Are fixed fortifications a testament to the stupidity of man?

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manored
 
Reply Thu 16 Apr, 2009 04:11 pm
I heard some famous person who I dont remember once said this phrase, and it is a quite interesting question for me: Is it a good idea to build fortresses and walls to hide behind then the enemy strikes rather than making sure your army is stronger than his?

Personally I think its entirely situation dependant, as a strong army is costly to upkeep, so rather than having a strong army all the time, it would seen better to me to have some walls and fotresses or whatever are their modern equivalents to delay and damage the enemy while the army is pumped back in full form.

Opinions? Any general out there? Smile
 
Caroline
 
Reply Thu 16 Apr, 2009 04:14 pm
@manored,
Depends what kind of weapons the enemy has got.
 
manored
 
Reply Thu 16 Apr, 2009 04:19 pm
@Caroline,
Caroline wrote:
Depends what kind of weapons the enemy has got.
I agree, there were some moments in history where there was no way to "fortify" against certain weapons what screwed up the whole thing, and in our very age nobody has already found out a way to intercept nuclear missiles before they can land (there is research on the matter though)

For the sake of the discussion, lets assume the medieval warfare, then anything you could use against a fort could be inside that fort shooting back. In those times, was it worth making forts?
 
VideCorSpoon
 
Reply Thu 16 Apr, 2009 05:48 pm
@manored,
(ref. Hittite fortifications C.1650-700BC, Nossov/Delf pg.14). And those walls were built on concentric layers of the city over the period hundreds of years, so the height increased much more than that. The walls of Athens, especially during the time when the walls extended towards the Piraeus (port near Athens) reached 60 feet tall (ref. Ancient Engineers, Sprague de Camp pg. 96very lethal. You could die from hunger and disease easily. But history shows that there were mixed results. Sieges could be lifted by relief forces, but that would assume an "invisible wall" of alliances and deterrence's.
 
Theaetetus
 
Reply Thu 16 Apr, 2009 06:09 pm
@manored,
You have to consider the Star Wars defense system that both Reagan and GW Bush desired to build a fortification and a very stupid one at that. By the time something like that would be operational, it is/was inevitable that a potential enemy out there would have something to either fool it or counter it. Homo sapiens are generally to clever to let a fortification stand in their way for too long. Look at the history of conquests to find many examples of humans outsmarting the hunkered down opponents as examples.
 
VideCorSpoon
 
Reply Thu 16 Apr, 2009 06:33 pm
@Theaetetus,
Theaetetus wrote:
You have to consider the Star Wars defense system that both Reagan and GW Bush desired to build a fortification and a very stupid one at that. By the time something like that would be operational, it is/was inevitable that a potential enemy out there would have something to either fool it or counter it. Homo sapiens are generally to clever to let a fortification stand in their way for too long. Look at the history of conquests to find many examples of humans outsmarting the hunkered down opponents as examples.


Star wars and asymmetry reminds me of something. I don't know if you remember a year or so ago about the lightly discussed in the media (yet huge within the political sphere) matter to do with satellite killer missiles. China shot down an old satellite of theirs. Two weeks later, the US shot down one of theirs because of "dangerous benzene gas" in its fuel tank. China in turn just developed a new nuclear capable missile which can achieve mach 10. I bet you anything something the US will come out or make known about a counter to that threat. To tell the truth, maybe war happens when there is a lack of counter deterrences.
 
Aedes
 
Reply Fri 17 Apr, 2009 05:49 am
@manored,
manored;58512 wrote:
Is it a good idea to build fortresses and walls to hide behind then the enemy strikes rather than making sure your army is stronger than his?
It's well known in military tactics that a defensive posture is very advantageous, and an attacking force needs to have a certain fold advantage in numbers to reduce a fortified position. The classic example of this is the Western Front in World War I. The defensive position of trenches with nested machine guns was nearly impossible to displace, even with gas attacks and artillery barrages. There are plenty of other examples -- several famous battles in the American Civil War demonstrated this (Fredericksburg, Vicksburg, the third day of Gettysburg, and the siege of Petersburg). And even in WWII, when mobile warfare, armor, and airplanes somewhat nullified the defensive positions, there are famous examples of places where fortified positions were extremely bloody to take -- Omaha Beach, for instance, was not defended by that many people, yet it caused untold carnage against thousands.

Manored wrote:
it would seen better to me to have some walls and fotresses or whatever are their modern equivalents to delay and damage the enemy while the army is pumped back in full form.
You're absolutely right, though this need not be solely for when an army is not at full strength. The goal of a war is always to eliminate the enemy's ability to continue fighting -- once that's achieved, strategic and territorial aims are far less costly to pursue. So even in a generally offensive campaign, a defensive position can be tactically very advantageous.

One of the major criticisms of BOTH Hitler and Stalin as military leaders is that they frequently forbade their generals from retreating when under heavy attack. This caused their troops to get thinned out, and without withdrawing and consolidating in a strong defensive posture, they were just sitting ducks. The Soviets had like 3 million of their soldiers captured in the first year of the war alone because of this (the Battle of Kiev was infamous -- 600,000 POWs).

One controversy of Gettysburg is that Longstreet believed that rather than launching an offensive the Confederate Army should have picked their ground, assumed a defensive posture, and thus receive a Union attack. But Lee overruled him, leading to the famous "Pickett's Charge" in which Confederate soldiers stormed uphill against a fortified position and just got obliterated.

Manored wrote:
Any general out there? Smile
Heh, no general but I've read some books Smile
 
manored
 
Reply Fri 17 Apr, 2009 10:34 am
@VideCorSpoon,
VideCorSpoon wrote:
very lethal. You could die from hunger and disease easily. But history shows that there were mixed results. Sieges could be lifted by relief forces, but that would assume an "invisible wall" of alliances and deterrence's.
Indeed it stalled both sides, but I suppose any side who didnt fortify would have been slowly pushed back by the fire, advance, fortify, fire tactic. I guess it was just a good moment for fortifications in history Smile I agree, walls seen a bad idea in modern warfare with all the options armies have at their disposal.

I think surveillance walls arent really equivalent to walls because they rely on mobile forces to rush to that area if an enemy is detected, while walls cannot "group up in the enemy". Also one can try to blitz or sneak into the wall, but a real wall cannot be crossed even if you are "invisible", you have to "blow it up".

Yeah but returning a missile with a missile is like returning a sword swing with a sword swing... being able to prevent the missile from damaging the target is what I would call a defense against it.

Indeed, a siege was very efficient, but there can be several reasons for one to not have time to wait for the enemy to surrender, such as the possibility of reinforcements coming where a imediate attack could take the city/castle before the reinforcements were there.

VideCorSpoon wrote:
Star wars and asymmetry reminds me of something. I don't know if you remember a year or so ago about the lightly discussed in the media (yet huge within the political sphere) matter to do with satellite killer missiles. China shot down an old satellite of theirs. Two weeks later, the US shot down one of theirs because of "dangerous benzene gas" in its fuel tank. China in turn just developed a new nuclear capable missile which can achieve mach 10. I bet you anything something the US will come out or make known about a counter to that threat. To tell the truth, maybe war happens when there is a lack of counter deterrences.
I wouldnt say they happen then there is a lack of counter deterrences, but that the existence of counter deterrences severly impair the chances of a war Smile

Aedes wrote:


You're absolutely right, though this need not be solely for when an army is not at full strength. The goal of a war is always to eliminate the enemy's ability to continue fighting -- once that's achieved, strategic and territorial aims are far less costly to pursue. So even in a generally offensive campaign, a defensive position can be tactically very advantageous.

Heh, no general but I've read some books Smile
I agree with this.

I havent read any books on militar strategies but im quite a fan of militar strategy games Smile , and I got what is probally one of most realistic war strategy games called "Medieval 2: Total War", wich I recomend to anyone interested warfare.
 
VideCorSpoon
 
Reply Fri 17 Apr, 2009 11:11 am
@manored,
So suppose this statement... "A wall merely shows the inflexibility of an opponent, and if anything provides more of a target than a defense." Would anyone agree with this statement? Would it be an issue of historical context? When I say that, I mean does a wall meant to defend a position during the middle ages differ from a wall meant to defend a position during the the Vietnam war or world war II.

It is in that last question that I raise the issue (and definition) of a wall. walls differ in size, height, etc. But I think modern times call for different conceptions of the term "wall," especially in offensive and defensive terms. Take firing positions and "hill" in Vietnam. Very rarely is there a wall erected to protect a position, however, the concept of a no-mans land of clearing functions just as well. That goes back even to the analogy of trench warfare during world war I. Same word, different conception.

So maybe the question is then... "can the common and obvious conception of a wall hold multiple conceptions of the same concept?" We have "firewalls" after all. Is it any less defensive.

also, I am a big fan of RTS games as well. By the way, if you are considering Total War: Empire... it is a phenomenal game and do not get it. The game crashes like crazy.
 
Aedes
 
Reply Fri 17 Apr, 2009 12:09 pm
@manored,
The main analogy to fixed fortifications in this nuclear age are bomb shelters and fallout shelters. Anti-missile systems are more analagous to anti-tank or anti-aircraft weapons.

The age of mobile warfare really put an end to 'fortresses' as a kind of defense, though there was mixed success of fortresses in WWII (the Maginot Line and the Atlantic Wall were abominable failures, but the ruins of Stalingrad WERE a successful fortress as such).

But there was a transition period in the 19th and early 20th centuries in which defensive weapons (rifles and machine guns) developed much faster than offensive weapons (mobile infantry, artillery, tanks, tactical air support), and the idea of a fortress (or trench) became a formidable bringer of death in the Civil War and in WWI.


I loved strategy games when I was a kid, especially Turning Point: Stalingrad. I haven't ever found a computer strategy game that was even remotely as good as the board games from Avalon Hill and Victory Games. They're all too focused on graphics and on real time action, rather than strategy.

---------- Post added at 02:34 PM ---------- Previous post was at 02:09 PM ----------

VideCorSpoon wrote:
So suppose this statement... "A wall merely shows the inflexibility of an opponent, and if anything provides more of a target than a defense." Would anyone agree with this statement?
Defense can be tactical. Look at Verdun -- a mainly defensive position that sucked hundreds of thousands of French soldiers to their deaths. On the other hand, Rommel and Hitler moronically thought that the Atlantic Wall could do the same. On the other hand, they were also naive enough to think that in 1944 they could actually hold a coastline as long as Europe's with a thin line of fixed fortifications rather than mobile counterattack forces. On the Eastern Front in 1941, Stalin kept having his armies stand their ground, whereupon they'd be vanquished by the German army. Until they got to Moscow, when Zhukov laid down concentric layers of defenses, one after another, and they had mobile reserve armies -- and that is where Barbarossa finally came to an end -- the Germans could not make it through multiple lines of defense (with no reserves of their own anymore).

VideCorSpoon wrote:
"can the common and obvious conception of a wall hold multiple conceptions of the same concept?" We have "firewalls" after all. Is it any less defensive.
The concept of a wall is different than the structure. I mean it has to do with disposition of troops, too. If you place troops on top of the wall, in front of the wall, or behind the wall, the wall functions differently. Rivers are much like walls -- a bridgehead in front of the river is much different than a defensive line behind the river.
 
manored
 
Reply Fri 17 Apr, 2009 01:15 pm
@VideCorSpoon,
VideCorSpoon wrote:
So suppose this statement... "A wall merely shows the inflexibility of an opponent, and if anything provides more of a target than a defense." Would anyone agree with this statement? Would it be an issue of historical context? When I say that, I mean does a wall meant to defend a position during the middle ages differ from a wall meant to defend a position during the the Vietnam war or world war II.

It is in that last question that I raise the issue (and definition) of a wall. walls differ in size, height, etc. But I think modern times call for different conceptions of the term "wall," especially in offensive and defensive terms. Take firing positions and "hill" in Vietnam. Very rarely is there a wall erected to protect a position, however, the concept of a no-mans land of clearing functions just as well. That goes back even to the analogy of trench warfare during world war II. Same word, different conception.

So maybe the question is then... "can the common and obvious conception of a wall hold multiple conceptions of the same concept?" We have "firewalls" after all. Is it any less defensive.

also, I am a big fan of RTS games as well. By the way, if you are considering Total War: Empire... it is a phenomenal game and do not get it. The game crashes like crazy.
I do think a "wall" can mean other things than a big linear structure that blocks your path, I just think that a surveillance network linked to a reaction arm isnt that kind of wall, because the defenders wouldnt get a tactical advantage from the combat (unless the attacker was really slow and predictable, giving the interception arm time to trench up). Also, in a wall or something analog to a wall you get stoped with the same strengh on any point, rather than the strenght moving around to intercept you. That depends of the interpretation though.

Aedes wrote:
I loved strategy games when I was a kid, especially Turning Point: Stalingrad. I haven't ever found a computer strategy game that was even remotely as good as the board games from Avalon Hill and Victory Games. They're all too focused on graphics and on real time action, rather than strategy.
Then you *must* try the Total War series Smile As an example of its awesomeness, the game was "divided" in two to work better: The administrative part is turn-based, while the battles are in real time. (and happen in a fraction of the time represented by a turn, just like it should be). It also has tons of interesting little details and historic worthness. Basically, im ensuring you the producers didnt overly focused on graphics or real-timeness.

By the way, I wont be able to post in the next 3 days.
 
 

 
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