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Old November 10th, 2012, 09:20 AM   #1
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The greatest hint: Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.


Actually I have been unable to find any verifiable attestation on Monsieur Buonaparte ever writing or stating this famous quotation.
Any help on this search would be highly welcomed.

Anyhow, such search is not the matter of this thread; the matter is the military mistake as the main contributor to determine the outcome of the vast majority of battles all along History.

Because as most collective human enterprises War is inherently first and foremost teamwork.

For any optimal performance of the team the complementary best contribution of each and any member is an absolute requirement.

On the other hand, for the whole team to fail (e.g. defeat) the failure on the contribution of any indispensable member of the team is all what is required.

Ultimately, it's easy to verify that any member of the team at the battlefield might (and empirically does) eventually become indispensable.

It is therefore easy to understand why defeat in general overwhelmingly comes from the malfunction of just one (or at worst a few) single indispensable parts...
... And not from the simultaneous independent coincidental crash of all the parts.

In practice, this fact implies that regarding any non-stalemate battle, the regular truly relevant question should not be:
"Why did the victor win?"
but
"Why did the other side lose?".

There's a related recent thread on the requirements for a victorius army.
As a side note (and as timely pointed out in such thread) from the above exposition it seems clear that the single major requirement would be to find a loser opponent, i.e. someone that one would be able to defeat with some certainty.

Lat say like the Spanish Conquistadores did in Mesoamerica & the Andes plateau.

Naturally, any other of the myriad conceivable requirements for any victorious army should be discussed in the aforementioned thread.

The point here is again just about the discussion of the military mistake as the ostensible major contributor for the outcome of the vast majority of (if not all) battles (ergo wars) ever.

Under this approach, any battle would fundamentally be a long series of mistakes from both (or any number of) sides.

Victory would overwhelmingly (in fact, inevitably) go to the side who might commit less and lesser mistakes.

I.e. not so much for any individual epiphanies or miraculous strikes of genius.



Please share with us any thoughts, educated opinions, reflections and relevant hard evidence on this fascinating issue.

As usual, any contribution will be highly welcomed.

Thanks in advance

Last edited by sylla1; November 10th, 2012 at 09:28 AM.
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Old November 10th, 2012, 09:29 AM   #2

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This is interesting. Much of history is based on the 'why they won' rather than why the other side lost. Rather than military genius, more of a case of who messes up the worst.

I need to ponder on this one.
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Old November 10th, 2012, 09:34 AM   #3
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IMHO the German performance at WW2 would be a paradigmatic case study for the purposes of this thread.

(But of course, we are not in any shortage of literally myriad examples)
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Old November 10th, 2012, 09:36 AM   #4

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Yeah you're right Sylla. I have to agree with you on that score.
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Old November 10th, 2012, 11:09 AM   #5

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Another quote similar to this is ascribed to the athenian leader pericles during the peloponessian wars.
'I am more afraid of our own mistakes than our enemies designs'
And it came true to the letter when after his death in plague athenians sent a massive disastrous expedition against sparta's ally far away syracuse possibly costing them the war and their maritime empire.
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Old November 10th, 2012, 11:12 AM   #6

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I might add, when leaders become so egotistical that they ignore any advice from their peers and head straight into a wall head first because they hunger glory to such a degree that it blinds their wits and dints their pride to take any sound advice.
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Old November 12th, 2012, 02:43 PM   #7

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Quote:
Originally Posted by sylla1 View Post
IMHO the German performance at WW2 would be a paradigmatic case study for the purposes of this thread.

(But of course, we are not in any shortage of literally myriad examples)
Another blatant example is imho the military downfall of the Duchy of Burgundy in 1476-77. the most professional army of the time, with good and efficient soldiers (Burgundian knights and infantrymen from the Ordonnances, English longbowmen, Italian men-at arms...) and experienced commanders was repeatedly defeated by a loose coalition of municipal town....Everytime I read about Charles the Bold's military campaing, I'm like "how come?"


Grandson: the Burgundian army, numerically inferior(the numbers on the .en Wikipedia are not correct) and on the move(not exactly ready for battle) gets caught by surprise by a "Swiss" contingent descending from a wooded hill(failure of the Burgundian scouts); Charles, unable to break the enemy formation, orderes his troops to withdraw in order to encircle the opposing formation, but the troops' misinterpretation of his movements lead to a general rout, helped by the arrival of the main "Swiss" contigent".
The Burgundian losses, were however, light


Murten: Charles,this time informed of the "Swiss" movements, gets caught offguard by the enemy attack(he believed that the "Swiss" were only present to fight a defensive war), made more efficient by days of bad weather (although the battle was fought under the sun) and the impossibility of the Burgundian to form a valid battle line...By the time the Duke had his armor on, the battle was practically over.
A lot of Burgundian soldiers also didn't have clear escape routes, resulting in great casualties.


Nancy: The Burgundian army, hopelessly outnumbered and with a low morale(Charles faced a good number of desertions), completely in enemy territory and with no efficient intellingence services, gets crushed by the enemy, advancing like a steamroller from multiple directions, helped by the extremely low visibility(heavy snow) that plagued that day of January, an event thar rendered the Burgundian artillery completely useless.
I'd say that the death of the Duke himself at Nancy was the result of what Briseis perfectly described in her post #6
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Old November 12th, 2012, 07:38 PM   #8

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Never interrupt your enemy when he is squatting in the woods. It's just plain rude.
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