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I am currently writing an essay on the movie Paths of Glory and how one General (General Broulard) is more dislikable and villainous than the other. One facet of my argument addresses how he lets others do the dirty work for him - though he does not directly spill blood, he is responsible for a lot of strife, and he keeps his hands clean through manipulation and his status as a General. I know there is a better phrase to use than "lets others do his dirty work" but cannot think of it.

  • Maybe: He has henchmen. dictionary.com/browse/henchman – Tinfoil Hat Feb 25 at 2:52
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    Commanding General... That's what they do, exercise their authority, because they're in command, of troops with weapons... I guess you'd have to see the movie. Is he breaking the law...like a criminal mastermind? – KannE Feb 25 at 5:03
  • Yes, that's what generals do. It's called 'commanding'. – Michael Harvey Feb 25 at 12:13
  • Just a note that this came up in English Language Learners but didn't get a very good reply ell.stackexchange.com/questions/54340/… – Stuart F Feb 26 at 14:02
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A leader of men who insists on making his underlings do all the dirty work (and then takes the credit for how well the work is done) is not a leader, but a tyrant.

A tyrant looks down on his people and considers them less worthy of respect than he is. A tyrant demands respect, but he doesn't command respect by being an example to those who follow him. Some synonyms for a tyrant include the following:

  • dictator
  • despot
  • oppressor
  • authoritarian
  • autocrat
  • bully
  • martinet slave-driver

  • control freak

  • tormenter

  • totalitarian

  • monocrat

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Delegator might be a useful word but I can't think of one specific to villainy.

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Overseer might do well with its connections to slavery in the USA. Kingpin refers to the boss of criminal (dirty) organization.

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Instigator sometimes carries the implication of someone who is responsible for a criminal act, without doing it themselves.

The dictionary.com definition of Instigator carries this meaning.

verb (used with object), in·sti·gat·ed, in·sti·gat·ing.
to cause by incitement; foment: to instigate a quarrel.
to urge, provoke, or incite to some action or course: to instigate the people to revolt.

You could also say that the General Orchestrates or Masterminds events, which again carry the suggestion of "hands off" manipulation.

Relevant synonyms for Instigator include agitator, meddler, provocateur.

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  • This would be improved with some dictionary definitions for the selected words. – KillingTime Feb 25 at 16:48
  • I've added one, thanks @KillingTime – David Donachie Feb 26 at 13:41

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