Strange as it may seem (though maybe not so much, considering America's basic love of all things military), today's generation of kids probably know more about military strategy than many generals of a hundred years ago. Why? In a phrase: "Video games." From World of Warcraft to Halo, Modern War to Fallout 4, gamers these days get quite the education in military strategy well before they're old enough to attend West Point.
Maybe that's kind of a natural thing for a nation that proudly boasts the largest and most powerful military in human history. All things considered, it shouldn't be that weird. And yet somehow, we bet you'll be surprised by exactly how many of these classic military strategies you already know. You might not know the names of the strategies themselves, or the history behind them. But you'll probably find at least half of these strategies oddly familiar.Vote up the most genius military strategies below, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comment section.
Double Envelopment (Pincer Movement)
Most famously used by military genius Hannibal Barca at the Battle of Cannae, the classic "Pincer Maneuver" has gone on to near mythical status in popular culture as a synonym for "inescapable trap." At Cannae, Hannibal (outnumbered 50,000 to 80,000) arranged his line so it was bowed out in the front toward the Romans.
He intentionally made the middle of his line, closest to the enemy, very thin and weak - which is exactly backward of what you'd think. It certainly fooled the Romans. When they attacked Hannibal's line, the weak point in its center gave back, while the strong flanks held firm. Eventually, his line straightened out, and the Romans (sensing victory) pushed hard at the center. Hannibal allowed his line to flex backward into a deep "V" shape. The "pincer."
With the Roman forces now crammed into the bottom of his pincer "V," Hannibal had his flanks quickly turn inward toward the Romans. The Romans had walked right into a trap, and Hannibal's forces took them right in the unprotected flanks. He closed the top of the "V" with his quick-riding cavalry forces, completing the "double envelopment." The 80,000 strong Roman force was now trapped in a "kill box," attacked from all sides. Hannibal's 50,000 brutally cut down every single Roman soldier over the course of about four hours, killing all 80,000 of them while taking barely 6,000 casualties of their own.This use of the double envelopment has since gone down as one of the greatest strategic victories in military history, securing Hannibal's legend and causing the devastated Romans to coin a whole new phrase: "The Battle of Annihilation."
In every way that the double envelopment is a precisely-calculated dance of tactical maneuvers, the Penetration attack is just a sledgehammer through an old TV set. The concept is very straightforward: Drive a very powerful, hardened "spike" of soldiers through the middle of an enemy's line, and punch all the way out through the back of their formation. Once there, attack the enemy from behind. Simple, right? It combines envelopment, division, and flanking into one ridiculous maneuver. And it can work brilliantly if, say, you've got war chariots or elephants to punch straight through a formation, and enough soldiers to keep the gap open. It also works if you're running a blitzkrieg attack, and you can simply go over the enemy's lines and drop paratroopers behind it. The penetration attack is about half as sophisticated as a sledgehammer in principle, but just as devastating when used correctly.
Football fans are familiar with the classic feint: a "fake-out" maneuver that causes the opposition to think you're going one way, while you secretly plan to go another. In military terms, feints can become hugely elaborate campaigns of deception, and typically involve "diversionary forces" to misdirect the enemy. When planning the D-Day invasion at Normandy, Allies pulled off a massive feint by building a fake army of inflatable tanks and jeeps, and parking them at a fake launch point. The real invading force, meanwhile, was hidden under camouflage miles away.Hitler, relying on misinformation fed to him by Allied double agents and radio traffic, believed the inflatable army was real. As the Allies landed at Omaha Beach, Hitler's main forces were miles away and unable to arrive in time to resist the landings. This brilliant campaign of deception made D-Day probably the largest and most successful feint maneuver in military history.
Guerrilla Warfare ("Unconventional Warfare")
Unconventional warfare can take many, many forms - essentially, it's anything but uniformed soldiers showing up in formation with guns and tanks. When most people thing of guerrilla warfare, we tend to imagine SEAL Teams, British Commandos, and the Vietcong. Those are all fine examples, and all of them (especially the VC) are known masters of infiltration, disruption, subversion, booby trapping, demolition, and generally sneaking about in the dark with bad intentions.But, depending on who you ask, and how it's used in context to larger strategic goals, unconventional warfare can have a far darker side. Namely, terrorism. Not lone wolf types, but coordinated strikes against civilian populations in an enemy nation. Take your pick from 9/11, to 7/7, to 2015's ISIS attacks in Paris - all are examples of "unconventional warfare." Coordinated attacked waged by smaller forces against larger ones, with clear strategic goals in mind. We don't have to respect such bastrdly deeds... but there's no denying that this strategy has as long a history in warfare as any other.