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Old 17th January 2009, 02:11 AM   #1
Atlantia
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Default Non European forces proving themselves Vs European military might

Good evening gentlemen, I've been thinking about posting a thread on this
subject for a while.

As a proud European, I of coouurrrse think that our armies have always been the best
But I awlays have a sneaking admiration for those moments in history when the 'little guys' have given 'us' Europeans and our Imperialist expansionism a bloody nose!

Now obviously there are some rather famous examples where 'modern' European/western armies underestimated their oponents and came to a sticky end, but these are often more historical 'blips' than anything else.

What really interests me is where European armies have faced non-european opponents with different martial traditions and 'technology' and found it to be an equal.

I often wonder when looking at some of the marvelous ethnographic weapons on this site how they would fare in combat against European steel and tactics?

I can think of a few good examples of this, mostly from when the British Empire reached India and Afghanistan, but I wondered if anyone (as I'm sure those reading this are collectors of both Euro and Ethnographic weapons) have any great examples of their favourite ethnographic weapons proving themselves against European armies?
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Old 17th January 2009, 07:15 AM   #2
Gonzalo G
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Interesting assumption, Atlantia....but in fact, europeans did not were a world power since roman times, and only under the romans and Alexander the Great had that edge. They were always stamped out by oriental-middle eastern powers, except when the the "little crusaders" won Jerusalen for a relative short period, in which the islam power learnt to not underestimate the "franks" and united in a common front. Even using the same type of weapons. But the romans never controled all Europe, as the Rhine was always an usurpassable frontier. And Hannibal teached them more than a few lessons in african strategy. Also, the empire of Alexander was not european, in the sense that Alexander had no dominion over Europe, or represented Europe, but only Greece, and itīs empire had more oriental characteristics.

Historically, Europe was a small populated area, dominated by barbarians since the fall of the roman empire and hence in a cultural regression in relation with the classic culture, in front of the vast armies of the chinese, mongols, hindus, arabs or japanese, some of them form antique and a very sophisticaded cultures. The tuks, instead, dominated part of Europe in their big empire until realatively recent times, and that is why they are still heated and misunderstood in the european history and in the common "knowledge", and so are the huns and mongols, to this day. The are the "hordes", the "barbarians", when in fact they had very disciplined armies, and were evidently more capable than europeans on the battlefield. And donīt forget the arab domination over Spain, or part of it. Only during 700 years.

The turks had even the whole control over the Mediterranean, and the genoese and venetian fleets had to pay tribute in cash to navigate in this sea. Berber corsairs attacked with impunity european ships ans enslaved europeans, to the scandal of the "white" people, which considered that only the rest of the world could be subject of enslavement or colonization.

When europeans were superior on the battlefield? Only when they developed the use of the fireweapons, AND adopted a new war doctrine, which included strategy and tactics according with the use of fireweapons. Other asiatic and african countries adopted fireweapons, but not the new war doctrine. Winning battles over them in this new situation, was like winning a battle over english armies of the 17th Century using modern machineguns. They used the fireweapons but in their traditional array of the army. Germans, for example, had about the same weaponry than France in the II WW, in quality and numbers, but France was stamped out very easily, because they used the war doctrine from the I WW, meanwhile germans developed a new doctrine based in a special way to use the armored cars and the close colaboration of the air force with the ground forces: the blitzkrieg.

But military superiority is not equivalent to cultural superiority, as many times the history has teached us. And the tables could reverse, given enough time.

We can talk, also, about Vietnam, or today Afghanistan, if that were not against the rules. But if that were possible for me to decide, I would send my officers to specialize, not to West Point, Sandhurst or Saint Cyr, but to Vietnam. They have stopped the chinese, the mongol, the european and the USA armies, now for centuries. The 19th Century contemplated the initial decline of the european military might in favour of the USA (just remember the Boer War, which was african). This is the vision of many non european, and a small contribution to this perspective, not meant to offend. Just to make some precisions. After all, there are more than a few non european forumites here.
Regards

Gonzalo

Last edited by Gonzalo G : 17th January 2009 at 07:41 AM.
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Old 17th January 2009, 12:56 PM   #3
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Hi Gonzalo,

Sorry I'm not meaning to offend, and my euro-snobbery is expresssed somewhat 'tounge-in-cheek'.

I put this in the Euro forum as European armies are kinda the 'yardstick' of the part of history I was thinking of, they were similarly armed and used similar tactics etc.
I was thinking of. when the European empires colonised (or tried to) the rest of the world. Yes, as you say, its the beginning of the firearms age and into it, but before the gun was totally supreme.
I wasn't thinking back as far as the classical period. I wasn't really thinking further back than the 16thC.... But if people want to talk about earlier then thats fine of course.

Just meant to be a bit of fun

Regards
Gene
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Old 17th January 2009, 02:03 PM   #4
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Ming Dynasty and Ching Dynasty armies were extremely powerful. So were Japanese armies in that 1500s/1600s time period. The Moghuls, the Sikhs, the South Indians... the Moros, the Afghans, the Mayans... they were all people who could fight and adapt. Their reasons for NOT restructuring their war doctrine was that, for their own geographic location, they didn't necessarily need to. The Ming Dynasty had a military that ranged from crack cavalry battalions and musket regiments in the north, to 11-man squads in the south. They had a good navy and were all well-organized. Look at Zheng Cheng Gong (Koxinga), he had an appreciation for modernization and had he succeeded in creating a long lasting Ming state, you'd probably see a sea-faring, gun totin', modern military system guided by a regime interested in trade, modernization, and expansion - everything the Ching was not after they had conquered Tibet and Mongolia along with China. The Moghuls and Sikhs are a good example of folks who didn't update their war doctrine enough, but had very good troops and were on their way to modernizing their armies. I could explain the others, but I think the Moro resistance to the Spanish and Americans, and the Caste War of the Mayans speak for themselves.

It's not 'European' that made them powerful. It was 'adaptive' that made them great. China and India have had firearms for a LONG time. But eventually they were importing or copying European firearms. Why? They stagnated in their own technological evolution. Their rulers cared more for their large land-based countries and agriculture than sea-trade and dispersal of ideas. And many cultures were caught in a bad time, where-as the Europeans were at a peak. I don't blame the Europeans. Had the Chinese put their hearts to it, they could have conquered a lot of S.E. Asia, as well as Mongolia, Korea, Tibet, etc. But they never had a great incentive to (in their own eyes). Those who did not understand the need for evolution, may have been great warriors, but often could not face the better armed opponent. In-fact the Europeans faced MANY capable warriors in the peoples they conquered. Just for thought. Indian and Chinese histories from 0 to 1500 AD tell of a lot of conquest and supremacy. The stagnancy is a new thing for cultures that have been prosperous and progressive for a long time.

just goes to show, if you don't get up and do stuff, the world will pass you by... and maybe take your land and make you labor for them.
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Old 17th January 2009, 04:13 PM   #5
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I think KuKulzA28 comments on being 'adaptive' is very relevant. New colonies often meant new terrain and climatic differences.....something the locals were used to fighting in .....their martial traditions and tactics would have been 'moulded' by years of conflict.

One of the 'known' tactics employed by the colonialists would have been 'divide and rule'.....why directly fight the natives....when you could 'manipulate' tribes/factions/smaller kingdoms to fight each other.

I also believe that, naively, European invaders often under-estimated the indigenous people ....believing that they (Europeans) were superior in both technology and knowledge. Often a costly mistake ....Zulu springs to mind ...often after such defeats....the colonialists retaliation was often brutal, often increasing their army's numbers, and arms to ensure victory.....to save 'face' and 're-establish' their supremacy.

Another consideration is the fact that the indigenous people would generally fight more 'fiercly' .....afterall they were fighting for their homes, their people and their way of life. I think there is a quote somewhere which basically says something like 'one man that is fighting for a belief....is worth ten that have been paid to fight'


Regards David
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Old 17th January 2009, 05:06 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by katana
I think KuKulzA28 comments on being 'adaptive' is very relevant. New colonies often meant new terrain and climatic differences.....something the locals were used to fighting in .....their martial traditions and tactics would have been 'moulded' by years of conflict.

One of the 'known' tactics employed by the colonialists would have been 'divide and rule'.....why directly fight the natives....when you could 'manipulate' tribes/factions/smaller kingdoms to fight each other.

I also believe that, naively, European invaders often under-estimated the indigenous people ....believing that they (Europeans) were superior in both technology and knowledge. Often a costly mistake ....Zulu springs to mind ...often after such defeats....the colonialists retaliation was often brutal, often increasing their army's numbers, and arms to ensure victory.....to save 'face' and 're-establish' their supremacy.

Another consideration is the fact that the indigenous people would generally fight more 'fiercly' .....afterall they were fighting for their homes, their people and their way of life. I think there is a quote somewhere which basically says something like 'one man that is fighting for a belief....is worth ten that have been paid to fight'


Regards David



Yes mate! Thats exactly what I was hoping to provoke a discussion of.
Not the Zulu wars in particular, but certainly the British empire was shown a few things during the wars in Nepal/Afghanistan and India.
I was hoping for of a discussion of how non-european weapons fared against a baseline of standardised european military equipment, and specific battles or wars where those lessons were taught and learned.

From our own UK POV clearly the Empire was extremely impressed with many 'ethnic' weapons, both in battle and in form.
From the adoption of Shamshirs as staff officers swords, the fact that the Sabre was adopted Europe wide as a standard Cavalry sword, to the Uks absorbtion of Ghurka regiments and allowing them to carry their own distinctive weapon.
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Old 17th January 2009, 04:56 PM   #7
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just goes to show, if you don't get up and do stuff, the world will pass you by... and maybe take your land and make you labor for them.[/QUOTE]


Kukulza28

Quite true, just look at what happened to the British Empire.

regards
Royston
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Old 20th January 2009, 03:32 PM   #8
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One mans terrorist (guerilla) is another mans freedom fighter.
Regards,
Norman.
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Old 20th January 2009, 04:24 PM   #9
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I agree on the general idea, but terrorism and guerrilla are completely diferent methods of fight, though some groups uses the combination of the two. Terrorism involved the killing of innocents, undiscriminatedly, and guerrilla are military operations against selected military targets, not to kill innocents, but to hit the military or police enemy, in order to take control of the government or/and expell an invader. Bombing civil airports is terrorism. Useless and uncessesary terrorism. Conducting military attacks and disapearing after the attack on a foreign invader, or government troops, is guerrilla. Very different strategies, tactics, means and purposes...and the ends does not justify the means, as the nature of the means always conditions the nature of the ends. Wrong means usually (or always) desvirtuates the ends. The reprisals of the germans or the allies over the civil population over a guerrilla attack, are pure terrorism, as innocent civilians are targeted to extermination, which does not stops necesarily further killings (it could provoke, instead, more rebellion), and damage the moral stature of an army. And moral stature usually is not taken on account by unsensible military men, but it means someting in a long term, even in a practical manner. Wars are lost due the discredit of the governments, or the heat against itīs armies. Governments can fall due the discredit of their wars and their intolerance. It is something terrorists can obtain, when, and if, imprudent governments overreact to their attacks. All is a complex game. But pure terrorism is revulsive.

Last edited by Gonzalo G : 20th January 2009 at 04:39 PM.
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Old 20th January 2009, 06:04 PM   #10
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Actually Gonzalo,

After Lidice and Oradour, partisans were not allowed to hide within the villages, and no support came from the french civilians.

The US tried good treatment and help given to the VC infiltrated villages in Nam', to no effect. The fear of getting killed by the guerrillas was always more powerful than any gratitude. At the end, fear always won the day.

One of the objectives of guerrillas is precisely to provoke attacks on civilians by the regular army. So, it's a tight rope that military commanders have to thread. Reprisals, when done, must be precise and exclusively to the civilian group involved, and this must be publicly advertised.

Follow Israeli troopers as they now use the very same basic tactics once used by their former nemesis, the Nazis.

M



Quote:
Originally Posted by Gonzalo G
I agree on the general idea, but terrorism and guerrilla are completely diferent methods of fight, though some groups uses the combination of the two. Terrorism involved the killing of innocents, undiscriminatedly, and guerrilla are military operations against selected military targets, not to kill innocents, but to hit the military or police enemy, in order to take control of the government or/and expell an invader. Bombing civil airports is terrorism. Useless and uncessesary terrorism. Conducting military attacks and disapearing after the attack on a foreign invader, or government troops, is guerrilla. Very different strategies, tactics, means and purposes...and the ends does not justify the means, as the nature of the means always conditions the nature of the ends. Wrong means usually (or always) desvirtuates the ends. The reprisals of the germans or the allies over the civil population over a guerrilla attack, are pure terrorism, as innocent civilians are targeted to extermination, which does not stops necesarily further killings (it could provoke, instead, more rebellion), and damage the moral stature of an army. And moral stature usually is not taken on account by unsensible military men, but it means someting in a long term, even in a practical manner. Wars are lost due the discredit of the governments, or the heat against itīs armies. Governments can fall due the discredit of their wars and their intolerance. It is something terrorists can obtain, when, and if, imprudent governments overreact to their attacks. All is a complex game. But pure terrorism is revulsive.
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Old 24th June 2012, 01:37 PM   #11
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Default Ottoman Turks

Quote:
Originally Posted by Atlantia
Now obviously there are some rather famous examples where 'modern' European/western armies underestimated their oponents and came to a sticky end, but these are often more historical 'blips' than anything else.
What really interests me is where European armies have faced non-european opponents with different martial traditions and 'technology' and found it to be an equal.
I often wonder when looking at some of the marvelous ethnographic weapons on this site how they would fare in combat against European steel and tactics?
I can think of a few good examples of this, mostly from when the British Empire reached India and Afghanistan, but I wondered if anyone (as I'm sure those reading this are collectors of both Euro and Ethnographic weapons) have any great examples of their favourite ethnographic weapons proving themselves against European armies?


Hello,

A fascinating discussion, thank you everyone for such an interesting read.

The Ottomans won some pretty impressive campaigns against Europeans in the early 18th Century, I feel these may be worth a mention as this was a period when their technology and tactics were said to be in a state of decline. While it is arguable that the post 17th Century military technology of the Ottomans never quite matched that of the Europeans; it is commonly understood that great military reform efforts begin with Selim III (1789-1807) who made the first major attempts to modernise the army along European lines. Taking this into account, let’s have a look at some pre-reform victories that could perhaps be labelled a more than simply 'historical blips'. I won’t go into their 16th century victories in this post, but the Turks certainly enjoyed many of them. Although in regards to military victories, the 18th century would not be as successful for the Ottomans, there were some important successes.

During the 18th century, Europeans found themselves opposed by large armed forces of the Ottoman Turkish Empire. The Ottoman armies consisted of many different peoples who had an array of different arms and of course these arms differed both in quality and sophistication. The soldiers of these armies ranged from well-trained professional soldiers and semi-nomadic horseman etc, to armed peasants. Of course the European armies they faced were not always completely different in terms of quality, but one can perhaps suggest that they were most often better trained and armed. Nevertheless, the Turks won some important and noteworthy campaigns; in 1711, fast moving Turkish cavalry outmanoeuvred the Russian army under Peter the Great, the Russians had found the local peoples not as supportive as they had hoped and compounded their already poor logistical position by advancing as a huge singular force. The Turks found it quite easy to surround them and the Russians under fire from Turkish guns and being constantly skirmished, had to accept humiliating peace terms.

In 1715, the Venetians were driven from southern Greece by the Ottomans in what was arguably one of the most decisive campaigns of the century. In 1739 the Austrian army was driven back into Belgrade by the Turks in such a decisive campaign the Austrian generals surrendered in fear of more losses. While the Ottoman Turks would lose many campaigns due to poorer weaponry (and other reasons), particularly at sea, the size of their empire enabled the movement of resources and men in order to focus strength on a particular opponent, thus increasing their military effectiveness.

To fast forward history now, I have noticed there has been some discussion on Vietnam here: This has made me think about the Allied loss at Galipolli in 1915/16- I wonder if this may be a viable addition to this discussion.

Regards
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