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Old November 7th, 2012, 11:24 PM   #21

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Originally Posted by Jhangora View Post
I'd agree with you. A heroic commander may be an important factor in a small battle but not in a proper war.



Fantasy? I could not quite get it. In my view strategy is summing up the situation and then using your resources to best defeat the enemy.

Not really aware about the French Army but yes - attack is the best form of defense and the element of surprise is very important. Sow confusion and fear in the ranks of the enemy and keep him guessing.
Yes, anyway ...

In modern wars, with all that publicity [military sector magazines, TV documentaries ...], the efficiency of the intelligences in finding out enemy available technologies ... and so on ... being too rational can mean becoming predictable.

[This is a known counterargument against the idea to leave the conduction of a war in the hands of a computer. Its strategy will be predictable].
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Old November 8th, 2012, 05:58 AM   #22

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War is an art. There's no what specifically makes a victorious army. It's things as simple as luck, as complex and quantifiable as military science/logistics and as intellectual as strategy/tactics. A victorious army needs brave and capable people, and likely needs a lot of them. Generally you can divide a lot of these things into theoretically distinct parts but they are the sum of a whole. Oh yea, lots of money and advanced technology helps too.
War is an art? I think not. That is purely a philosophical view which bears not the slightest relationship to reality with its urgent necessity. War mongers are not artists unless you consider their work in some way beautiful (please don't waste my time with equating skill and art - the two are opposite ends of a spectrum, not common ground)

People talk a great deal about general principles such as logistics, luck, strategy, tactics, and so forth, but really this sort of thing tends to become a bit hazy once you leave the wargame table (which does represent a somewhat intellectual simulation of something far more real and complex). Realise that discussing these concepts is fine if you sit on the sidelines, but as you deal with large numbers of men and spread them over larger areas, so a degree of variance in behaviour, assets, and attributes makes these generalities often irrelevant, because what matters is what happens at the point of contact and the means by which this achieved.

For instance, issuing tactical orders is okay, but as your army increases in size so the danger of these orders becoming inadvisable increases, and the emphasis falls on strategy, which itself could be considered to be layered according to the scale of command and the level and scope your orders are intended for.
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Old November 8th, 2012, 10:51 AM   #23

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Originally Posted by caldrail View Post
War is an art? I think not. That is purely a philosophical view which bears not the slightest relationship to reality with its urgent necessity. War mongers are not artists unless you consider their work in some way beautiful (please don't waste my time with equating skill and art - the two are opposite ends of a spectrum, not common ground)
I like to describe war as an art because it is not science and because so many of its elements are not quantifiable. I think skill fits OK as well but most people say art because it involved a certain je ne sais quoi. It's also the combination of many skills, many individuals, and many things that cannot be quantified as a result of intention or "skill" (the word itself implies a large degree of intention). So I don't think I totally agree if we're talking about the collective actions of an entire army over the course of time. Although on an individual basis I would say skill is certainly the most applicable word. This might be total semantics though.

It seems to be all of the things you listed; luck, strategy, etc. would have great influence on what conditions the engagement or contact takes place in.

Last edited by hisstoryin; November 8th, 2012 at 10:58 AM.
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Old November 9th, 2012, 06:09 AM   #24

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Well here we touch on important distictions. When discussing aspects of warfare there's a tendency to lump things together as neat packages. Thus wee talk about tactical advantage as an asset owned by one side or another. This is in my view unrealistic but it represents a rational and logical treatment of it, much the same as you would get in wargame rules, and typical of the male human need to classify things to the point of anal obsession.

However much of warfare isn't really so easily packaged, and indeed, represents aspects of psychology with reference to social violence. We talk about the desirability of leadership for instance, which is fine as far as it goes, but this depends on having individuals with sufficient charisma or skill in manipulating groups of men. You could have either or both. You will also find those who have little of either.

On a philosophical front I say that "Fate is the sum of all decisions and natural forces". Thus luck in war is not a single factor as such but the outcome of many impinging itself upon your circumstances.

"Je ne sais quoi"? I wouldn't say so at all. Some men have a talent for fighting. Some have a talent for leading. Some have talents that fighting forces find useful. But in terms of large forces, some have a talent for organising. Therefore the cooperation and aggregation of these abilities adds to the whole. You could argue that intuition is as relevant as logic when formulating plans and strategies - I wouldn't necessarily disagree since either could be a means of using individual talent to achieve the end purpose - but the use of a phrase that means "a certain something" is really only mystifying something that can be readily described rationally.

Whilst all the factors mentioned in previous posts have a part to play, we have to realise that both sides would be seeking such things as a matter of course, and unless the armies are badly technically or culturally mismatched, then we would expect certain similarities between them - history does tend to show conflicts in terms of relative comparability. What we're actually seeking is advantage, either psychologically, or in terms of assets used to wage war (and I include allies as assets as much as weaponry since functionally both are the same in many cases)

You will however that the use of the word 'art' crops up regularly not for semantic correctness, but because it suggests something superior. Human beings do this all the time. Note how business management in the last few decades has invented a whole dictionary of slang to disguise what it does and sound clever. IT is the same. Some adherents of specialist trades like to assume intellectual superiority to suit their purposes but in actual fact the specialist knowledge actually demanded is often quite minor or is still dependent on individual talent, whatever words you use to describe it.

You see, I know how to use a common rifle. probably not very well mind you because I never get any practice, nor do I have any useful purpose in doing so. Do I know how to use a shoulder fired anti-tank missile? Nope. I'm an intelligent guy though (no sniggering at the back) so surely it's possible I could learn that without difficulty? I mean, the average soldier isn't all that bright or he'd be making more money than me by quoting slang I don't understand. But then - soldiers have slang of their own too.
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Old November 9th, 2012, 10:13 AM   #25

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A general with a good understanding of both tactics and strategy can defeat basically any enemy. In my opinion, the greatest generals are the ones who show these traits. Frederick the Great, Vo Nguyen Giap, Moshe Dayan, Scipio Africanus, and Erich Manstein and others all knew how to win victories and then use them to their advantage. A lot of historians will claim that Robert E. Lee, Douglas MacArthur, and Hannibal Barca are all great commanders, but they never figured out how to win wars.
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Old November 9th, 2012, 10:58 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by Koko the Monkey View Post
A general with a good understanding of both tactics and strategy can defeat basically any enemy. In my opinion, the greatest generals are the ones who show these traits. Frederick the Great, Vo Nguyen Giap, Moshe Dayan, Scipio Africanus, and Erich Manstein and others all knew how to win victories and then use them to their advantage. A lot of historians will claim that Robert E. Lee, Douglas MacArthur, and Hannibal Barca are all great commanders, but they never figured out how to win wars.
Under such standard, apparently not Herr Manstein either.
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Old November 9th, 2012, 11:53 AM   #27

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(3.Organization/Discipline: One need only look at one of the greatest empires of history too see this factor in play. Rome's military formations were the stuff of legend, and it seems to be like an implacable machine in all it's functions. The British also perfectly illustrate this in their perfect formations and organized warfare.
Rebuttal: Disorganized warfare has shown itself victorious against even the most organized foes. Rome was beaten by the Parthians, and their horse archer tactics. America, arguably the most powerful force in the world, continues to struggle with terrorism (i.e: disorganized warfare).
Personal Opinion: Simply from my own study, I think organization is less important than other factors listed.
I don't think it is that organized armies struggle against disorganized ones. In fact using recent examples like wars in Afghanistan or Iraq, both the Taliban and the Iraqi insurgency were soundly defeated whenever they elected to stand and fight in pitched battles. Fallujah being probably the biggest example. Force-on-force organized armies will usually rout disorganized ones.

The difficulties in combating an insurgency are not so much that organized Western armies aren't equipped to fight a disorganized foe, but rather that combating an insurgency requires a successful hearts and minds campaign more than it requires battlefield victories.
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Old November 9th, 2012, 11:56 AM   #28

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What makes a victorious army? When their country's political goals have been met...with the use of force that is.
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Old November 10th, 2012, 05:32 AM   #29

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Originally Posted by Koko the Monkey View Post
A general with a good understanding of both tactics and strategy can defeat basically any enemy. In my opinion, the greatest generals are the ones who show these traits. Frederick the Great, Vo Nguyen Giap, Moshe Dayan, Scipio Africanus, and Erich Manstein and others all knew how to win victories and then use them to their advantage. A lot of historians will claim that Robert E. Lee, Douglas MacArthur, and Hannibal Barca are all great commanders, but they never figured out how to win wars.
Knowing how to do something is not enough. Events have to move in your favour and the circumstances for victory have to be created. In any case, your statement ignores the enemy and the capability they possess. They might have better knowledge than you.
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Old November 10th, 2012, 01:55 PM   #30

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1.UNITY OF COMMAND
Proven over and over again ,take rome's battles or allied leadership at austerlitz or the european coalition kings many times breaking ranks vs the turks like at nicopolis and varna,the marshals infighting in spain.Epitomised by napoleon's quote-
'Better a bad general than 2 good ones'

2.CONFORMITY OF GOAL -
This is an important factor,since war is essentially 'politics by other means',the goals of the war are set by the political leadership in conjunction with the military and these must be realistic and within the capabilities of the army.A army cannot be victorious under impossible conditions.Take for example benito mussolini's wild ambitions totally out of touch with the ability of the italian armies or hitler's wild plans for 2nd phase of barbarossa to reach stalingrad,archangelsk in 1 campaign totally ignoring logistics.

3.SELECTION AND MAINTAINENCE OF AIM;
This is an age old principle of war.Many armies have lost whole armies as their leadership shifted goals midway or never set clear targets in the first place.
A clear strategic aim must be selected and maintained as long as possible.
Failure to do so lead to several historical disasters.
Goering and the luftwaffe in the battle of britain had stretched the RAF to the limit by its targeting of southern england airbases but then switched aim to bombing civilian targets,giving the RAF the much needed repreive.
Robert e lee setting out to destroy northern supply bases and getting distracted and drawn into the disaster at gettysberg which was originally a small skirmish.Abandoning his original plan and switching aims midway and letting operational development affect strategic aim.
Falkenhyn and the german genral staff originally planning to bleed the french white at verdun but then letting public opinion turn it into a prestige fight and switching aim to taking verdun.

4.INTELLIGENCE
A very key aspect imo.
'All warfare is based on deception]-sun tzu.
By intelligence i mean the whole spectrum of reconssaince and espionage,army intelligence and counterintelligence.
To see the battlefield and prevent the enemy from doing the same.
'Know your enemy' is a principle universally used.What u can see u can kill.
Disasters have happened on ignoring this vital factor.Poor reconssaince at trasimene,trebia by the romans.The allied bluff about normandy landings,the soviets bluff in operation bagration.Breaking german u-boat codes.Robert e lee at gettysberg.
Montgomery at market garden.Intelligence failure of germans on russian equipment like the existence of the t-34.

5.LOGISTICS
Pretty much all important factor since antiquity.'An army marches on its stomach'.The man who said this then violated his own principle in 1812 in russia and paved the way for his own demise.
Another disaster was marc anthony's parthian campaign,operation typhoon failed partly due to logistics.The japanese disaster at imphal kohima.The mughal campaign in the deccan.It is also a limiting factor of imperial expansion throughout history.

6.ORGANIZATION and ADMINISTRATION;
This includes from lower level unit division,to the quality of the staff and officerkorps.
A efficiently organized army with a competent staff and officers is necessary able to issue and execute orders with minimal confusion.
Some great organizations have been the french corps d armee and general staff systems.Roman organization.The german general staff and officer training systems.

7.MORALE AND ESPIRIT DE CORPS-Another very important factor,Depends largely on small unit leadership,NCOs,instilling of discipline and pride in the troops.
The centurions were ideal small unit leadership examples.Thorough professional training or patriotic/religious zeal are also factors.

8.FLEXIBILITY and ADAPATABILITY;
This arises out of the main issue that in the chaos of war 'few plans survive contact with the enemy'.Therefore commander of a victorious army must be able to constantly react and adapt to the situation.The need to have a plan B.
This includes 2 principles.
a]Independent will of the enemy.
2]Learning from the enemy.
3]Never understimate your enemy.
4]Availability of reserves
Ignoring independent will of the enemy led to allied disaster at austerlitz.
Succesful armies like the romans always learnt from their enemies,they took the gallic helmet,carthaginian naval designs,greek siegecraft,the iberian galdius,the samnite scutum.For the dacian campaign to counter the falx introduced arm guards and strengthened shields.The persian reluctance to adopt the hoplite despite seeing its effectiveness in battle after battle against the greeks left them without good heavy infantry.
Underestimating your opponent is a mistake that's cost very large number of defeats.
crassus at carrhae,tilly at breitenfield,xerxes at salamis,tigranes at tigranocerta,germany vs the soviet union,soviet union vs finland,rome vs hannibal,napoleon vs wellington,america in vietnam.

The reserves usage is often difference between the leadership of victorious and defeated armies,take caesar and pompey at pharsalus.Caesar though outnumbered kept a reserve and reacted brilliantly.Pompey after plan A failed had no adaptive ability and no reserves to influence the battle.
Take gamelin and his torrid throwing away of the french strategic reserve.When the crisis erupted at sedan he had no reserves left to counter it.

9.POSTIVE INTENT;
To me this means a mindset where if given the chance the army will seize and retain the initiative.This doesn't mean attack is the superior form of war than defence.
I beleive that for a timeframe either offense,defense maybe be superior depending on contemporary military equipment and the then relation between armour-mobility and firepower.In ww1 for example,mobility low,firepower high,armour nonexistent.So defense was superior,this changed in ww2 to a more balanced state.
By positive intent it is meant that fortress mentality will not be allowed to creep in like maginot line thinking .'A wall is only as good as the men manning them'. If a army learns to fight on the offensive,it can fight well on the defensive as well but a inherently defensive army finds it difficult to switch to the offensive which napoleon calls the'most difficult manuevre in war'.Thus army must have a positive approach but not necessarily be a offense whore like say joffre.

10.CONCENTRATION AND ECONOMY OF EFFORT-
Two sides of the same coin.All available forces must be concentrated at the decisive point while remaining forces that are not involved at the decisive point and not providing minimum economy of effort on other sectors are a waste of resources as per clausewitz and thus failure in economy of effort on secondary fronts automatically means failure to concentrate maximum available forces at the main front.
Examples-
Operation barbarossa.Nearly 1 million german soldiers hoidaying in france.
Schliffen plan-Moltke diluting the plan and reducing the main blow's impact.

11.MOBILITY AND SURPRISE;
These 2 me are the most important force multipliers in war.
Mobility is often the cause of surprise,the other cause being deception or intelligence failure.
As sun tzu says 'speed is the essence of warfare'.It keeps the enemy reacting to you and unable to pin down your force,and expose weak parts of his army.All victorious armies from alexander's macedonians to roman legions,napoleon's grande armee,germany's wehrmacht mongol hordes have mobility as a common factor.Thus they were often able to catch the enemy by surprise.Mobility doesn't necessarily mean attack,even defenses are conducted best in a mobile fashion.

12.CO ORDINATION-Nearly all successful armies have used superb combined arms tactics to maximize their fighting potentail.Epitomised by napoleon's armee corps,the german army in ww2 and the armies of alexander.

13.TECHNICAL AND TACTICAL INNOVATION-
This is a important factor for victorious armies.Usage of superior tactics or superior military technology can often be a difference maker.
Example inability of hoplites to counter the macedonian phalanx.Or early allied forces the german blitzkreig combined arms tactics.
For military technology the USA is the best example.
Another few difference makers have been the t-34 tank in ww2.Or the lopsided british imperial colonization wars.The american spanish war.


Thats it in my view.
I would say preparation but in my view intelligence,logistics,organization and administration together make up the bulk of the meaning of preparation.
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