6
THE GEOGRAPHY OF BATTLES

The last two chapters considered the geography of the causes of war. The scale of this consideration was a geopolitical one, and the decisions evoked were in the realm of grand strategy. This sets the scene for the principal concern of this book, which is tactics and terrain. We must bring our attention down closer to earth and dwell on strategic and tactical choices and on the part that geography plays in these. The best introduction and source of data for generalizations along these lines is a survey of the geography of battles.

Constructing a classification of battles that will allow us to learn about the geographical circumstances that surround them presents a considerable problem. There are many dimensions along which to array the characteristics of violent conflicts. They can be arranged by historic eras; by whether they are fought on land, sea or in the air; whether they are fought in forest, desert, grassland, farmland, on mountains or on plains; according to the numbers and arms involved; or according to the nature of the political conflict involved. Because no one dimension captures the significance of geography to the outcome of battle adequately, various criteria are employed here to capture the evolutionary and timeless aspects of the relationship between fighting and landscape.

There is an obvious first cut to make between battles ancient and modern: The advent of rifled, breech-loading guns marks the start of the modern era around 1850. These guns extended the distance of engagement and, combined with railways, increased the scope of battle beyond the range of vision of one individual, so that generalship became a matter of strategy rather than tactics. Before this men killed each other in war at 100 yards or less, and commanders directed the movements of tight formations within their eyesight. In ancient battles, then, a general's success depended more on tactical ploys, employing the lie of the land that lay before him, rather than

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Terrain and Tactics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Tides in Contributions in Military Studies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures and Tables vii
  • 1 - Military Geography 1
  • References 3
  • 2 - Some Third World Wars 5
  • References 30
  • 3 - The Lie of the Land 31
  • Reference 39
  • 4 - The World at War 41
  • References 68
  • 5 - Geography of Revolution 71
  • References 85
  • 6 - The Geography of Battles 87
  • References 103
  • 7 - Classic Spatial Ploys 105
  • References 111
  • 8 - Terrain and Tactics 113
  • References 123
  • 9 - Guerrillas and Counterinsurgency 125
  • Conclusion 134
  • References 135
  • 10 - War in Cities 137
  • References 148
  • 11 - Northern Ireland 149
  • References 161
  • 12 - Fighting in the Landscape and Fighting for a Place 163
  • References 167
  • Bibliography 169
  • Index 175
  • About the Author 183
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