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  • Quantity or Quality

    Well, the title pretty much says it all. In a Military point of view, what is better? An overall better quality of your military. Ex: Better trained Soldiers, more accurate missiles, faster aircraft, stronger tanks. Or just sheer numbers? Ex: Lots of soldiers, but not very well trained, more tanks and aircraft, but of a lower quality.

    Pretty much, a 1980's era U.S. vs U.S.S.R.

    I've always believed that quality is better then quantity. But at the same time quantity has a quality all on its own, at least thats what Stalin believed. What do you guys think?

  • #2
    Re: Quantity or Quality

    That very much depends on what your goals are, what you consider to be "acceptable losses", and what tools you have at hand to accomplish quantity or quality. You can't give a one-size-fits-all answer to that.

    That said, with enough technological advantage, numerical differences become much less important. Compare, for instance, 50,000 infantry vs one nuclear bomb. ;)

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    • #3
      Re: Quantity or Quality

      While we're on the African conolisation theme today, check out the Battle of Ulundi.

      10 Brits killed, 1,500 Zulus killed. See? I still remember some things from high school!
      A policy of freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy. -F.A. Hayek

      "$250,000 a year won't get me to Central Park West."

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      • #4
        Re: Quantity or Quality

        Never mind Hiroshima and Nagasaki, while we're tying all our loose thread-ends together: 2 bombs, 1 surrender. Blammo!

        It depends on what your "acceptable losses" are and how much you care about "innocent civilians". Not to diminish the role that "innocent civilians" play in the calculus. Just pointing out that somewhere along the way their lives became more valuable than the soldiers', and guessing that none of them want to die.

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        • #5
          Re: Quantity or Quality

          Originally posted by Kerostasis View Post
          That very much depends on what your goals are, what you consider to be "acceptable losses", and what tools you have at hand to accomplish quantity or quality. You can't give a one-size-fits-all answer to that.

          That said, with enough technological advantage, numerical differences become much less important. Compare, for instance, 50,000 infantry vs one nuclear bomb. ;)
          but if you apply that to something like gorilla tactic its alot harder to kill off all those people a once. Its alot harder to kill what you cant see.
          Also your assuming that all the enemy aren't mixed with civilians
          A leader who stays behind, takes it from behind.
          I lead by example.
          -AaronTehSpy

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          • #6
            Re: Quantity or Quality

            At the same time, the difference in numbers is quite important.

            I read a stat about China that floored me. I'm not sure if I have it right, but it was something along the lines of the fact that China could build an army the size of America's every single year if they had to. In other words, their population is so immense that we could wipe out almost their entire army and in the next year, they would have enough kids turning 18 years old to completely replace those numbers AND tool up their military industry at the same time.

            Knowing the basic technology of warfare today, those kind of numbers would be nearly impossible to beat in a non-nuclear conflict.
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            • #7
              Re: Quantity or Quality

              Originally posted by CingularDuality View Post
              At the same time, the difference in numbers is quite important.

              I read a stat about China that floored me. I'm not sure if I have it right, but it was something along the lines of the fact that China could build an army the size of America's every single year if they had to. In other words, their population is so immense that we could wipe out almost their entire army and in the next year, they would have enough kids turning 18 years old to completely replace those numbers AND tool up their military industry at the same time.

              Knowing the basic technology of warfare today, those kind of numbers would be nearly impossible to beat in a non-nuclear conflict.
              Right. There's NO way we could win a war with China. They have both sheer numbers AND nukes. It's a good thing they don't seem interested in global domination, and that they depend on the global economy so much.
              "Common sense is not so common." -Voltaire

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              • #8
                Re: Quantity or Quality

                The US could probably disable China's entire nuclear capability in a first strike.
                A policy of freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy. -F.A. Hayek

                "$250,000 a year won't get me to Central Park West."

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                • #9
                  Re: Quantity or Quality

                  Well, talking about China hurling millions into the grinder again and again, and talking about our nuking them all is mighty hypothetical and neglects the internal and external political consequences of both courses of action. In the real world, where there are consequences, I think it's clearly helpful to be more advanced and precise in applying military force.

                  I think Iraq showed that our modern military can defeat a numerically superior but technologically inferior opponent in open battle with relative ease - not that what was done was easy or without cost. The subsequent counter-insurgency has demonstrated that, while advanced training, equipment, and tactics can destroy an enemy in battle, it takes a gang-tackle to defeat an insurgency. You need numbers AND technology, it seems to me.

                  So there isn't a right answer, is there? As usual, technology and tactics are constantly changing.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Quantity or Quality

                    Originally posted by War.mongeR1 View Post
                    Right. There's NO way we could win a war with China. They have both sheer numbers AND nukes...
                    I have trouble with an absolute statement like "There's NO way...". There are far too many variables to predict a victor in a U.S. vs. China conflict. Pre-cursors, logistics, theater(s) of battle, potential alliances, among many other factors would all have a significant impact on such a war, and to that end, make it near impossible to absolutely predict a victor beforehand. Are there scenarios where China defeats the U.S.? Absoultely! But there are also possible scenarios where the U.S. would win as well...numerical superiority alone (and to a certain extent the use of nukes) can't predict an outcome.

                    Bringing this back to Cobra's question: I think there is a balance that needs be struck between quantity and quality. I think a smaller quantity of troops with a higher standard of quality of training, strategy, discipline (this is a big one), and equipment can overcome sheer numbers.

                    Being the the avid Roman History buff that I am...I would like to reference the Cimbrian War between Rome and Cimbri/Teutons as an example of this. Once the Romans got their act together (after Arausio), a much smaller force (usually 3x less than their opponents) but of a higher quality made short work of the enemy.
                    LoyalGuard

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                    • #11
                      Re: Quantity or Quality

                      Originally posted by loyalguard View Post
                      Bringing this back to Cobra's question: I think there is a balance that needs be struck between quantity and quality. I think a smaller quantity of troops with a higher standard of quality of training, strategy, discipline (this is a big one), and equipment can overcome sheer numbers.

                      Being the the avid Roman History buff that I am...I would like to reference the Cimbrian War between Rome and Cimbri/Teutons as an example of this. Once the Romans got their act together (after Arausio), a much smaller force (usually 3x less than their opponents) but of a higher quality made short work of the enemy.
                      True true. I guess I forgot about them. Also, the Spartans were pretty hardcore too.
                      "Common sense is not so common." -Voltaire

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                      • #12
                        Re: Quantity or Quality

                        I'm still fairly certain that most of the world's problems could be solved by somehow organizing war on a massive scale between China and India.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Quantity or Quality

                          Think back the Korean War. The PLA (or whatever it was called back then) are pushing south.
                          Nato was set up on 3 fronts. The British, the Americans and the South Koreans, holding West to East respectively. (I forget which region they were fighting over, but it was an important one.)

                          20,000 Chinese troops against 800 british troops. The battle lasts the majority of the night.
                          The British had superior experience and weaponry, and a dug in position. They mowed down the Chinese on a mass scale, but eventually were overrun by the sheer numbers.

                          The chinese assault was reduced to little over 8000 men (that's 11,000 killed), and the British lost in the region of 100-200, the rest either fled or those on the Western flank who didn't have that option were taken captive.

                          Meanwhile, the US and South Koreans to the East also lost their ground due to the sheer numbers of Chinese advancing at them.

                          The allies might have killed an assload more, but in truth it was China who captured the ground they were fighting for.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Quantity or Quality

                            If only the British had had 900 troops! To say the Chinese were vulnerable to a counterattack is an understatement. One battle does not make the case either way.

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                            • #15
                              Re: Quantity or Quality

                              As long as we're throwing random examples of battles with really bad odds:

                              The battle of Rorke's Drift. 80 British soldiers defend a hospital full of wounded from 4,000 attacking Zulu soldiers. The zulus have a mix of spears and primitive rifles, while the British have more advanced rifles and a superior defensive position. The British lose 17 while the Zulus lose anywhere between 500 and 1000 before retreating.

                              The Battle of Isandlwana, 2 days earlier. Again, overwhelming Zulu force descends upon a small British column, but this time the Zulus win. More than a thousand British soldiers died in that engagement, and their column was wiped out. The zulus had some 20,000 soldiers, and established a decisive victory despite losing nearly 3,000 of their own.

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