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Posted on Feb 4, 2005 in Armchair Reading, Front Page Features, TIAOW

The Incorrect Art of War [Episode 03] – Never March on Moscow

By A J Summersgill and Jim H Moreno

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Starring:

Doctor Sinister

Doctor Sinister. An evil Supervillain with an insane lust for power. From his secret island base, the Doctor plans to become future Emperor and Warlord of the planet Earth. Enjoys the company of cats and cloned genetically modified Dinosaurs.

And featuring:


General Menace. Graduated from West Point Military Academy with honours, served for twenty-five years in the US Army, reaching level of 2-star General in command of training facilities before being recruited by Doctor Sinister to command his New Model Army of World Domination. Has a penchant for cigars.

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EPISODE 3 – “Never March on Moscow”

Unseen jet fighters scream overhead as General Menace, sporting expensive sunglasses and a newly polished chrome battle helmet springs up the steps of the Sinister Imperial Command Complex, deftly saluting the armed guards and pausing only briefly as the distant explosion of a crashing fighter plane rattles across the mountain.

Five minutes later, in Doctor Sinister’s office…

Doctor Sinister: Ah, good to see you General.

General: Reporting as ordered, Sir.

Take a seat.

(Glances at the egg-shaped chair…)

Yes, you can sit down over there, don’t worry about the blood stains, they’re dry.

Thank you Sir. Bit of an accident outside, we seem to have lost another Fighter. I knew it was a mistake to attempt to train robot monkeys to fly multi-million-dollar jets.

Nonsense, how else will they learn? But never mind that right now, I’ve been taking a look at the World Map and wondering what we can do with this Army thing we’ve managed to build up. Any thoughts?

I’m glad you asked, Sir. I’ve just completed the TO&E according to SOP…

Because, you see, I think we need to consider adopting an aggressive strategy of conquest if we’re to fulfill my dreams of total world domination.

My Lord, I was under the impression this was going to be a defensive Army, to defend your base whilst we build Doomsday Devices…?

Yes yes yes, of course, all of that, but I had a dream last night.

A dream, Sir?

Yes, and a vivid one it was. I was riding through the streets of New York in a Jeep and people were cheering me and I was adored by everyone. It was a victory celebration, General, and those come only after we have been victorious in combat against an enemy country, correct?

You are correct Master…

So I’ve decided to conquer something. I need your thoughts about what, where, and whom we can conquer.

Ah…

Any ideas?

Well Sir, since our soldiers have yet to be field tested, I’d recommend starting with a small operation. Maybe an island , or some innocuous third-world country-

Like Russia?

Russia? Don’t know, Sir, I’ve never been there, can’t say if I like it or not.

No, General, I meant as a country we should conquer. The Russians haven’t a clue, have they? We could do that one in a week.

A week Sir?

Oh yes, I should think so.

But, Benevolent One, it would take a week just to write up the battle plans!

And then China!

Sir, if you would please hear me out.

Could I offer you a cigar, General?

Ahh, yes sir!

Correct, I could, but you’ll have to wait until I get some in. You were saying?

(Sigh) Sir, throughout history, Russia’s been a tough nut to crack. Both the French and the Germans have tried, and both have failed, with disastrous results.

Really?

Oh yes. If I may recount the military history accounts of Field Marshall Montgomery…

Who’s he?

He was a British Officer during the Second World War. Montgomery once said that Rule One on Page One of the Book of War is – "Never March on Moscow".

Hmm, that is good advice. Very well, we’ll have our Army run into Russia behind my Jeep.

It’s a figurative phrase, Sir.

Well then General, what’s so tough about Moscow?

For starters, it’s a long way from the Russian border, there’s the Russian Winter to take account of…

Pah! I once spent a week with my Uncle Rodney in Aberdeen during a snowstorm – they don’t get much colder than that.

With respect, my Liege, I think they do, actually.

Well, perhaps we can work out where everyone else went wrong?

Affirmative, Sir, that’s why you hired me, after all.

So tell me about the French.

Gladly, Sir. The French military invaded Russia under the command of Napoleon…

Short man with an attitude, yes, carry on…

(Nods) And they headed for Moscow, but when they got there, the Russians had burned down the entire city.

Why?

So the French couldn’t have it, Sir.

Well, that was a bloody silly thing to do. Talk about cutting your nose off to spite your face…

Well, yes and no, my Lord. You see, it meant that the French Army was unable to find shelter and got caught in the Russian winter. They were forced into a humiliating retreat. Most of them died on the way back to France. All their horses froze to death, and the soldiers had to walk on frostbitten feet.

Why didn’t they drive? I happen to know that France has a very good automobile industry – why didn’t they take their cars?

This happened in 1812, Sir, before such vehicles had been invented.

Was it? Well that was silly of them then wasn’t it? They should have waited.

(Shakes head) I suppose so…

So, tell me about the Germans. You said they invaded Russia as well?

Roger that, Sir. In the summer of 1941, Hitler-

Short man with a moustache – carry on.

Yes, Hitler ordered an invasion of Russia, and the Germans attacked on a broad front. They split their armies into three massive groups, with the ultimate objective of reaching and encircling Moscow and establishing a forward line deep in Soviet territory.

And did they have cars?

Tanks, Sir.

You’re welcome, General.

No, Sir, I mean, they had tanks, not cars.

Excellent – that’s more like it. So what happened?

Right. They got pretty far, but their supply lines became overstretched and a large army got bogged down in a place called Stalingrad, where it was surrounded and obliterated.

Oh dear.

Then, the Russian winter came again, and the German army could barely hold the line. They also had to retreat, without making it to Moscow.

Well that’s not very good – I thought the Germans had a tough and efficient army?

Yes Sir, they were, but they were overwhelmed by sheer force of numbers and they were ill-equipped for winter combat ops.

So let me get this straight. Napoleon tries to take Moscow by sending an army straight to it, and gets defeated. Hitler attacks across a broad front and is also defeated. How on Earth are we supposed to invade and win?

Right now, Sir, we can’t. It’s a practical impossibility. As I was trying to explain, we only have twenty thousand troops in our very green Army.

Isn’t that enough?

Negative, Sire, not nearly enough. We need hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of highly-trained and superbly-equipped soldiers.

Can we sub-contract?

I’m afraid not, Sir.

So Russia’s off?

It was never really "on" Sir.

I see. Is there anything we can invade?

Given the condition of our forces, and after all this talk of winter warfare, Bermuda looks promising right now, Sir. I hear they have some excellent cigars down there.

Excellent! Then Bermuda it is!! Get to it General, and rustle up a Jeep for my victory parade. Ooh, this means I get to wear those lovely shorts you bought me, right, General?

Yes, my Lord, as you wish.

Kremlin

A J Summersgill and Jim H. Moreno

andrew@armchairgeneral.com

jim@armchairgeneral.com

If you want to talk more sensibly about military history from any era, don’t forget to visit the ACG Forums.

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1 Comment

  1. So in other words, it is more efficient for a country’s military to fight a defensive war. In the case of the Russians they were fighting for their homeland, they were fighting with shorter supply lines, they were fighting on their home turf, and the invading armies had exhausted themselves by the time they had made any headway.

    But what about the overwhelmingly successful campaigns in the two Gulf Wars? Even though the US military was leading a coalition and a generous host country (Saudia Arabia), America’s supply lines were much longer, and more difficult than what French and Germans had to contend with.

    Is the lesson then about extensive pre-war planning and preparation before even contemplating committing a country to war.

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