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Scorched Earth

 

Disciplines > Warfare > Strategies > Scorched Earth

Action | Analysis | Example | Analogy | See also

 

Action

Retreat before an overwhelming enemy, but do not leave anything to succor the ravaging conqueror.

Destroy everything you own, from houses to crops, rather than let one morsel lall into enemy hands.

With no food left, the whole population must retreat as well, of course.

Analysis

Rather than sustain enormous supply trains, conquerors far from home feed themselves on the food of their victims, plundering their food stores and drinking their best wine.

Finding the 'scorched earth' (named after the results of a basic burning of crops) the conqueror is unable to feed the troops who become hungry, weakened and demoralized. This tactic also invokes mixed emotions, from futile and tiring anger to fear of an enemy ready to destroy everything rather than surrender.

Soldiers also tend to consider it their right to loot and pillage anything of value they can find. When their booty is also denied them, they are likely to displace their anger onto one another in the form of petty in-fighting that loses focus on their true purpose.

Example

When Napoleon attacked Russia, as the Russians retreated they burned all fields and destroyed all towns and villages so the French would not even have shelter.

Analogy

When it looks like you are going to lose an argument destroy or trivialize all aspects of your own position, thus denying the other person the pleasure of taking you apart, bit by bit.

See also

Retreat

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