Two wars fought on American soil provide important lessons about strategic management. In the late 1700s, the American Revolution pitted the American colonies against mighty Great Britain. The Americans relied on nontraditional tactics, such as guerilla warfare and the strategic targeting of British officers. Although these tactics were considered by Great Britain to be barbaric, they later became widely used approaches to warfare. The Americans owed their success in part to help from the French navy, illustrating the potential value of strategic alliances.
Nearly a century later, Americans turned on one another during the Civil War. After four years of hostilities, the Confederate states were forced to surrender. Historians consider the Confederacy to have had better generals, but the Union possessed greater resources, such as factories and railroad lines. As many modern companies have discovered, sometimes good strategies simply cannot overcome a stronger adversary.
Two wars fought on Russian soil also offer insights. In the 1800s, a powerful French invasion force was defeated in part by the brutal nature of Russian winters. In the 1940s, a similar fate befell German forces during World War II. Against the advice of some of his leading generals, Adolf Hitler ordered his army to conquer Russia. Like the French before them, the Germans were able to penetrate deep into Russian territory. As George Santayana had warned, however, the forgotten past was about to repeat itself. Horrific cold stopped the German advance. Russian forces eventually took control of the combat, and Hitler committed suicide as the Russians approached the German capital, Berlin.