Thus the instrument in the first moment of the enemy’s victory is weakened and blunted, and therefore no longer fit to repay danger by danger.” This appears in the section on Combat itself in Book Four of Vom Kriege. It is true that he did write that “The defensive is the stronger form of combat but the offensive is more decisive.” pl

  52. Pacifica Advocate says:

    If it were useless I’m sure you would have cast it aside, by now.

  53. Pacifica Advocate says:

    >>>In the combat the loss of moral force is the chief cause of the decision….
    Do you sincerely believe this, Colonel?
    “Moral force” carries a distinctly different meaning, to me, than “the capacity to overpower and kill a foe.”

  54. turcopolier says:

    Pacifica Advocate
    Yes, I sincerely believe that. when the enemy decides he is beaten then he is beaten. pl

  55. turcopolier says:

    I do it for the money. pl

  56. jld says:

    You certainly don’t but some among those who give you orders are surely moved by “economic determinism”.

  57. turcopolier says:

    Oh bullshit! You sit in Africa and spout leftist nonsense to me bout things you have no knowledge of.

  58. LondonBob says:

    Losing Richmond would have spelt the end of the war given its political (importantly for foreign intervention) and industrial significance so not quite, even though a more determined attempt should have been made to reverse the course of the war in the west whilst it was still possible, Longstreet was right about that.
    That said the Confederate Armies out west were plagued with such poor leadership that by the time some of the more talented commanders emerged it was too late, maybe it was too late even before Shiloh. I like a fair fight and given the disparity in leadership, manpower and arms it was never a fair fight.

  59. mike says:

    DH –
    Thanks for the link to Walsh’s thesis on Marshal Rokossovsky. So far I’ve only dug into the Abstract and the Introduction. 500 pages is a bit daunting but I look forward to reading on Rokossovky’s early career and the later chapters on his operational style.
    Walsh & Cranfield U should turn this thesis into a book. Speaking of which I checked out S M Walsh on several online bookstores and see he previously authored a book on Stalingrad. He has also co-authored several of the Osprey Publishing military histories. If it is the same Walsh that is.

  60. mike says:

    LK –
    I agree on Nimitz. He never had the PR savvy of many of the other ‘key’ leaders, so never got the same acclaim.
    Have you read E. B. Potter’s biography of Nimitz?

  61. turcopolier says:

    After long consideration I decided that the South lost not because of poor leadership, a lack of materiel or anything else except a shortage of white military age manpower. This can be seen in the Overland and Atlanta campaigns of 1864. In both Grant and Sherman commanded forces so much larger than those of their opponents that they could fix those enemy forces in place while marching large forces around them onto their LOC. They did it repeatedly on both fronts. AND at the end they easily made up their casualty losses. The Confederates could not do that. Instead Wilson’s cavalry army was sent on a rampage through Alabama and Mississippi. pl

  62. Larry Kart says:

    Yes, I’ve read Potter on Nimitz. I’m also an admirer of Thomas Buell’s biography of Spruance.

  63. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The North could always count on immigrants.

  64. mike says:

    LK –
    Thanks! I checked my local library, but alas they don’t have a copy. But I added it to my list that I doublecheck when I prowl the used bookstores for bargains. I always thought that Nimitz and Spruance were the critical leaders that led to victory in the Pacific War.

  65. LondonBob says:

    When I say poor leadership I refer to in the West, in the East the Confederacy was really blessed with a whole cadre of outstanding leaders at all levels. Maybe if A Johnston, I think he would have proven capable, had competent subordinates they wouldn’t have suffered the early catastrophic losses that meant Nashville was lost and the war in the West weren’t fought in the upper south, as it needed to be.

  66. Fred says:

    One of my uncles was a top turret gunner in the 413th bomb squadron. His plane was shot down on October 9th, 1943. All aboard were lost. They are listed on the wall at Cambridge.

Comments are closed.