Trump's obsession with WW2 generals strikes sour note with historians

Historians in the News
tags: election 2016, Trump



Presidential candidate Donald Trump admires the late Douglas MacArthur and George Patton, both World War Two generals. They were winners, unpredictable, and not especially nice guys, he says in campaign speeches. But Trump's pledge to imitate their styles sets modern-day military experts on edge. 

Although unquestionably in the pantheon of U.S. military heroes, MacArthur and Patton were also controversial figures remembered by historians as flamboyant self-promoters. The commander in the Pacific, MacArthur was eventually fired by President Harry Truman for speaking out against Truman's policies in the Korean War, which followed World War Two. Before Patton died in December 1945, he questioned the need to remove Nazis from key posts in postwar German politics and society.

As Trump edges closer to the Republican nomination for the Nov. 8 election, he likely will face more pointed questions about the policy ideas behind his sweeping statements. His main Republican rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have offered far more details about their foreign policy visions as has Hillary Clinton, front-runner for the Democratic nomination.

Born in 1946, a year after World War Two ended, Trump often praises MacArthur and Patton for the blunt ways he says they commanded respect. "George Patton was one of the roughest guys, he would talk rough to his men," Trump told an audience last week in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. "His men would die for him," Trump added. "We don't have that anymore." He said Patton would wipe out Islamic State without hesitation were he still in command. 

But military historians and retired generals say Trump has an inflated view of the two military men and especially their relevance to an era of modern warfare when armies rely more on technology and when battle successes and failures and civilian casualties are communicated far more rapidly than when MacArthur and Patton commanded troops 70 years ago. ...




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