Political and military genius seems difficult to define, perhaps more so than its equivalent in the sciences and most arts. Unusual accomplishment in the latter pursuits arises from the individual's innate abilities, and a supportive or at least nondestructive environment that enables those abilities to become manifest. The product of the person's effort is clear cut, even though its quality may be unappreciated for long periods and debated forever. It is also durable and thus can be reevaluated over time, except in such arts as acting, singing, and instrumental performance, prior to the invention of recording devices.
But the case is different with politicians and generals.1 Regardless of their ability, its actual expression is susceptible to a host of factors beyond their control. Among the most obvious such factors are the quality and actions of the opposition, the resources available to the leader, the structure of the organization and society in which he or she operates,2 the attitudes and actions of superiors and subordinates, changes in domains outside the leader's own sphere, and unpredictable events such as unseasonable weather or a sudden major innovation in technology.
But how does one measure success in these fields? Here, eminence is unique in that it must be attained through direct competition with others, ...