Saturday, March 22, 2014

Battles Are Fought Where They’re Fought, Part I

By Rich Kozlovich

For those who are history buffs among my readers I know you must have read much about battles won, battles lost, and why.  Often I’ve wondered through the years why commanders chose the fields they chose.  Hannibal won one of the greatest battles ever fought in 216 BCE on the flat plain of Cannae against a massed Roman army of almost 90,000 men.  Hannibal only had 45,000, and Hannibal chose the battlefield. 

In spite of being so massively outnumbered he surrounded the Romans – on a flat plain - and delivered the greatest defeat the Romans ever experienced.  Historians believe that out of an army of between 86,000 and 90,000 men only 3,000 may have survived.  Over 70,000 infantry were killed, and out of 6,000 Roman cavalry only 370 survived.  The rest (about 10,000) were captured and sold to Greek slave markets.   This battle is consider one of the greatest “tactical feats in military history”.  How could such a thing happen? 

Hannibal utilized something called the ‘double envelopment’, a common practice now, but it was not used because it was considered so dangerous.  If it didn’t work then defeat – massive defeat – was assured.   Although this tactic may have first been used at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BCE, it’s the Battle of Cannae that’s considered one of the greatest battlefield maneuvers in history, and was recorded in detail.  For those who have read Hannibal’s exploits during the Second Pubic War, it seems clear this was one of Hannibal’s many tactical creations, no matter when it was first utilized, and Hannibal chose that battlefield. 

What the Romans didn’t know was they were facing a man who thought outside the box, and was a bona fide military genius.  He saw the world just a little differently than everyone else and was prepared to adapt to changing conditions in order to win.  Hannibal was attached to a vision, not a plan.  A vision with an end goal in mind – victory!

So why did he lose?  There are a host of reasons, including politics in Carthage!  Without the support of the Carthaginian Senate to properly support his army he couldn’t withstand the massive forces against him, which had such sufficient manpower they could afford to send forces to Spain to defeat the Carthaginians in Spain, stripping him of manpower for re-enforcements, and yet the Romans still had sufficient manpower to lay siege to, and defeat, the cities that went over to Hannibal. 

I’ve read in the past that the entire population of Carthage (citizenship was a bit exclusive) was about one million people, so most of Hannibal’s army was made up of soldiers from vassal states. It was claimed Rome could muster an army of a half a million men.  That’s manpower Hannibal could never hope to match, yet for approximately 12 years  he was never defeated in open battle on the Roman peninsula by the Romans.  The Romans decided to outlast him, and adopt his strategies and thinking, which cost Hannibal the Battle of Zama where the Romans mimicked his tactics at Cannae.  This altered Roman military strategy forever after.

Every military strategy ever devised throughout all of history was absolutely perfect.  Until they met the enemy!   Then it was discovered the enemy also had an absolutely perfect plan, but it was in opposition to their plan.   And the ones who won were the ones who were willing to adapt their plans to fit a vision of fulfilling their mission – winning! 

So why am I talking about this?  Because I find the patterns of life keep repeating over and over again.  Whether it’s military planning, business planning or political planning the patterns repeat, and this is also true in defense of industry.

We willingly let these green anti-capitalists pick and choose uncontested battlefields and then complain the public is being misled.  We all acknowledge the public needs to be informed but take no steps to inform them, except in small ways. It’s been stated that it does no good because we won’t impact the thinking of anyone who doesn’t already have a view.  Well, I agree there are those on one side and those in opposition, and it’s unlikely either side will change their views no matter what’s said.  But no matter what - that number is small on both sides.   How many are in the middle?  That’s who the left has captured, but they’re malleable.  They can be changed with truth.    Truth is the sublime convergence of history and reality.  But the battle to expose the truth must be fought, otherwise the lies win. 
At the beginning of WWII England was left alone, her army defeated, financially insolvent, and scared.  Winston Churchill rallied his people with three speeches.  First is known as the, Blood, toil, tears, and sweat, speech of 13 May 1940, wherein he says;

“I would say to the House as I said to those who have joined this government: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. 

You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory. Victory at all costs—Victory in spite of all terror—Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival.”

He gave this speech in response to those in the British government responsible for the mess they were in for criticizing him for not fixing the war right away.  This speech silenced them. 

He gave what is known as the, “We shall fight them on the beaches”, speech on June 4th. 

“Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

History records that the “House of Commons thundered in an uproar at his stirring rhetoric”.

Then there was the “This was their finest hour” speech on June 18th, 1940.   

“What General Weygand has called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be freed and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands.”

He gave this speech to offset criticism for not sending more help to France and for not purging his government of ‘appeasers’, like Neville Chamberlain. It was an explanation and an appeal to solidarity.  But all of those speeches were focused on one thing and one thing only – victory!

He defined the problem, outlined what needed to be done and ordered action be taken, but any good manager can do that.  The most importantly role he filled was the one one role absolutely necessary for good leadership. He inspired and motivated his people. 
Churchill already knew who the enemy was long before Hitler invaded Poland and then France, and now he didn’t need to explain that to the British people, or to those who laughed at him for his warnings about Hitler.  And there-in lies part of the problem!

Part II will follow. 

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