GOD SIDES WITH THE BIG BATTALIONS

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When it comes to war, a great general once said that God sides with “whichever side has the biggest battalions”.

While numbers and material do not always a successful campaign make, history demonstrates that military victory tends to go to the side with: More men, more supplies, more (and better) weaponry, etc. Against this purely physical equation must be factored the morale and quality of the soldiers involved, the ability of their commanders, terrain, and other and intangibles that impact on the final outcome.

That said, numbers matter: As Lenin famously expressed it, “Quantity has a quality all its own”. In a punching contest, the biggest kid usually wins the fight.

Like boxers, a larger and heavier fighter might be slower than the feisty banter-weight. In the first rounds, the quicker fighter can often land many more shots on the lumbering heavy-weight.

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But if his lighter blows don’t achieve a knock-out, if the big guy can take a punch, then time is against the light-weight. In a slugfest, the longer it goes on the more likely the big man will land a heavy blow; and beat the little guy down.

MILITARY GENIUS AND FORCE MULTIPLIERS

Throughout history we have seen examples of smaller but better trained and led armies winning victories over larger, less tactically adroit opponents. However, if initial tactical victories cannot be parlayed into a quick and victorious conclusion to hostilities, time tends to favor the “big battalions”.

In military terminology, a “force multiplier” is any factor or set of circumstances (or combinations of either) which make a given fighting force more effective than it would otherwise would be. As example, due to increased firepower and lethality of modern weapons and weapon’s systems, a platoon of infantry today can often accomplish a mission it might have taken an entire company to achieve in WWII. Force multipliers can have a dramatic, even decisive result on the outcome of any given conflict.

Some common force multipliers are:

– Morale: Both the positive morale of one side, or the poor morale of their opponent. Confidence greatly enhances fighting ability; and even desperation and fatalism can become powerful force multipliers.

– Leadership: Second only to moral, effective leadership is all important in war. Great generals can impose their will upon the chaos of battle, achieving remarkable victories. Wellington once said of Napoleon, “His presence on the battlefield is worth 60,000 men”.

– Training and Experience: There is perhaps no greater force multiplier; ten trained veterans are more effective than 100 times as many untrained levies.

– Technology: The greater the technological imbalance, the greater the force multiplication.

– Deception and Surprise: As the Chinese military philosopher, Sun Tzu said more than two millennia ago, “All warfare is based on deception”.

– Terrain and Weather: Few factors impact combat as obviously as terrain or weather.

Alexander in AsiaA commander of genius can be a powerful “force multiplier”. Alexander of Macedon, perhaps history’s greatest of “Great Captains”, was able to defeat the much larger Persian Empire with a small but elite Army. He accomplished this in just a few short years. His campaigns were characterized by rapid movements and bold action; and he possessed a gift for finding his enemy’s strategic jugular. Darius III made many mistakes as well, never managing to effectively leverage Persia’s vast resources of money, manpower, and geographic space to his advantage (in Darius’ defense, Alexander was a master of overcoming such adversities). Alexander’s leadership gave the Macedonians enormous confidence, and they followed him further and longer into unknown territories than any army in history.

Hernán Cortés provides another example of the effect of leadership: with an army of less than 1,000 Spanish adventurers he managed, in just two years, to overthrow the greatest power in the “New World”: the Aztec Empire. Though the Aztecs had…. (Continue reading here)

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