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Sixty-five years ago a comparably under-trained and poorly supplied army of peasant Russians defeated the Nazi war machine, the most formidable and professional army in history.
For two and a half centuries this isolated, agrarian state continually lagged one step behind the West in terms of technological capability.However, despite an egregious lack of comparable armaments, the Russian army surprised the world and prevailed in several conflicts against modernized Western states.Serious questions arose concerning contemporary military thought and doctrine.Repeatedly, Russia had somehow found itself winning engagements against superior firepower, often without the advantages of modern weaponry.Yet flash forward to today and the United States, the most technologically advanced military in the world today, is still struggling with irregular, fragmented insurgents in Iraq after seven years. How significant of a role does technological superiority assume in the determination of victory?Before the 1700’s, wars were fought in the classical sense: seemingly infinite battalions marched in parallel columns in the fog of cannon shots, musket balls, and gunpowder smoke.
In this sense, battles were truly fought as chess games, such that commanders would spend hours mobilizing, organizing, and detaching men, cavalry, and artillery into massive segments to be slowly but surely dealt out on the battlefield.By a consequence of this nature of warfare, strong leadership was absolutely critical. Massie, the popular American historian and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, in his book on Tzar Peter of Russia, hundreds of thousands of men needed to be coordinated and precisely timed with the rest of the army to deliver a decisive attack .Though the study of Russia provides an interesting case in military history, it is no anomaly.War is a chaotic system, infinitely complex in its variables and conditions, but analysis of recent and historical conflicts suggest that some factors play larger roles than others in the decisiveness of war.The advancement of weapons changes how wars are fought, but leadership, training, moral, and most importantly, political strategy dictate how wars are won.First, a empirical perspective of wars must be considered.