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ED: We deserve better military strategy from popular culture

Wed May 01, 2019 11:30 am

You can file this under ‘Random Editor of a war games website feels like ranting because there’s nothing better to do’ but I feel like we need to have a... ... -strategy/

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Wed May 01, 2019 5:39 pm

Hear Hear!

Although I suspect that much of what happened in GOT was plot driven rather than scene based. While I would have liked to see the Dothraki held in reserve or attack the flank (did the dead army even have flanks?), I think it was a mechanism to get rid of them for later episodes or simply used for shock effect.

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Re: <t>ED: We deserve better military strategy from popular culture</t>

Wed May 01, 2019 9:18 pm

I think I might be a little contrary on this one. I don't follow the show, but all the social media on this issue did garner enough interest for me to investigate. My own analysis indicates that while not perfect, the conduct of the human army likely doesn't deserve the hammering its been taking from all the Monday Morning Quarterbacks (my own illustrious Pro-Praetor - AVE! - excepted, of course) out there. I see two fundamental flaws in the criticism.

a. The first is the assumption that the human army is a relatively modern, formally drilled and organized force led by veteran, trained military commanders experienced in managing large numbers of troops. It also assumes the battlefield environment is pristine and the foe a familiar normalized enemy similar to Jon, Dany, the lads and lasses.

Its not. To start its at night and the enemy is not normal. They are something that can't be killed except by fire (two dragons, where is Toothless when you need him), obsidian or Valerian steel, and I don't recall an Amazon truck pulling up with a Prime two delivery to reequip the entire human horde. Further, if this series has even a modicum of similarity to real Medieval warfare, then everything else mentioned above should never surpass Neanderthal 101. Seriously, these are amateurs fighting - Hannibal obviously missed the casting call. Yet, IMHO the defense of Winterfell arguably shows more military sophistication than a lot of battles in the real Middle Ages where knights running down friendly crossbowman to clear a path of advance to the enemy was a tactic du jour.

When you consider all that, human decision making ain't that bad. Take the Dothraki cavalry charge, perhaps the most criticized component of the defense. The Dothraki, as I understand it, may ride smaller horses and lack armor, but in reality these guys are shock cavalry. They don't recon. They don't do scouting. They don't harass. They don't ambush. They put spurs to horse and execute an uncontrolled charge where speed, impact and intimidation tramples the enemy. For this they need distance to build up to warp and open terrain to maneuver. Given the turf on which the battle was fought, under the moonlight and the lack of knowledge about the snowmen, this initial fire and forget charge was really about as good as you were going to do with these guys. Its a one and done weapon, and at the beginning likely the proper time to kick them loose. You certainly don't want them held back with the infantry where masses of friendly troops and more constricted terrain would negate what advantages they had.

b. The second is a misunderstanding of the human strategy (and for the record, the battle for Winterfell is a TACTICAL issue, not strategy). The human strategy is NOT to win the war by decisively defeating the undead army. Its is to win the war by killing the undead army's commander. To do this they have to both inflict enough casualties to be credible and yet ultimately, but grudgingly throw the battle to sucker the HMFIC into exposing himself to assassination. In other words, to win the war, they have to begin to lose this battle. This is one reason why a set battle is necessary vice hunkering down for a siege.

Of course, ultimately this is fiction and I have no idea whether the producers even considered military realism when they made this episode. But given the actors, the environment, the forces involved and the quasi-Medieval foundation, I think what happened was believable, though not perfect.
Far more egregious are movies that inaccurately portray actual historical events for which we know exactly what happened or could happen.

Anyway, here's a link to a good US Army War College related article on the battle, and note the part on getting down and dirty in a siege . . . ... ctics.html .

Ciao, Colonel Bill


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