Factors Affecting Outcome of War by Air Marshall R K Nehra in IDR.http://www.indiandefencereview.com/news/factors-affecting-outcome-of-war/ 15/6/13
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What were the causes for Hindu defeats? The simple and short answer is ‘Military non-performance of the Hindus’.
To examine the reasons of that non-performance, we have first to understand the nature of war, i.e. the factors that determine the outcome of war.
‘War’ is a three-letter dirty word, involving death and destruction, murder and mayhem, and everything unpleasant and unpalatable. However, it is war, which determines the fates of nations, and their pecking order in the comity of nations. Civilizations rose to their glory and grandeur on the shoulders of war; that was the case with all major civilizations, e.g. Greek, Roman, Christian and Islamic. War has dominated the human affairs right from the dawn of history, which is essentially a chronicle of wars. Those civilizations who could not understand the centrality of war in human affairs fell by the wayside; unfortunately, the Hindu civilization falls in this category. The one unimpeachable lesson of history is that maintenance of the delicate balance of civilizations requires War, or the ‘Threat of War’; that is the only language the world at large understands.
It is not that the Hindus could never appreciate the importance of war. Actually, one of the very first persons to understand the centrality of war in human affairs, was a Hindu; his name was Chanakya Kautilya. As early as the 4th century BC, Chanakya told everything that needed to be known about war; and he did that in a very blunt and forceful language. If Hindus had paid even part heed to Chanakya’s concepts, they could have gone on to dominate the world. However, the Hindus lost the script and their way very early in their history.
War is central to the issue under discussion by us. Like a computer, war has two aspects, i.e. Software and Hardware, viz.:
Software Factors, or ‘Mind’ Factors
Strategy and Generalship — Tactics
Troops — Skill Levels
The Hardware Factors, or ‘Muscle’ Factors
Number of Troops
Weapons Technology and Quantities
Battle Venue — Distance from home base
War Animals — Horse vs Elephant
For victory in war, it is essential that both the Hardware and Software elements are present in reasonably adequate quantity and even more importantly, in quality. No war can be fought in the absence of either of these elements. However, there can be endless arguments as to which of the above element is more important. All that we can say is that history records many cases in which armies even severely deficient in Hardware but adequate in Software, recorded victory after victory. There are not many cases in which armies short on Software could record victory, even if overflowing with Hardware. The Software factor could also be called morale, though only in a limited sense.
The primary cause of Hindus going under was their comprehensive defeats by the Muslims in the following two battles:
- 1009 AD; Mahmud of Ghazni vs Anandpal
- 1192 AD; Muhammad Ghauri vs Prithviraj Chauhan.
The first battle showed how vulnerable Hindus were. The second battle demonstrated how easy it was to subdue them for the long term. In the following paragraphs, we examine the Software and Hardware factors of the Hindu and Muslim armies in the context of the above two battles.
Skill Levels: In terms of skill levels of troops, the Muslim armies appeared to have an advantage; they had an edge at least in one respect, i.e. they were better horsemen. The Muslim armies had special columns of ‘mounted archers’, who could fire arrows with precision, whilst at full gallop; Hindu armies had no answer for that.
Generalship: It is generally believed that Muslim generals were of higher caliber. Especially, Mahmud of Ghazni is counted amongst the best generals of the world. Amongst the Hindus, Prithviraj Chauhan was a general of very high caliber. But, it would be difficult to avoid the conclusion that Prithviraj Chauhan was out-maneuvered and out-foxed by Muhammad Ghauri in 1192 AD.
Hindu Mindset: This is the subject at the center of our study. It is a rather complex issue and is discussed in detail in chapters 40 and 41.
Troop numbers: As stated earlier, almost all the Rajput Rulers of North West India contributed their troops for both the battles. That would lead us to conclude that Hindus armies must have had a significant numerical superiority; they could have easily had twice or thrice the numbers of troops when compared to the Muslim armies.
Weapons Technology: At the start of the second millennium AD, Hindu civilization was a very advanced one. There is nothing to suggest that in weapons technology, Hindus could have been in any way less advanced than the Muslims could. As such, weapons of both sides could be considered to be of comparable class. In spite of the known and proven innumerable shortcomings and disadvantages of the elephant, the Hindu commanders, for some inexplicable reason, continued to use the elephant as their major weapon of war.
Battle Venue: Both the above battles, as all other Hindu–Muslim battles, were fought in the very backyard of the Hindus. Hindu armies had an enormous advantage in terms of Supply and Support Systems. Muslims were fighting far away from their home base and were thus at a major disadvantage.
War Animals — Horse vs Elephant
Before the invention of the machine, the horse was the most important weapon of war. It had been used in that role from times immemorial; almost from the beginning of human history. Every famous general has ridden it; and he has ridden nothing else. One common feature of all victorious generals was their unshakable faith in the horse as a weapon of war. The most famous horse of history was Busephelus belonging to the most famous general of history, Alexander the Great.
The horse, the rider, and the sword, constitute the first example of what in modern military terminology is called the ‘Weapon System’. The sword is held (firmly) in the hand of the rider, who is in (firm) touch with the body of the horse, through his legs. Through that physical touch, the horse can read the mind of his rider, including his state of confidence or panic. Thus, the horse can anticipate commands of his master and give a real-time response. This single factor of close and instant interaction of the ‘horse, the rider and the sword’, resulted in achieving innumerable victories.
Hindu armies, though using horses relied excessively on elephants. Hindu commanders used elephants in two ways:The horse is one of the most intelligent animals. It has all the qualities essential for the battlefield, i.e. speed, stamina, agility, flexibility, easy maneuverability and endurance. The greatest factor in favor of the horse is the positive control that the rider has through means of the reins; that ensures total control and instant response, an indispensable requirement in a war situation. In addition, there is the great sense of loyalty of the horse to his master. History records many instances where the horse saved his master from hopeless situations, and in some cases from certain death. In the Indian context, we have the case of the horse named Chetak, who saved his master Rana Pratap from a very tricky situation.
- In large numbers to form offensive phalanxes in the battle line-up.
- As an individual mount of the commander, especially the commander-in-chief, or the king.
In addition to the Hindus, two other countries known to have used elephants in war in a major way were Iran and Carthage of North Africa. Hannibal (3rd century BC) of Carthage used elephants when attacking Europe. However, Hannibal did not ride the elephant himself; he always rode the horse.
For the Muslim commanders, it was horses all the way. In fact, all commanders all over the world used only the horse; these included Alexander, Caesar, Genghis Khan and all others. They might have heard of the elephant, but they knew its limitations as a weapon of war; it was never to be used as a mount for the commander.
Now, as a weapon of war, the elephant lacks almost all the qualities of the horse, which we have detailed earlier. All those attributes are either absent, or highly deficient in the elephant. Its most serious deficiency is the lack of any positive control; the elephant has nothing resembling the rein of the horse. Whatever limited control is there is not by the commander/rider, but through the means of a third party, called mahout in Hindi.
The commander/rider stands isolated in a sort of metal container (called howda in Hindi) on the top of the elephant. The commander has no interaction with the elephant and thus, lacks any type of rapport with it. The commander’s orders to the animal have to be given through the mahout. In the clutter and din of the battle, the mahout may not hear the order or misunderstand it, and sometimes even pretend not to hear. In some exceptional circumstances, the mahout may be bribed by the enemy to let down the commander at a crucial moment of battle. The mahout may try to get the order implemented by the elephant, who may not respond due to the lack of any positive control. There were many instances where elephants went out of control and acted as they wished.
The elephant has no speed, is cumbersome in movement and sluggish in response — all self-destructive attributes in a war situation. It has lot of mass and strength; that often proved delusive in actual war situations. The elephant has no loyalty to the commander/rider and hardly even recognizes him. So, it cannot be expected to save its rider from tricky situations, as horses have reported to have done.
Now in an actual war situation, the commander cum king stands/sits perched high on the back of the elephant. That might generate a feeling amongst the troops that the commander is isolated from them, and sitting rather safely on a high perch; in other words, not sharing the risks with them. Further, if a mishap were to occur to the commander, it would be almost instantly noticed by the troops; that may demoralize them and result in chaos. That actually happened in at least two cases of crucial battles, as will be seen in later paragraphs.
There is still another serious disadvantage of the elephant. In the earlier days, the sword was the primary and most important weapon of war; warrior’s reputation was known by his skill and mastery of the sword. It is the only weapon useable in close combat situations, which invariably determines the final outcome of war. When the general is sitting on the top of an elephant, he is in no position to use the sword. That is a major drawback and liability.
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