Motivation is a Powerful Weapon in Conflict
Note, after I wrote this, The NY Times has a story this morning about the Ukrainian village of Demydiv, outside of Kyiv, that intentionally flooded itself to slow the Russian advance. Across Ukraine, citizens and Ukrainian military have destroyed bridges, railways, and other transportation routes to slow Russians. Consider this when you read the following account of Russians in 1812 burning their beloved Moscow to save it from French invaders. They once had glory. No longer.
In the fall of 1940, Italian dictator Mussolini, jealous of his ally Hitler’s military success, attacked Greece through the mountains on their borders. The Italian army, despite being well-equipped with tanks and having a large numerical advantage, were roundly beaten by the Greeks fighting in the mountain passes.
Later, in North Africa, Italian troops would surrender in droves at the first opportunity to do so, leaving behind a reputation that the Italians had no will to fight. They did not share Mussolini’s confidence in his Facist ways.
In 1812 Napoleon’s dreaded army awaited a battle against the Russians outside Moscow, the Emperor’s goal after fighting through thousands of miles of Russia. In a great, chaotic battle the Russians held firm despite losing 50% of their men. They then retreated to Moscow.
Napoleon saw this battle as a victory and made his plans to enter the city, a victorious and magnanimous leader. But the Russians, deciding the mostly wooden city was indefensible, did something incomprehensible. They, and Moscow’s civilians abandoned the city and retreated further, after setting the city on fire.
Napoleon, unaware of this retreat and abandonment of the city, in part because his generals did not want to bring him bad news, awaited a delegation he assumed would negotiate terms. They never came and he had to swallow his dreams of entering in grandeur.
Meanwhile the Russians had set much of the city alight. When the French troops entered the city and found it empty, they began looting and discipline evaporated. Their once great army fell to pieces. When they regrouped and went out to attack the Russians they were no longer a viable fighting force. The Russians…