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 Technology vs Tactics

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Imperator_Pazu
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PostSubject: Technology vs Tactics   Sat Apr 30, 2011 10:10 pm

Ive been thinking, how much of an advantage does technology actually confer to one side or the other in war?

Ive come to the conclusion that technology actually provides a smaller advantage than most people may think, BUT what technology does do is set a line and if u fall too far behind the line then you will almost certainly get defeated.

Ill give some examples:

The conflict with the biggest technology gap in the past 1000 years is said to be that of the British vs the Zulu in what is now South Africa (one could argue that the British vs the Australian Aboriginees was an even bigger gap but there were no major battles and the conflict was a series of small skirmishes so officially they didnt count it).

In the Zulu wars the British had a fairly distinct advantage, utilizing new single shot trapdoor action rifles as well as advanced formations, cavalry and artillery vs the Zulu who relied moreso on large numbers of men armed with javelins, spears and clubs, as well as their own more primitive battlefield tactics (the 'horns of the bull' technique was known to the British).

The casualty ratio was very unbalanced, the British recieving comparitively few casualties and the Zulu recieving very many. HOWEVER, the considering what the Zulu had they did indeed deal a significant blow to the British, and the British did lose a major battle at Islandawa. Also of note is that the Zulu were said to have attained firearms from defeated British, which they would later use against them although not very effectively. This 'stolen technology' factor throws something entirely new into the equation.

Take now a war where the technology gap is not as large; for my example i will use the Russian revolution. On the one side you had the Bolsheviks, who, although having much popular support from Russias lower classes, were poorly equipped, many of them armed with single shot rifles. On the other side you have the Russian Imperial Army, still recovering from WWI, with their lower tier troops having slightly poorer morale but on the other hand having some elite and very loyal troops such as the Cossacks and Ismalenski (?) Guard.

The Bolsheviks fought using their equivalent of guerrilla tactics. Ambushes were used whenever possible, although Russia is very flat and open so these times were not very often. What the Bolsheviks did master is troop movement. The revolutionaries were masters of blending in with the local Russians. The Bolsheviks would often start an uprising in one area, distracting the Imperial Army while a few units of Bolshevik irregulars would go slip into the civilian populace and move to a different part of Russia, usually via train. They would then start an uprising in that area, forcing the Imperial army to go to that location to deal with the uprising. Using this method they would always keep the imperial army on the move, giving them very little rest.

Later on in the war the tactics of the Imperial army changed. They outlawed the use of trains for civilian purposes, using them only for transporting troops and supplies. They also spread their army thin throughout Russia. It is rumoured that an American advisor, along with advisors from other western countries, helped them develop these tactics. Regardless, the tactics ultimately failed. The Bolsheviks could now target the trains indiscriminately, and they mastered the art of sabotaging the railways. They also used horses to ride around and give them a mobility advantage. The Bolsheviks were so widespread and the Imperial army so unpopular by this time that defeat was almost inevitable.

Here we see both sides having high casualties, though moreso the Bolsheviks. However, utilizing the 'popular war' effect and unconventional tactics, the Bolsheviks wre able to win despite a technological disandvantage.

Final example, the American Civil War. Towards the beginning the Confederates were convinced that they were going to win the war. They were defending their lands and they had some very bright commanders leading their armies. However perhaps their biggest flaw was playing by the Norths rules. Both sides used what they viewed as the 'proper' tactics of the time, the Napoleonic ones, wave vs wave, line vs line. It is important to note that the Civil War was the last major conflict where these particular tactics were used. Even from when the Civil War began these tactics were old and were quickly becomming irrelevant, the advancement of rifles making it possible for a war based on cover, smart assaults and revolving around key defendable positions rather than the archaic line vs line warfare (trench warfare of WWI was essentially an evolution of this).

Interestingly enough, the North won the American civil war, largely because of technology and a greater amount and expenditure of resources and money. In this case technology seems to have won.

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Imperator_Romulus
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PostSubject: Re: Technology vs Tactics   Sun May 01, 2011 8:50 pm

Very thought out and well written Pazu.

Since Im a history buff I just have to point out 2 things. tongue

Imperator_Pazu wrote:

On the other side you have the Russian Imperial Army, still recovering from WWI,...

Russia wasnt recovering from WWI, they stayed in the war untill March 3, 1918. Nearly six months after the successful revolution.

Imperator_Pazu wrote:

Interestingly enough, the North won the American civil war, largely because of technology and a greater amount and expenditure of resources and money. In this case technology seems to have won.

I think it had more to do with the north having too many advantages. Way more people(20 million vs. nine million in the South, four million of whom were slaves), more trained leaders, a lot more factories, railroads, an actual navy, and like you say much more money.

It wasnt so much about technology. At least not on the battlefield. I dont think whole armies of rifles could have saved the South.


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"You win battles by knowing the enemy's timing, and using a timing which the enemy does not expect."
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