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Military operations: The harmful effects of Hubris influenced leaders. (2013)

“Alcibiades’ Sicilian expedition, Bonaparte’s Russian invasion and L. Paul Bremer’s Iraqi government transitional leadership (all demonstrate) that hubris is an inherent character flaw and… an individual’s access to power sets the azimuth of impact.

Scott E Smith, (2013). Major, USAF
Naval War College Newport RI Joint Military Operations Dept.
A paper submitted to the Faculty of the Naval War College in partial satisfaction of the requirements of the Department of Joint Military Operations.

“Military failures resulting from the fatal flaw of hubris have the potential for significant lost national treasure and blood.

“From a combatant commander perspective, a military leader driven by the dangerous illusion of personal grandeur, arrogance and narcissism, endangers operational objectives as well as negatively influences current and future strategic objectives.

“The continual battle to resist hubris temptations requires inner personal humility. However, combatant commanders cannot assume subordinate’s success and must embark on a continuous evaluation, re-education, and, where necessary, removal process. A cultural of 360-degree awareness regarding military leaders is critical to avoid the negative impacts of hubris.

“Three historical cases provide situations in which hubris led to disastrous strategic effects: Alcibiades’ expedition to Sicily during the Peloponnesian War, Napoleon Bonaparte’s attempt to conquer Russia in 1812, and L. Paul Bremer’s Iraqi government transitional leadership. All three examples provide a foundation for the claim that hubris exists as an inherent character flaw, and an individual’s access to power serves only to set the azimuth of impact.

“While eradicating hubris entirely from an operational leader’s character is implausible, leaders at all levels can strengthen their awareness of this trait and prevent squandered opportunities.”

Download a PDF of the paper here: Military operations

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