General of the Army Douglas MacArthur smoking his corncob pipe, probably at Manila, Philippine Islands, 2 August 1945/Naval Historical Center; Photo #: USA C-2413 (Color), photograph from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives

The Great Man theory of history seems an idea whose time has gone, although candidates have lately sprung up in Russia, China, and America. The self-fashioned commander embodies his own nation’s identity, and indeed all things to all men, within a legendary pantheon across the centuries: Alcibiades, Napoleon, Mao Zedong. The qualities required include “command presence” defined as occupying more space in a room than one’s...


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