ARMY COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF COLLEGE FORT LEAVENWORTH KS COMBAT STUDIES INST
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In the early 1980s, the Combat Studies Institute received a request for a study of all the cases in the past where armies fought outnumbered and won. The point was to distill the necessary ingredients that culminated in these armies victories. The flaw in this procedure, however, was that it failed to consider the preponderant number of cases where armies fought outnumbered and lost. A widened focus would have eliminated a number of possible false conclusions. A similar exercise was conducted eighty years earlier by Count Alfred von Schlieffen, the revered chief of the German General Staff. Convinced that Germany, surrounded by powerful enemies, would have to fight outnumbered and win, Schlieffen believed the key to victory could be discovered in an account of the Battle of Cannae, written by the German military historian Hans Delbrtick. Therefore, Schlieffen ordered the historical section of the General Staff to produce a set of Cannae Studies that would demonstrate that the principle of double envelopment practiced by Hannibal at Cannae was the master key to victory in battle. During the interwar years, the Command and General Staff School Press published two editions of a translation of Schlieffen s classic study. The current printing by the newly formed Command and General Staff College Press is meant to afford a new generation of army officers an experience of this famous work of military theory. In so doing, it is probably not remiss to caution readers that Hannibal s victory at Cannae still did not produce a strategic success, even though it was a tactical masterpiece. Hannibal lost the war with Rome. Likewise, Schlieffen s operational concept collapsed in World War I in the face of logistic and time-space realities he had chosen to discount because he believed they were inconvenient to his needs. The lesson to be learned from Schlieffen s experience is that history misapplied is worse than no history at all.
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics