One of the most notable aspects of the problems that nations get into when they get involved in wars are problems of estimation. What are some of the ways that this estimation can go awry? Let us explore the ways.
One of my favorite wars to study, from childhood, has been the American Civil War. Contrary to what is often thought, the Confederacy was aware of its industrial inferiority at the beginning of the war, logistical inferiority that ended up being critical in its defeat. The Deep South, though, thought that their soldiers were superior to those of the North and that their generals were superior to those of the North. This ended up not being the case. Being outnumbered and being inferior in the material conditions of war requires one to have some other form of superiority, and the South was mistaken that it was superior, in that its civilization was vulnerable to attack because it had nearly half of its population being restive and potentially disloyal populations, be it blacks or Unionist whites. When you acknowledge inferiority and then guess wrong as to your superiority, things do not often end up going well.
There are other ways that one can fail in estimation. The United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003 is a classic example of how one can fail to understand what sort of war is being fought, in that it is easy to destroy a nation than it is to build one. This has obviously been a problem that the United States has faced since Vietnam, and includes America’s involvement in Afghanistan When one side is fighting for survival and the other is trying to prop up a regime, that is a serious issue.