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"Wars are not won by military genius or decisive battles" Topic

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©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP06 Nov 2019 11:24 a.m. PST

"War is the most complex, physically and morally demanding enterprise we undertake. No great art or music, no cathedral or temple or mosque, no intercontinental transport net or particle collider or space programme, no research for a cure for a mass-killing disease receives a fraction of the resources and effort we devote to making war. Or to recovery from war and preparations for future wars invested over years, even decades, of tentative peace. War is thus far more than a strung-together tale of key battles. Yet, traditional military history presented battles as fulcrum moments where empires rose or fell in a day, and most people still think that wars are won that way, in an hour or an afternoon of blood and bone. Or perhaps two or three. We must understand the deeper game, not look only to the scoring. That is hard to do because battles are so seductive.

War evokes our fascination with spectacle, and there is no greater stage or more dramatic players than on a battlefield. We are drawn to battles by a lust of the eye, thrilled by a blast from a brass horn as Roman legionaries advance in glinting armour or when a king's wave releases mounted knights in a heavy cavalry charge. Grand battles are open theatre with a cast of many tens of thousands: samurai under signal kites, mahouts mounted on elephants, a Zulu impi rushing over lush grass toward a redcoat firing line. Battles open with armies dressed in red, blue or white, flags fluttering, fife and drums beating the advance. Or with the billowing canvas of a line of fighting sail, white pufferies erupting in broadside volleys. Or a wedge of tanks hard-charging over the Russian steppe. What comes next is harder to comprehend…"
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robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP06 Nov 2019 12:09 p.m. PST

Thank you, Armand. Now I know not to buy that book. News for the author: anyone who talks in a restrictive way about how "wars" are won is letting his ideology get in the way of his history. Wars have been won by disease, economics, logistics, technology, diplomacy, persistence, sheer numbers--and, sometimes, military genius or decisive battle. That an author finds some of these distasteful, and prefers to think wars aren't won that way--or at least they aren't now, in the era of glorious modernity--tells us more about the author than about warfare.

Perris070706 Nov 2019 1:06 p.m. PST

Well said.

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Nov 2019 1:12 p.m. PST

I suspect that he hasn't read a lot of history.

Most 'traditional' histories actually downplay the military side of things in most periods. Look at a medieval history and you will find far more on the role of religions than of armies.

Many historians have a very limited understanding of how warfare 'worked' in their period and few have an in-depth knowledge from recruitment to logistics, they just tend to gloss over the details. This shows that they often think it unimportant.

I'm with Robert, one to miss. It isn't published by Pen and Sword is it ? It just sounds like one of their whacky authors' ideas.

nsolomon9906 Nov 2019 1:53 p.m. PST

What utter rubbish!

BrotherSevej06 Nov 2019 3:01 p.m. PST

Can't say I disagree with the author. I think it's just a fancy way that logistics win wars.

Personal logo Narratio Supporting Member of TMP06 Nov 2019 6:07 p.m. PST

Agreeing with robert, the author has a very limited view point.

Mad Guru Supporting Member of TMP07 Nov 2019 2:08 a.m. PST

Ugh. Kind of ironic that he scoffs at the glorification of "soldierly heroics" by using bombastic overwrought generalizations worthy of a glory hound. If his teaching is anything like his writing, I'm glad I never had to sit through one of his military history classes. Also, not to nitpick but he's a professor of military history and he refers to how, "Allied and Soviet armies defeated Nazism"? Last I heard, during WWII the Soviets were counted and referred to as one of the Allies. And one last amazing quote: "With humility and full moral awareness… we should praise attrition more and battle less." IMHO a pointless and woefully misbegotten statement.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP07 Nov 2019 11:23 a.m. PST



USAFpilot07 Nov 2019 5:56 p.m. PST

"Wars are not won by military genius or decisive battles"

To my wargamer's ears it sounds like blasphemy. For I am a miniature wargaming military genius who wins by decisive battles. ;-)

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