Douglas MacArthur: general, statesman, narcissist?

Douglas MacArthur was involved in some of the most important military and foreign policy issues of the last century, but a Missouri S&T historian says he may be better remembered for his theatrics than his military prowess. In a new book by Russell D. Buhite, the controversial general is re-examined.


The book, titled Douglas MacArthur: Statecraft and Stagecraft in America’s East Asian Policy, follows the general’s military career from successes like overseeing the U.S. occupation of Japan after World War II and planning the United Nations invasion at Inchon during the Korean War, to his ego-driven downfall.

“It’s not enough to emphasize his ego, as many have done – there was a real pathology there. I believe psychologists would term it ‘malignant narcissism,’” says Buhite, a professor and acting chair of history and political science.

Buhite’s book also discusses the volatile relationship MacArthur had with presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. “Both presidents found MacArthur troublesome not only because of his political connections to powerful Republicans in the United States, but also because of his inclination to flout presidential authority.” Truman eventually removed the general from command for his insubordination.

Buhite says he wanted to write a concise and accessible study of MacArthur. He portrays MacArthur as a complex personality whose notoriety was primarily driven by his self-promotion and grandstanding, rather than actual feats. Buhite says that although the general was an accomplished military figure, particularly in his dealings with Japan and Korea, most of the attention he received was undeserved and overblown.

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