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Thread: Explorations in Strategy - Italy at War

  1. #3141
    Colonel WhisperingDeath's Avatar
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    Bravo!

    Looking forward to further explorations!
    Be a craftsman in speech, thou mayest be strong, the tongue is a sword to a man, and speech is more valorous than any fighting.... Instruction for King Merikare of ancient Egypt

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  2. #3142
    Lt. General Jemisi's Avatar
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    Wow. Since the crashes I've been reading with a dread of how things would be resolved. Really good job of bringing everything together.

  3. #3143
    Strategy Cognoscenti Demi Moderator Myth's Avatar
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    TonyJoe: Thanks!

    Cpt Crash: Cheers!

    timkoningskelp: Thanks for being one of my audience!

    Thomas Kenobi: Thanks!

    mankle30: Thanks, and I'm flattered by your AAR response.

    thatguy: You recall incorrectly. All I said was that it crashed in '45. Those were literally the last two screenshots I took.

    Ahriman: Indeed, there'll be at least one wrap-up post on strategy, plus a couple bibliographical updates for suggested reading if you're interested in strategy etc.

    BlitzMartinDK: Hah. Nah, no redo's.

    Led Zepp: And it was cut short by the crash. Ah well, that's the nature of the beast.

    Stuyvesant: It was pure luck.

    TekcoR: Thank you, on both accounts!

    badger_ken: Cheers!

    Enewald: Ehh, the Roman Empire? Well, that fell for the last time in 476 AD.

    loki100: Cheers, loki! Poland was indeed very opportunistic.

    Maj. von Mauser: At first I thought how I could wrap it up nicely concerning Mussolini, how do I explain a crash etc. But then I figured, I'd just let each of the audience figure that out for themselves.

    Blackoberst: Better light than it deserves? Personally I think it's a solid game overall. Worst part is obviously the AI. I'm not too bothered by ahistoricity because I play the game for strategy, not for history. History gets boring after a while.

    DanSez: Some ideas for an SF AAR, but nothing solid atm.

    pkawol: Hehe, I have admittedly been thinking about a Japan AAR. We'll see what happens.

    slugo: Thanks!

    Gladiator: Indeed, my Soviet crusade was possible mostly because the British were utterly incompetent. Ah well. My Soviet crusade was also only possible because the Germans were utterly incompetent.

    Cpt Crash: I could do, but I'd have to go from the beginning of January, 1945. Obviously I don't have a save for after the crash.

    Khanwulf: Hehe nice theory. Personally I find conquering the world boring and have never done it. Once I get to a point where I know I can just crush everything in my way, the game becomes boring and just a grind. As for Bhutan, ehh...to succeed (however success is defined) at that level, I'd need to know the game mechanics in and out and I don't.

    li2co3: Hehe, interesting ideas there about the postwar world.

    NERFGEN: Thanks!

    rasmus40: Hehe. Well, we all fight the wars we get, not the ones we want.

    anweRU: Cheers!

    GrenadierSchube: Yeah, but ah well. It was still a good place for the game to end.

    JOR2010: Thanks!

    FrodoB: Thanks!

    Juan_de_Marco: Cheers!

    Surt: Hehe. A break first, of course.

    Brad1: I have no idea what ICE or HPP mean.

    timkoningskelp: Hehe. A new AAR would definitely be in SF, but I've not bought that yet. That seems to be a second vote for ICE, whatever that is.

    WhisperingDeath: Thanks!

    Jemisi: Cheers!

    Haha so many people to reply to that I had too many images. Just pretend I have a after every thanks or cheers, as that's what it originally was.
    Read about my full body of AAR works here!

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  4. #3144
    General Forster's Avatar
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    Really sucks to have to end this way. I enjoyed it. Will follow you next extravaganza whenever you start that.

  5. #3145
    Lt. General Jemisi's Avatar
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    Cheers, good on you mate!

  6. #3146
    Black Hound of Han Enewald's Avatar
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    Roman Empire vanished 30th May 1453...
    But then they got an Muslim ruler a few days after, but they still thought of themselves as Rum.

  7. #3147
    Second Lieutenant Palmyrene's Avatar
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    Cool

    So farewell to such a magnificent AAR. I have really enjoyed it. It has been both entertaining and informative (in terms of gameplay and strategy). Many thanks Myth!

    I really look forward to seeing what you will do next... . A little Pacific exploration, perhaps?

  8. #3148
    Veni, Vidi, Vici Elshar's Avatar
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    Great AAR! I really enjoyed both the writing and presentation of the reports. Too bad about the save game corruption, though. Would've been interesting to see the final offensive against Russia and to see if the US would ever actually intervene (I know the AI is mostly broken for that to happen - but it'd be interesting if it did.)

  9. #3149
    Just wondering why Paradox doesn't give you a free copy of Semper Fi, if you haven't bought the expansion yet. You have over 450.000 views with this AAR, so it seems to me a new AAR from your hand (featuring SF ofcourse) would be a great way for them to advertise the game. If thousands upon thousands of people follow, read and comment upon your postings, this seems to me enough justification for Paradox to sponsor your endevours. Especially if you're a demi-moderator too!

    I think AAR's from your hand are a real gem in the hands of Paradox and I would consider them quite silly if they didn't support a new one by offering some support. Honestly the main reason for me to keep checking this forum is the hope of finding a new posting by you in "Explorations in Strategy". Ofcourse a couple of other AAR's are very interesting too and ofcourse I'll keep following these, but after logging in your's is always the first I check for new updates.

    I really hope Paradox can do something to motivate you to write another AAR, being it a free copy of SF, or just a PM complimenting you on your achievements. You ending this AAR without starting another one would be a real pity!

  10. #3150
    Field Marshal reis91's Avatar
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    Too bad to see it ended, great AAR indeed. I would only add an allied invasion of Spain (a la Arthur Wellesley), doesn't feel right for the allies to sit home comfortably while soviets and fascists die by the thousands every day. But that's me being overly sadistic, especially on your hardware.

    Trying Japan ought to be fun, they also start out with moderate power and have potential to dominate, like Italy. But no NAP's with the Bear, want to see adjusting a struggle with the Bear on lovely Siberian infra. And don't invade USA early on while they're building industry. Or you could try to stop a highly beefed up Germany (and punish them for their utter incompetence in this AAR) as the UK or France. I'd say Poland, but that takes some mighty gamey stuff to pull out, and doesn't include naval combat.
    An UK who stops Poland from falling would make a good AAR, though.
    Come and hunt your fellow Paradoxians in the Werewolf Forum

    What this means is that no one technically voted on the first day and we have all been auto-lynched. Since none of us were following ghost rules from that point forward, we are all banned from werewolf for life. - Cymsdale

  11. #3151
    Field Marshal Tommy4ever's Avatar
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    I've finally got round to beginning to read this mamoth (something I've been meaning to start for months). I'm a few pages in and I'm enjoying it so far. Just 155 pages to go!

    Wish me luck!

  12. #3152
    Strategy Cognoscenti Demi Moderator Myth's Avatar
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    Forster: I'm not entirely sure when that will be either. Maybe in the new year.

    Jemisi:

    Enewald: Nonsense. Enough of your historical revisionism!

    Palmyrene: Thanks! I'm entirely unsure what's next.

    Elshar: Well, the Soviet Union would eventually have fallen, and the USA would have stood by and watched as if dumb.

    timkoningskelp: Hehe. I'll probably have to by SF myself at some point before my next AAR.

    reis91: Interesting ideas.

    Tommy4ever: Reading through from the beginning must be like reading a book, that's probably about how long it is.

    Sorry for the lack of the analysis update, but I've been a bit busy this past week/end and now it's Thanksgiving! I'll try to have it this coming weekend, and then after that a few bibliographical updates and then we'll really be done.
    Read about my full body of AAR works here!

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  13. #3153
    Lt. General Jemisi's Avatar
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    Cool. I was hoping for a little more.

  14. #3154
    Brilliant. Just went through an archive binge of the whole lot. Very nicely ended as well considering the circumstances.

  15. #3155
    First Lieutenant Caezaire's Avatar
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    A lurker until too late. Nice job on a great AAR and you are a bad person if you don't do another for us

  16. #3156
    Strategy Cognoscenti Demi Moderator Myth's Avatar
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    Jemisi: It's coming.

    Cymreag: Glad you enjoyed it!

    Caezaire: Haha.

    Update coming up!
    Read about my full body of AAR works here!

    Fan of the Week 13/08/09

  17. #3157
    Strategy Cognoscenti Demi Moderator Myth's Avatar
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    Reflections and Suggested Reading
    Part 1: Strategic Assessment

    Strategy has had many definitions over the decades. Baron Antoine de Jomini defined it as the art of waging war on a map, Carl von Clausewitz as the use of engagements for the purpose of policy. Basil Liddell Hart asserted that it was the distribution and employment of military force for the aims of policy. Andre Beaufre wrote that it was the art of the dialectic of force; J.C. Wylie deemed it primarily a product, an action or plan created to achieve some goal, together with the measures deemed necessary to accomplish this end. In more recent writing, Williamson Murray and Mark Grimsley defined it as a process. Colin Gray has argued, in a Clausewitzian vein, that strategy is the use or threat of force for the purposes of policy. He also identified it as a bridge to constructively link military and political understandings of situations, as well as the military and the politicians as actors themselves. Everett Dolman argued that in its simplest form, strategy was a plan for attaining continuing advantage. It is by these basic standards and conceptions that Italian strategy from 1936 to 1945 should be judged.

    It cannot be denied that the Italians became quite adept at the art of waging war on a map. After the near debacle of Abyssinia, when a section of generals were left to their own devices and so revealed their inherent operational conservatism, Mussolini determined to oversee all operational matters in the understanding that operations were the bread and butter of strategy. That is, operations were sequenced tactical actions geared at solving an immediate problem, and linked operations solved theater problems, which thus assuaged the demands of strategy. Although operations broke down to some extent in Spain, this was due primarily to factors outside Mussolini’s control. Spain’s declaration of war on Italy, while it did not catch the Italians off guard strategically, did so tactically and the Italians had no chance to cancel their military access through Spain. Thus, despite operational requirements, somehow the diplomatic obligations to a country with which Italy was at war were more important and limited the Italians to minor advances at a time. Despite the lack of sweeping operations that characterized operations in southeastern and eastern Europe, the Spanish were not up to the task of defending their country from the Italians, resulting in their defeat.

    Italian strategy was not reliant upon engagements as such. In its strictest sense, in fact, Clausewitz’s definition of strategy was out of date. Wars were no longer punctuated by engagements but were comprised of operations. Solitary major battles were rare, although it is perhaps acceptable to redefine engagements simply as direct contact with the enemy. In such a case, the conclusion cannot be avoided that engagement was a significant part of Italian strategy. All three Italian offensives in Illyria—against the Yugoslavs first, and the two operations against the Soviets that came later—required a significant engagement phase to break the enemy’s frontlines, although particularly in the latter two cases this was done only after significant distractions were made, to divert Soviet attention. Such engagement was also necessary in all 1945 operations to push back and break apart the Soviet fronts around Italian controlled Ukraine. Mussolini not only used engagements to good effect, but the actual conduct of these engagements was skilful.

    Liddell Hart’s definition, however, is of great significance in encompassing the totality of Italian strategy. By marking an explicit difference between the distribution of military force and its actual use in engagements, he identifies an important issue that Clausewitz only acknowledges in a scattered manner. The distribution of military force, and forces, is of paramount importance to their use. This is essential to understanding the difference between concentrating in space and in time. In the former, forces are concentrated at a particular spot rather than distributed in a pattern such that they can, as necessary, concentrate on attacking a particular spot from multiple angles. This distinction Italians displayed with considerable flair in breaking the Greek defenses during its conquest, as well as in both Illyrian offensives against the Soviets, particularly the second. Although Liddell Hart asserts that his is merely a definition of military strategy, it is applicable to grand strategy as well. After all, when one is dealing with various distinct theaters of operations, how one distributes one’s limited military forces between them can make a difference between success and failure. As such, limited forces were deployed to garrison Spain and hold the line in Africa—by 1945, but a single corps in the first case and two, including the marine corps, in the latter theater.

    Beaufre defined strategy in a way to force a strategist to recall that his foe is not an inanimate entity to be overcome mechanically, such as the terrain, but rather an intelligent enemy which not only reacts to one’s own strategy and goals, but indeed has its own that one might have to react to in turn. With a bit of imagination, his definition could even be extended to incompetent and wayward allies. By these standards, Italian strategy had more to fear from its German allies than any of its enemies. Mussolini found it relatively easy to impose Italian control over the operational pattern of the war against any and all of its enemies, the inevitable culminating point of victory notwithstanding. However, he had much more difficulty in getting his allies to conform to his strategy. It was at this point that the Italians faced the most difficulty, one of the great ironies that war usually highlights. Nevertheless, at those times when the enemy had relative control over the operational pattern, the Italians took the proper measures to dilute the quality of this control, to the point of eventually retaking it. This was most apparent in the defensive campaigns against Spain in the early stages, as well as against superior Soviet pressure in southeastern Europe.

    Wylie’s definition may be a bit problematic in the context of a continent-wide war, particularly as a mid-sized country facing a much greater one. While the possibility of a single coherent plan was easily possible against weaker foes, and Italy had no issues with plans when it came to crushing any state within southeast Europe, it was much more difficult against the Soviet Union. The best that the Italians could manage was theater-wide plans, which admittedly was still difficult to achieve in wartime. Yet the Italians had a coherent plan for the Balkans, developed over the course of two years, which they finally successfully implemented in the third year. The actual invasion of the Soviet Union followed a particular plan as well, but broke down right upon the verge of success. The final operation, saving the Germans from a Soviet steamroller, was also framed by a plan of sorts, and was successful. Yet there was never any overarching plan to deal with the Soviet Union as a whole, nor with the British Empire. Italian planning could quite possibly have been at a loss if the United States had deigned enter the war against the Axis.

    As a counterpoint to Wylie’s definition, there is Murray’s and Grimsley’s: that of strategy as a process. The above analysis perhaps hewed to a too straight-jacketed concept of a plan, while in reality strategy must constantly account for new factors, new actions and possibly even new actors. Thus, it cannot be denied that Italian strategy-making was very much a process in which such inputs were analyzed as soon as, or soon after, their introduction and frequently the proper, or at least a good enough, response was crafted and deployed. This was particularly the case in the war in the east, against the Soviet Union. Mussolini and the Italian General Staff required two years to create a plan sufficiently bold, dispersed and forceful to throw the Soviet forces in the Balkans in chaos, trap them and destroy them while simultaneously conserving the new frontline in Dacia and Anatolia. As was already noted, the greater the foe is, the greater the process aspect of strategy is in relation to its product, plan aspect.

    Gray’s dual definition attributes two purposes to strategy. The first is to serve policy through force, a fairly consistent theme in definitions of strategy. This definition is of use because, although relatively more abstract than a number of other strategies, it combines the strengths of Clausewitz’s definition with the strengths of Liddell Hart’s. By emphasizing both the use of force, and the threat of its use, the gap is spanned between the two aforementioned definitions. Italian strategy most certainly successfully harnessed the use of force for the aims of policy. Less appreciated perhaps is the argument that it also similarly successfully harnessed the threat of force. The most significant case of the successful use of mere threats would be the blockade of Tel Aviv. Here, the British fleet was caught in port and dared not sally out in an attempt to escape. Partially, this was because, with both the Straits of Gibraltar and the Suez Canal closed, it would be difficult—although probably not impossible—for them to escape the Mediterranean. However, the British fleet did not fear sallying out on a temporary basis to engage in battle and disruptive patrols when the Italian blockading force was merely a squadron of heavy cruisers or a watchful array of submarines. It took the entire surface force of the Regia Marina, minus the three carrier groups and their escorts, to successfully hem the British in. Thus it can be said that it was the threat of this blockading force which was the decisive factor in holding the British fleet at bay and in port. As for Gray’s bridge definition of strategy, it had little applicability during this part of Mussolini’s reign. With his intense interest in strategic affairs, his total dominance over Italian strategy and significant input into Italian operations, there was no need for a bridge as such to connect the military and political understandings of the situation as there was already a unified strategic understanding.

    Dolman’s definition of strategy is an interesting one. He wrote about what he called “pure” strategy; that was indeed the title of his book. Although he was primarily investigating the operational level of war by his own admission, his definition of strategy matches very well the demands and tasks not of operational tactics (which he erroneously calls operational strategy) but grand strategy. In terms of grand strategy, thus, Italy cannot be judged other than fairly successful. Although Mussolini was not present to witness it, Ciano’s peace left Italy in exactly the position Dolman would have approved of, with two client states—Abyssinia and Spain—an empire in southeastern Europe and Anatolia and Italian-leaning states in Germany, Poland and Portugal. Italy had become the political center of Europe, but without directly dominating it and thus incurring resentment. Although the quest for continuing advantage naturally never ends, Mussolini, together with Ciano, settled Italy into a position from which it was greatly advantaged.

    By any of the above definitions of strategy, Italian strategic performance was excellent. It was not perfect, for strategy never is, never can be and indeed never should be. A perfect strategy is not a strategy at all, for perfection, while in and of itself an entirely hollow concept, becomes even more worthless in the context of strategy as it implies that the enemy was powerless. That is, that it was as good as inanimate, thus violating Beaufre’s important insight and a basic truth of war. In addition, Italian strategic performance cannot but be measured in terms of its enemies, and Italy’s foes were of varying strength, but rarely of varying competence. They were primarily less rather than more competent, although competence, or lack thereof, is always enhanced or exacerbated by geography and the amount of military forces available. Thus, Italian strategy was good enough to overcome the challenges that faced it and which it directly strived to solve. This is all that can be asked of any strategy, and any strategist.
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  18. #3158
    Field Marshal Stuyvesant's Avatar
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    Since this is your area of expertise and not mine, I won't try to add anything substantive. Apart from being (a rather densely written - the amount of names and definitions thrown around is a bit intimidating to me - though it could be that Thanksgiving-related excess means my brain's a bit sluggish ) discussion of Italian strategy, it is also a good recap that threads together the main Italian operations without turning into a blow-by-blow retelling.

    One question: how did the operations in Africa (beyond closing the Suez Canal) fit into Mussolini's Grand Strategy? Anything beyond 'Keep Suez safe'?

  19. #3159
    Myth, you should compile this AAR and submit as a kind of paper to your university--or something of that sort.

    --Khanwulf

  20. #3160
    Field Marshal reis91's Avatar
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    Grand strategy for dummies
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