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The Good Enemies


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Real Clear History

The enemy. They come in all shapes, sizes and configurations. They take many forms. They can be social rivals, business competitors, opposing sports teams, even political antagonists. However, there is perhaps no category of enemy more universally reviled than the commander of an opposing military fighting force, the individual on the opposing side whose goal it is to destroy the people and things you’re trying to protect. 

Yet even in the midst of a life-or-death struggle, there are adversaries who not only gain the respect of the opposition, but actually come to be regarded by their supposed enemies with a surprising degree of admiration, if not outright affection. These are individuals who become ingratiated in the minds of their enemies because of their noteworthy personal style and flamboyance or because of their tactical brilliance and utter ferocity in battle or because of their perceived “humanity,” the notion that although they’re fighting on the “wrong side,” their basic elemental nature is good and kind, and they just happen to be on the other side because of circumstances beyond their control. Often, it is a combination of all these factors. Here are two of the most well-known:


Robert E. Lee

President Dwight D Eisenhower once revealed that Lee’s portrait was among those that hung in his oval office, proclaiming, “in my estimation, [Lee was] one of the supremely gifted men produced by our Nation. … selfless almost to a fault … noble as a leader and as a man … From deep conviction, I simply say this: a nation of men of Lee’s caliber would be unconquerable in spirit and soul.”:snip:

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