Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Did Montgomery have Asperger’s? And what did Patton have? And what does this tell us about the nature of generalship?

I was reading over some of Gen. Bernard Law Montgomery’s World War II comments, especially his notorious press conference in January 1945 in which he appeared to claim that he had bailed out the Yanks at the Battle of the Bulge. He preened so knowing that just weeks earlier, Eisenhower had come close to demanding ...

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Wikimedia.org
Wikimedia.org

I was reading over some of Gen. Bernard Law Montgomery's World War II comments, especially his notorious press conference in January 1945 in which he appeared to claim that he had bailed out the Yanks at the Battle of the Bulge. He preened so knowing that just weeks earlier, Eisenhower had come close to demanding his removal. This all makes me wonder if Montgomery, with his apparent inability to pick up non-verbal clues and lack of empathy, may have been burdened with some sort of syndrome like Asperger's. Who better to get advice on this than Borat's cousin?

Thinking about this, I also remembered that George Patton suffered from dyslexia that not only interfered with his ability to read and write, but may have shaped his personality. Dyslexia, Patton's biographer Carlo D'Este wrote, can include "an inability to concentrate, sharp mood swings, hyperactivity, obsessiveness, impulsiveness, compulsiveness, and feelings of inferiority and stupidity. A tendency to boast is also very common among dyslexics." (P. 46, D'Este, Patton: A Genius for War.) That sounds like Patton in a nutshell.

What, if anything, does this tell us about generalship?

I was reading over some of Gen. Bernard Law Montgomery’s World War II comments, especially his notorious press conference in January 1945 in which he appeared to claim that he had bailed out the Yanks at the Battle of the Bulge. He preened so knowing that just weeks earlier, Eisenhower had come close to demanding his removal. This all makes me wonder if Montgomery, with his apparent inability to pick up non-verbal clues and lack of empathy, may have been burdened with some sort of syndrome like Asperger’s. Who better to get advice on this than Borat’s cousin?

Thinking about this, I also remembered that George Patton suffered from dyslexia that not only interfered with his ability to read and write, but may have shaped his personality. Dyslexia, Patton’s biographer Carlo D’Este wrote, can include “an inability to concentrate, sharp mood swings, hyperactivity, obsessiveness, impulsiveness, compulsiveness, and feelings of inferiority and stupidity. A tendency to boast is also very common among dyslexics.” (P. 46, D’Este, Patton: A Genius for War.) That sounds like Patton in a nutshell.

What, if anything, does this tell us about generalship?

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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