06 September 2008

The Hinge Factor

We’ve grown up reading about wars in history books, with narratives of how great kings and great generals have been responsible for victories against all odds. We’ve read tales about their conquests, their courage and their heroism. We’ve accepted their courage, their commitment, their skill, their strategic decision-making capabilities and their leadership as the realities of battles they’ve fought and won. We’ve taken these factors for granted.

But, what really decides the outcome of a battle? What decides the fate and lives of thousands – sometimes millions – of people in a battle, during war, or even after?

In his book, The Hinge Factor: How Chance and Stupidity Have Changed History, Erik Durschmied presents an antithesis to the factors we often take for granted: that men with brilliance and courage and determination and leadership win battles. He suggests that, often, it is the unexpected and the unpredictable and the absurd in a battle that swings victory in favour of the opposition – changing the outcome of events and the course of history.

Durschmied suggests that the outcome of a battle and the fate of millions of people are not always determined by great men and their heroic qualities (as we tend to read in history books and believe), but more often, by improbable and unexpected happenings. In the prologue of The Hinge Factor: How Chance and Stupidity Have Changed History, he writes:

“Some chroniclers wish us to believe that battles are won by valor and the brilliance of war lords, on whom they bestow the accolade of ‘genius’ when they are triumphant. They record the victor as being brilliant and the loser as not. And yet, there is no secret formula to the victorious outcome of a battle – except that much depends on who commits the bigger blunder. Or, to put no finger point on it, many battles have been decided by the caprice of weather, bad (or good) intelligence, unexpected heroism or individual incompetence – in other words, the unpredictable. In military terms, this phenomenon is known as: The Hinge Factor.”


d SINNER!!! said...

wow! Those are just some apt reasons that have changed the course of history!

runawaysun said...

That's right! Have posted something last night on one of the 'reasons'.