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(14,779 posts)
25. The only question will be one simple "What is the relationship between wars and geography?"
Mon May 7, 2012, 11:48 PM
May 2012

And the answer is EVERYTHING. Geography determines not only where you fight, but how and often why. Egypt, for example will go to war over any attempt to cut off the Nile. The US attitude to Cuba is related to how close it is to New Orleans (And if you wanted to take over the US, the first two cities you need to take, are New Orleans and Quebec, once you have those two cities, you control most of the trade between the Rockies and the Appalachian Mountains).

Here is some example of how Geography determined WHERE a war was fought:

Moscow is the key city of Russia, control Moscow, you control Russia. Napoleon and Hitler knew this and is the reason both marched on Moscow. Napoleon's problem was once in Moscow, the Russians had burned the city and all the food and since he had no way to get food for his soldiers, he had to retreat. Hitler's problem was NOT a lack of Food, he had food for his men, but he NEVER took Moscow.

Paris is NOT only the Capital of France, but its key, if you have Paris, you have France. On the other hand, the lost of Washington, New York or Philadelphia (All had been US Capitals) is just the lost of a meeting place, the American People can meet elsewhere and still fight onward (as it did with the Lost of Philadelphia in the fall of 1776 and Washington DC in 1814). The lost of Washington, New York or Philadelphia will NOT be fatal to the US, but the US will nuke the world over New Orleans and Quebec.

Britain is an island, and thus more concerned about its Fleet then its Army. Ireland is the richest agricultural part of both Ireland and Britain, but has no real center, thus must be conquered county by county, as the British did under Elizabeth I, Cromwell in the 1600s and how the IRA freed Ireland from British rule during the Irish uprising of 1921 (i.e. Dublin is important, but only as a base to take over the rest of Ireland, NOT to control the rest of Ireland).

Yorktown Virginia is the base you need to have to conquer the rest of Virginia, but since it is surrounded by higher lands on all sides, you need more men to hold it then to take it. Thus Cornwallis only went to Yorktown on the promise of additional troops from Clinton whose forces were in New York City, but when they failed to break through the French Fleet, Cornwallis was doomed. In 1862-1865 the North Kept a Massive amount of Troops at Yorktown for the same reason, you need more troops to hold it then to take it. The North made sure there were plenty of Union Troops around Yorktown between 1862 and 1865 (The same with the Alamo, for the same reason, thus Sam Houston told Travis to destroy the Alamo and abandon the death trap).

Why are we bombing Pakistan? The US Supply line for out troops in Afghanistan goes through Pakistan. You do NOT bomb your own supply line (and do NOT bomb people along it, do to fears you will make a mistake and end up recruits for the other side).

Cut off the enemy supply line if possible, the failure to do this in Vietnam was the key to US defeat. The enemy supply line ran along the Mekong River in Laos and Cambodia. The US tried to bomb that supply line out of commission, but the Viet Cong made every effort to keep that supply line open. The US dared not send in US Troops into southern Laos for fear of Red Chinese intervention, but by the time the Mekong River turned East on Phnom Penh it had run the entire length of the border between Cambodia and Vietnam (Both North and South). The Mekong starts in China, flows into Laos and Cambodia and finally into Southern Vietnam. Supplies between North and South Vietnam went via the Ho Chin Minh Highway on both sides of the Mekong (As while as on "Junks" on the Mekong). The US tried to stop this supply line with a bombing campaign, a special forces campaign, hiring Laotians to fight to destroy the supply line, all failed. This meant the Viet Cong had supplies while it was fighting in South Vietnam. The rule in Guerrilla warfare is if you can NOT cut off the supply line of the Guerrillas, give up or make a deal. The US failure to cut off the supply line doomed the US efforts in South Vietnam (And similar situation occurred in Afghanistan during the Russian occupation, the Russian's failure to cut off supplies from Pakistan meant the Russians could not win, so they finally withdrew).


Yes, Geography determines how, when and why wars are fought. Rome attacked Carthage in the Third Punic War for control of the Gold Trade with the Niger River Valley. Caesar attacked Gaul, for the gold deposits in Gaul he could loot. Hitler attacked Russia not only for the Wheat fields of Russia and the Ukraine, but the oil fields of Russia. Europe fought over the Sugar Islands of the West Indies in the 1600s and 1700s more then what was to become the US, for in the 1600s and 1700s those sugar islands were more valuable then the American Colonies (The Sugar beat and its sugar killed off the huge profits of the West Indies Sugar Plantations after 1800s, so by the 1800s the islands became poor colonies of Europe not the prize to grab they had been in the 1600s and 1700s). Sugar also explained the Slave Trade of the 1600s and 1700s, some one had to work in those Plantations, and if you were smart you did your best to avoid that fate.

Here is some example of Geography determining HOW a war was fought:

During the Cold war the US developed electronic anti take missiles to replace 1950 era recoil-less rifles. The problem was the TOW and the DRAGON anti-tank weapon could NOT work in cold weather (I believe the cut off was 20 degrees below Zero). Thus in Alaska and other northern areas, the US uses to this day, 1950 era recoil-less rifles (The 106mm and the 73 mm Recoil-less rifles).

The US sent in Vietnam in 1964 its air mobile 101st Division with Helicopters. Why? It was easier to ship the helicopters in by using some of our old WWII carriers then to ship in tanks, given the lack of a decent port in all of South Vietnam (Under French rule the main port was Haiphong next to Hanoi, both in North Vietnam). IT took the US from 1965 to 1968 to build a port that could take in the supplies needed by the South Vietnamese Army to train, let alone fight (Rough rule, a soldier should train three times the time he is actually fighting). Thus the US had to send in US troops, for that was easier on the supply line then getting the supplies needed to upgrade the South Vietnamese Army. After 1968 US forces started to be pulled down, but the US decided to keep the Tanks units it had send it and send home the leg infantry units. The reason for this was simple, the US had finished the harbor it needed to supply and train the South Vietnamese Army AND maintain US Armor units in Vietnam. The Lack of a Harbor (Geography) forced the US to send in leg infantry rather then Armor Infantry. Leg Infantry did NOT need the same supply line as an armor unit do to its lack of heavy armor.

Germany had made all of its Cavalry forces Armor by 1939, but when it attacked Russia it ended up in an area where it needed Cavalry, thus the SS became the sole Germany Cavalry unit in the German Army, fighting in the Pripyat Marshes. It was an area where no armor could go, so cavalry was used. As the German army became more and more involved in Russia, they ended up recruiting Russian Cossacks as Cavalry, for it was the most effective force in areas without roads (Pripyat marshes is the best known area in Russia but others exist). As the German Army came close to Moscow in December 1941, it started to turn in its trucks for horses, for the simple reason the horse were able to move in the mud and snow of the Russian winters, while the trucks could not (as the war went on the German army turned more and more to the horse to haul supplies, do to lack of fuel then any other reason, by 1942 a German Infantry unit on the Offensive received only 10% of its pre-war allocation of fuel, the lack of fuel is also a factor in why and how the Germans fought the War).

The US did NOT field its Cavalry forces (Except the 26th Cavalry Regiment, Philippine Scouts in the 1941-1942 Japanese Conquest of the Philippines) for the simple reason a US Cavalry forces, do to its horses, food and care for the horses, took up as much room in shipping as an Armor Division.

During the Japanese attack on Malaysia, which target was Singapore, The Japanese seeing the terrain he was to fight in, knew he needed to be able to out flank the British Defenders. To do so he needed a method to be able to run around any defensive position the British put up along the length of the island. This had to be faster then infantry on foot, but within the shipping restrictions of the Japanese navy AND be able to get around in heavy jungle. When the German High Command was asked to prepare a plan, the German's did so. The German Plan was for a 18 month march given the restrictions the Japanese were facing. The Japanese commander thank them, for that is what Army Staff do all the time, then came up with his own plan. The key was the use of bicycles. The bike permitted the Japanese soldiers to go faster and further and carry more supplies then if he was on foot. This permitted wide swing around British defensive positions. The British would find themselves by passed every time they had set up a defensive positions, but restricted to roads do to their dependence on Trucks. Within six weeks the Japanese were outside Singapore and Singapore fell to the Japanese land forces.

The Vietcong were also to use bicycle on the Ho Chin Mind Trail. When the Trail was actually bombed, the supplies would still go forward, on bicycles to the next area of open road. 1000 pounds on a bike (No one road the bike south, pushed them instead). Jungle canopy prevented the US from seeing this movement and how ineffective the bombing of the Ho Chin Minh trail was.

Going back in History, the British made almost no use of Cavalry in the American North during the American Revolution, do to a lack of horses and the fact the Northern Colonies made an effort NOT to permit any horses to get to the British (And that it took six weeks to go from Britain to American by Sailing ship, thus expensive and hard to ship horses from Europe). Now, in the South the British did man an effective Calvary forces, but once it was destroyed at the battle of the Cowpens, the British did not have the horses to remake it, thus Cornwallis on his march into Virginia had no effective Cavalry force available.

When the US Civil War Started everyone thought in would be a infantry fight and it was for the first year or so, then both sides slowly build up their cavalry forces. The South First, but then the North. The North was late to adopt more horse mounted men, but once it did so, did so in larger numbers then the south. By the end of the War 1/3 of the Union army was horse mounted, When the war started that was less then 10% of the forces raised. The reason for this is the distance involved in fighting in America forced both sides to move more men quicker then you could do so on foot. Thus geography force the increase use of horse mounted men (Through it should be noted, most Calvary engagements in the Civil war, the Cavalrymen fought on foot, they horses were just a way to get to the battle NOT something to fight the battle on). One Pennsylvania unit even formed as a Lance unit (i.e. armed with a 18 foot lance instead of a saber, after two years this was dropped, the lance kept on getting caught on the trees and the lancers were given rifles).

When Attila the Hun was defeated at the Battle of Châlons in 451, when he was defeated he retreated to his camp and took a last stand. The Romans left him go, feared the lost of to many men in storming the camp. The significance of this was the retreat to a Camp was a German tactic of the Time period when defeated in battle, On the Steeps where the Huns came from the traditional tactic was to disperse and run in all directions. Why the change in Tactic? The answer is simple, the Germans had adopted their tactic given the Rivers and Mountains of Germany. hard to escape, the mountains channel people and rivers block escape routes. Thus in Germany it was better to retreat to the Camp and take a final stand. In the Steeps, it was one flat open country, people could run in ALL DIRECTIONS. any enemy would have to follow in all directions. The problem is sooner or later some of the defeated forces will find themselves no longer being chased, or if chased by a smaller force of the enemy. Either way the detachment can survive. Geography directed the two tactic. The mountains and Rivers of Germany forces defeated forces to take a stand, to run away, meet not to run to far, and then in restricted areas so the victors could always maintain superiority in numbers. On the Steeps, the defeated forces could run in all directions, and enemy would have to disperse they own forces to chase them. Thus in the Steeps the best way for some soldiers to survive is for all of the survivors are to run in all directions (Native Americans seems to have adopted this tactic in the Great Plains for the same reason).

Even when a War is fought is governed by Geography"

Russia has only been conquered twice, once by the Mongols and the second time (and only for the winter and only Moscow) the Poles). Both follow the same rules, high speed conquest (horses mounted forces in both cases) AND in a winter campaign (The rivers, marshes and Lakes of Russia are frozen over, so Russia is one big frozen plate, unlike in Summer where it is divided into small sections by its many Rivers, Lakes and Marshes.

In Vietnam, the US depended on Helicopters, moved its forces in Laos during the dry season, taking huge areas from the North Vietnamese. In the wet season, the Helicopters could not move do to the rain and cloud cover, so the North Vietnamese then proceeded to retake what the US had taken, using leg infantry,

Present US doctrine calls for an massive Air Attack starting on or near a new moon, the US technology advantage permit the US to attack fixed points without having to see them. This continues for six weeks, i.e. a Full Moon, another New Moon, then a Second full moon, for ground forces, need the Full Moon to see holes and other obstacles in the road. Night vision devices tend to miss these for most have no light in them at all, and thus the nigh vision device does not work. Thus ground forces want a full moon.

In India, the British tried they best to do all the fighting during the dry season, during the wet season it was hard to not only move the troops but also the supplies for the troops.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban likes to attack after the harvest of its Winter wheat (April and May) but before the planting of the crop in the fall (September October), Thus the Taliban are starting their fighting right now, will end in about four months when they will sit out the winter. The tries to store up its supplies this time of year for come winter the passes from Pakistan to Afghanistan tend to become snowed in. The US prefer Winter campaigns for the Taliban are snowed in and thus easier to find and destroy.

Just pointing out that Where, why, how and even when a war is fought is often governed by geography. Thus the answer to the question is "everything".

all that religious fanatics do is destroy. provis99 May 2012 #1
I didn't realize there was an actual place called Timbuktu! Marrah_G May 2012 #2
I didn't realize those folks kept 'saints' mythes may3rd May 2012 #3
It's their own cult, actually - the closer the denomination the worse the infighting saras May 2012 #7
you might find this interesting grantcart May 2012 #12
Oh now that is cool!!!!!!!!!!! Marrah_G May 2012 #14
Not only is it a real place LibertyLover May 2012 #15
What a gem! Marrah_G May 2012 #16
you might find this interesting grantcart May 2012 #17
That is an amazing post LibertyLover May 2012 #18
Its the Buddhas of Bamiyan all over again. riderinthestorm May 2012 #4
The usual from fundys... Archae May 2012 #5
eerily similiar to the beginnings of the Taliban DCBob May 2012 #6
And the blowing up of the giant Buddhas. sakabatou May 2012 #22
Timbuktu was a spectacular town cosmicone May 2012 #8
What isn't contrary to Islam? demosincebirth May 2012 #9
Wanton destruction it seems n/t 4th law of robotics May 2012 #20
To me, destroying a UNESCO site is the closest thing that exists to sacrilege! Odin2005 May 2012 #10
A friend and I watched "Rape of Europa" on PBS last year closeupready May 2012 #11
For more background on the importance of Timbuktu grantcart May 2012 #13
The key to the Wealth of Timbuktu was its trade with Cathage happyslug May 2012 #19
Interesting grantcart May 2012 #21
It is on the Niger River, the most important river in West Africa, Its delta is Nigeria. happyslug May 2012 #23
Ok that was helpful grantcart May 2012 #24
The only question will be one simple "What is the relationship between wars and geography?" happyslug May 2012 #25
Will we be able to use Toynbee's "Challenge/Response Theory of History" as a source? grantcart May 2012 #26
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