Swiss Army 1972 Tactics: Vintage Film “Infantry Combat” (w/English subtitles)

H/T American Partisan

 

Military History: The Winter War Part II (This Is Not The Fabian Strategy You Are Looking For)

Winter-War-ii

In a recent article (Lessons from the Winter War: Frozen Grit and Finland’s Fabian Defense) Iskander Rehman gives a stirring tale of the Winter War pitting the Soviets against the Finns, but there is one big problem with it: It isn’t, as he argues, an example of a Fabian strategy.  Rehman provides a link to an article by Jim Holmes that clearly explains the idea.  In sum, a Fabian strategy is designed to avoid risk and direct fighting, in order to draw out the conflict as much as possible in order to wear down and defeat the opponent through a combination of time, attrition, and a lack of decisive results.  Ultimately, the Fabian strategy paid off for Rome.  The problem is the Winter War does not fit that description, Finnish strategy does not match it and a Fabian strategy would not have suited Finland’s desire to retain its territorial integrity.

The Finns simply did not use a Fabian strategy.  They fought the Soviets to a standstill, head on.  They didn’t minimize risk or avoid fighting.  In many ways they did the opposite.  That is one of the most remarkable things about the conflict.  A small, poorly equipped armed force, lacking much in the way of modern equipment, took on an enormous enemy force and stopped it dead in its tracks for the best parts of three months.  Where they could, they counterattacked, including in the Karelian Isthmus on 23 December, in a full on frontal assault.  That’s hardly Fabian.

Where the author also gets it wrong is to assume the fighting in east Finland, which he focuses on, particularly east of Lake Ladoga near Kollaa and at Suomussalmi and on the Raatentie, was also part of a larger and deliberate Fabian strategy and was typical of the broader war.  It was not.  Marshal Gustaf Mannerheim was very clear in his instructions to his subordinates, and was informed in this by his experience in World War I. He ordered that they were to hold ground, as Screen’s excellent biography of Mannerheim makes clear.  Indeed, they were to vigorously counter-attack as the commander, Major-General Juho Heiskanen, of IV Corps (north-east of Lake Ladoga) found to his peril when he was sacked for not doing this vigorously enough.  Indeed, the battles of eastern Finland were largely fought as a result of forced Finnish withdrawals in the face of Soviet attacks, rather than a planned retreat to avoid risk and direct fighting.  Furthermore, the Finnish units in the east, much like those fighting in the Karelian isthmus were there to prevent a Soviet breakthrough, not simply to harass and draw out the conflict.  That they used the much vaunted “motti” tactics was as much a product of circumstance as it was prior planning.  The Finns had initially attempted to annihilate the Soviets in the mottis, until it was obvious they did not possess sufficient firepower to do so.  That being said, it could be argued that this part of the war was Fabian, despite its annihilatory nature and the defense of fixed positions.  Such an argument would have much to recommend it, but even if it is accepted it still only explains part of what went on in a subordinate theater and does not deal with the fighting on the Karelian isthmuswhich is where the war was won and lost.

So yes, this conflict does have some excellent lessons for thinking about future war, but let us not call it something it was not. Perhaps we could learn from the Finns often-excellent unit cohesion and their ability quickly to adapt on the fly and how that enabled them to resist for far longer than even they had thought possible. That really would be worth thinking about.

Read the Original Article at War on the Rocks

Where Has All The Hatred Gone?

US GI MG

By Mark Stout

Carl von Clausewitz offered his “paradoxical trinity” as a tool for thinking about wars and their various manifestations. His trinity was:

Composed of primordial violence, hatred, and enmity, which are to be regarded as a blind natural force; of the play of chance and probability within which the creative spirit is free to roam; and of its element of subordination, as an instrument of policy, which makes it subject to reason alone.

As a practical matter the United States and the West today pay little attention to the first component of this trinity. True, some analysts are willing to see “primordial violence, hatred, and enmity” playing a role in the behavior of some of our enemies — the Islamic State and al Qaeda, for instance. However, when it comes to looking at our own forces and operations, we like to imagine that “primordial” violence plays no role because our violence is calibrated and precise, hatred is tantamount to racism, and enmity is merely a matter of politics because all people are fundamentally the same.

One American defense analyst wrote in 2006, for instance, that:

Combatants are trained in the skill to kill and the will to kill, but discouraged against the thrill to kill. … The will to kill involves those psychological preparations that respect human life, but that in war focus on survival and self-preservation. The thrill to kill, however, is psychotic. It’s rejected by war, but embraced by terrorism. The thrill to kill represents the cowardly insanity of terrorism and hate.

This sort of opinion is a relatively new phenomenon, however. Consider this 1943 U.S. Army document brought to my attention by my colleague Dr. Kevin Woods. It was written by Pvt. Frank Sargent of the 34th Infantry Division and came to the attention of his division commander, who liked it so much that he sent it up the chain. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower liked it so much that he had it published for the U.S. forces under his command in North Africa. When Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall saw it, he “ordered it distributed to the Army at large.”

Read the Remainder at War on the Rocks

The Battle of Salamis: Themistocles and the Birth of Strategy


salamis

The dichotomy of strategy and tactics in war did not solidify as a concept until the publication of Carl von Clausewitz’ On War in 1832. Since then the relationship between the two has been hotly debated, along with the subsequent interjection of the operational level of war. What is not debated are the concepts themselves. Tactics and strategy are related but they are not the same thing. Strategy, of course, comes from the word ancient Greeks used for their generals, strategos. Clausewitz’s ideas were intended to be applicable for all of military history so it can be instructive to look into the past — at the genesis of strategy itself.

A tactician would never abandon key terrain without a fight; it makes little tactical sense.

A strategos was not solely concerned with winning battles — the tactics. He was, in the later words of Clausewitz, concerned with the use of battle to further the political ends of his city. In other words, the strategos had to keep the long-term goal in mind and ensure that the tactics work to further that goal. A tactician would never abandon key terrain without a fight; it makes little tactical sense. But strategy may demand that very thing and tactics must be subordinated. This exact situation occurred during the Persian Wars in Fifth Century Greece. The first major Greek strategist, and perhaps the most gifted, was Themistocles.

If a strategist must have a gift for long-term planning, then Themistocles was a born strategist. As a child, he reportedly fostered friendships with well-born children despite rules against such liaisons in pre-democracy Athens. When Themistocles was born in 524 BC, there was little chance he would one day achieve political power or have any opportunity to make use of those friendships. Themistocles as a child could not have known exactly how such connections would benefit him.

Read the Remainder at Medium