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Thread: Most decisive battles of all time.

  1. #31
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    z,

    Ultimately, Islam never did very well in penetrating past Europe's defensive mountain ranges. The Pyrenees, Alps, Carpathians, Urals all served as a sort of barrier that Islamic Armies were not able to sustain a penetration.
    quite true, because most of the mountain ranges were at the limits of islamic power. closer to home, the Caliphate didn't have too much issue punching past the Taurus Mountains to get at the Byzantines.

    also, the Byzantines served as a shield for approximately five centuries. If Constantinople had fallen in 717, or worse yet 674, i doubt the mountain barriers would have been enough to turn back the Islamic armies.
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    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    snapper,
    OTOH the rise of Germany didn't actually make significant waves until the ascension of Kaiser Wilhelm, and even for some time afterwards. (the UK for a while considered joining the Triple Alliance!)

    the UK was still antagonistic towards France all the way up until 1904.
    Not sure that counters my fundamental destruction of the balance of power point but perhaps you may have additional thoughts? Kaiser Wilhelm was obliged to back his now subordinate ally because of the victory at Koniggratz. If the Austrian had won at won at Koniggratz there wouldn't have been a Kaiser but a Prussian King.

  3. #33
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    The battle of Trafalgar definitely belongs somewhere on the list. Not only did it ensure the supremacy of the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic wars, it also led to a century of British naval hegemony.

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    snapper,

    Not sure that counters my fundamental destruction of the balance of power point but perhaps you may have additional thoughts? Kaiser Wilhelm was obliged to back his now subordinate ally because of the victory at Koniggratz. If the Austrian had won at won at Koniggratz there wouldn't have been a Kaiser but a Prussian King.
    my meaning being that the power dynamics didn't change for some time for the UK, from France being the biggest threat to a new Germany. the Kaiser Wilhelm I was referring to was Willy 2, not Willy 1.

    had Willy 2 not made the choice to challenge UK hegemony on the seas, then the long 19th-century peace would have continued a lot longer.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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    as an addendum to this-- WWI was a ridiculously unfortunate stroke of bad timing. had the event happened in another two-four years, it would be very unlikely there would have been a world war.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

  6. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    z,



    quite true, because most of the mountain ranges were at the limits of islamic power. closer to home, the Caliphate didn't have too much issue punching past the Taurus Mountains to get at the Byzantines.

    also, the Byzantines served as a shield for approximately five centuries. If Constantinople had fallen in 717, or worse yet 674, i doubt the mountain barriers would have been enough to turn back the Islamic armies.
    Ottoman power base was near those barriers.It was a combination of mountains+forrests+men that kept barbarians at bay.
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    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    snapper,
    my meaning being that the power dynamics didn't change for some time for the UK, from France being the biggest threat to a new Germany. the Kaiser Wilhelm I was referring to was Willy 2, not Willy 1.

    had Willy 2 not made the choice to challenge UK hegemony on the seas, then the long 19th-century peace would have continued a lot longer.
    How was 'Willy 2' able to create a fleet? No Koniggratz victory no Kaiser.

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    snapper,

    How was 'Willy 2' able to create a fleet? No Koniggratz victory no Kaiser.
    what i'm getting at is that this is a question of "how" vs "why".

    power dynamics did not change significantly in europe up until 1890-1900, when the Kaiser began to flex his new economic/military muscle.

    even barring no Kaiser and Prussia remaining a Kingdom instead of turning into the German Empire, continuation of -existing trends- would have meant the establishment of a German economic power. there were already attempts to form a viable German economic/political confederation as far back as the Revolutions of 1848. so no Koniggratz would have set back attempts at unification but I do not think it would have eliminated it. there was a significant amount of popular pressure to do so. this pressure would have increased as German industrialization continued apace.

    the French Revolution and Napoleon, on the other hand, almost created nationalism overnight, and that in turn drove the tensions of the 19th-century.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

  9. #39
    Senior Contributor Mihais's Avatar
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    Wrt Germany.In the 1910's they were scared to death of the growing Russian power.Inevitably,either the Germans fight the Russians sometime after 1914,or the Russians encroach on the Austro-Hungarians and the Germans,precipitating a war.And if the Germans fight the Russians,the French attack the Germans.So the basic scheme of WW1 would have happened anyway.The only thing debatable is the extent of British involvement.
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    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    z,



    quite true, because most of the mountain ranges were at the limits of islamic power. closer to home, the Caliphate didn't have too much issue punching past the Taurus Mountains to get at the Byzantines.

    also, the Byzantines served as a shield for approximately five centuries. If Constantinople had fallen in 717, or worse yet 674, i doubt the mountain barriers would have been enough to turn back the Islamic armies.
    The Turks at the height of Ottoman power never managed to break through them and get from Eastern Europe into Central Europe. Then again neither did the Mongols, Byzantines, Romans or Hellenes. Go West through the Balkans to reach the West of Central Europe has never been successful. Well, maybe for the Soviets... But even then the losses they took would have bankrupted everyone else that tried.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mihais View Post
    Wrt Germany.In the 1910's they were scared to death of the growing Russian power.Inevitably,either the Germans fight the Russians sometime after 1914,or the Russians encroach on the Austro-Hungarians and the Germans,precipitating a war.And if the Germans fight the Russians,the French attack the Germans.So the basic scheme of WW1 would have happened anyway.The only thing debatable is the extent of British involvement.
    Or Italian.... not keeping Italy loyal to her treaty, or at least buying her off likely cost the Central Powers the only chance to win they had after the failure of 1914.

  12. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by zraver View Post
    The Turks at the height of Ottoman power never managed to break through them and get from Eastern Europe into Central Europe. Then again neither did the Mongols, Byzantines, Romans or Hellenes. Go West through the Balkans to reach the West of Central Europe has never been successful. Well, maybe for the Soviets... But even then the losses they took would have bankrupted everyone else that tried.
    As noted elsewhere, the geography and terrain of western Europe (prior to the industrial revolution at least) wasn't particularity favorable to large 'horse' armies. That said in regards to the powers mentioned above.

    The latest archaeological evidence indicates the Romans had settlements well east of the Rhine and were in the early stages of consolidating their hold/influence there much as they had across the rest of the Med when Arminius lead the German tribes in a revolt which started with the battle of Teutoburg Forest. Whatever Roman settlements there were east of the Rhine were quickly overrun/destroyed in the months following that defeat. The Romans never-the-less recovered and launched a very successful counterattack a few years later which destroyed the German tribal armies, killed Arminius and pushed/chased the survivors all the way back into central Germany. After that the Romans withdrew back to the Rhine/Danube not because they couldn't have stayed but because the economics of staying simply didn't warrant it. They had trashed the local German tribes and no Roman settlements remained (all would have to have been rebuilt). So the logistics of supplying a large force in Central Germany just didn't justify the cost. The Rhine/Danube rivers were both natural highways for the Romans and (relatively) defensible borders, it therefore made good sense for them to withdraw even though they had effectively won control of most of Western Germany and could have stayed.

    In contrast to the Romans the Mongols and Turks were operating far from 'home' without the benefit a secure supply lines and local bases of operation. Had they had access to such the story might have been different even allowing for the difficulties the terrain may have given large horse based armies. The Byzantines on the other hand did have the military organization and logistical capacity to drive into Central Europe and for a time at least partially subdued/annexed a large chunk of the the Balkans, again using the Danube as a natural border. However for almost the entire existence of the Empire the weight of Byzantine military might was (and had to be) focused on their Eastern frontiers as they alternately expanded into or fought off successive invasions from that direction, which was also where the most valuable trade routes were located. So economics comes into play again, the East was simply more valuable than the north. I would also hazard a guess it was the same for the Hellenes. Macedon's attention was always focused southwards and eastwards simply because that was where the trade, money and large population centers were. In any event none of the other Hellenic states ever grew large or powerful enough to consider a major campaign in that direction except perhaps the Seleucids - and they would have had to go through Rome to get there!

    I think a large part of the explanation is that up-until at least the start of the high Middle Ages there simply wasn't enough of value in Central Europe to make wholesale invasion and conquest by an outside power worth the effort.
    Last edited by Monash; 27 Jul 14, at 09:21.

  13. #43
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    The article's authors couldn't find one battle from the wars of the ancient Mediterranean?

    I think zraver's choice of Alesia is a good one. Did you consider any of the Punic War battles (e.g. Metaurus?), or any of the ones between the Romans and the Macedonian successor-states?

    I definitely agree with the article's selection of the Battle of Leipzig, but I disagree with Waterloo. It was the 1813 campaign in Central Europe that really put paid to the notion of French hegemony. In a list of ten, I don't see how you can include two battles from that cycle of wars, so the one take-away from the Napoleonic era would have to be Leipzig.


    There is no way that one of the big turning-point battles on the Eastern Front of the Second World War can be omitted from such a list. That's the biggest front of the biggest theatre of the biggest war in history, featuring battles which could have been plausibly won by either side, with staggering impact on later world history. Either Moscow or Stalingrad would qualify under those criteria.

    My alternative choice in WWII would be the Battle of France. If the Germans don't win in 1940, the effect on world history would have been transformative. The German victory in the Battle of France was what defined the entire strategic nature of WWII, and which finally doomed the empires of Britain and France. I have no idea of what world history would look like today if the Allied armies had held the field.

    Which brings me to the interesting lack of any battles on these lists from the Great War. No one mentions the First Battle of the Marne? What if Jellicoe does stay between Scheer and his base at the Battle of Jutland? Or what if Francois and Hoffman don't keep cool heads at Tannenberg? These are all major battles that could have plausibly gone either way, with lasting world-historical impact.

    Another surprise is no battles from the Seven Years War, which gave the Anglos dominance in both the Western Hemisphere and in South Asia.


    As for Hiroshima, it might be among the most one-sided battles of all time. It might be among the most novel battles of all time. But it cannot be counted among the most decisive battles of all time, because the outcome of the war had already been decided before it happened.

    If Japan shot down Enola Gay before it reached its target, or if "Little Boy" had been a fizzle, the Japanese would still have lost the war. There still would have been a falling-out among the victorious powers in Europe. There still would have been a civil war in China. India still would have still gained independence. And of course everybody still would have been exploring the possibilities of nuclear arms. Whether or not the Americans attacked Hiroshima with an atomic weapon, the overall course of world history would not have been greatly changed.

    The only potentially decisive impact of Hiroshima is problematic, on a civilizational scale, and of a nature which we cannot judge in the present time. I mean this: did the traumatic nature of the world's introduction to nuclear technology fatally inhibit the fullest worldwide development and adoption of that technology?

  14. #44
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    Lots of eurocentric battles here, but I'll nominate the Battle of Huaihai. The ROC never recovered from that one -- which should be a requirement for inclusion on the list (e.g, Pearl Harbor wouldn't qualify) -- and it not only featured Liu Bocheng and Deng Xiaoping, but was critically supported by communist allies reading Chiang Kai-shek orders and moving into Shandong just as he was abandoning the province.

    ADD: CKS was forced to resign as President (all his resignations were temporary), and President Truman gave up on the ROC until the Korean War broke out. Game Over.
    Last edited by DOR; 30 Aug 14, at 15:42.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DOR View Post
    Lots of eurocentric battles here, but I'll nominate the Battle of Huaihai. The ROC never recovered from that one -- which should be a requirement for inclusion on the list (e.g, Pearl Harbor wouldn't qualify) -- and it not only featured Liu Bocheng and Deng Xiaoping, but was critically supported by communist allies reading Chiang Kai-shek orders and moving into Shandong just as he was abandoning the province.

    ADD: CKS was forced to resign as President (all his resignations were temporary), and President Truman gave up on the ROC until the Korean War broke out. Game Over.
    Big battle, but not sure its impact on the global stage merits inclusion. So far as I can tell, it simply removed China as a US ally for about 20 years leading to one stalemate war, then it was a US ally again until the Cold War ended. No real border changes or (lasting) grand re-alignments of balance of power. Pearl Harbor which you brought up brought the US out of isolationism in a big way and doomed the Axis. It also lead to the creation of the US Navy as the big kid on the block. A situation which persist to this day.

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