To understand what a force multiplier is, one has to understand the there is a difference between elements of a conflict, numbers, strength and other factors involved in a conflict and how these elements interact to create forces. The force of each element is not static, by changing the relationship or confluence of these elements, the forces they represent can change dramatically. The victorious commanders and strategists understood far better to control the forces then simply the elements. By controlling the elements of a conflict, the forces they represent are controlled and organised into overwhelming force that becomes irresistible.
Knowing the difference between a strategy and a tactic is also essential when searching to identify the force multipliers that determined the outcome of a conflict. Tactics must support and progress the strategy or the strategy simply becomes wishful thinking.
A force multiplier is an elements either physical or non-physical that when combined with the other such elements increases your force or power while diminishing that of your enemy. It can be an intangible like motivation, precise planning, incredible discipline or timely knowledge. It can also be a tangible like a mountain pass, a river or the arrangement of furniture in an office. To increase your own force while at the same time diminishing that of your enemy to a point where only one favourable outcome is realistic is the goal. If you increase you automatically decrease that of your enemy. If you decrease the force of your enemy, you automatically increase your own power. Sir Isaac Newton's Third Law of Motion, for every action in nature there is an equal and opposite reaction explains this precisely. His second rule states force is equal to the change in momentum (mass times velocity) over time. In other words, the rate of change is directly proportional to the amount of force applied or the rate of change directly demonstrates the amount of force being applied.
The Spartan King Leonidas (ca. 530 BC-480 BC) and General Sun of Wu (544–496 BC) lived at the same time but on opposite sides of the planet. Under different laws, customs, language and cultures both are considered master strategists who changed history forever. The Spartan king obviously never read the tome of Sun Tzu, yet he knew the contents and demonstrated the ability to understand and apply the principles to engineering the victory of the Greeks over the enormous army of the Persian king, Xerxes. Leonidas did not need to read what Sun Tzu wrote. The principles are as old as warfare itself and warfare is not a slave to language, culture, custom or current whims and beliefs. Conflict and warfare obey the laws of the universe and man need only learn them and the art of applying them to gain victory consistently.
King Leonidas of Sparta (540 BC-480 BC) at Thermopylae and President General Antonio López de Santa Anna. (1794 – 1876) at the Alamo, Texas, unleashed force multipliers on both a strategic and tactical level to determine the outcomes of the conflicts they were involved in. One to win, the other to Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 - 1821) in his military career showed both how the proper use of force multipliers will bring great victories or great defeats. Early in his career, his great victories were based on brilliant force multipliers and his great defeat to the Russians exemplifies what happens, even to a brilliant commander when he ignores them and fails to understand that the enemy are using them against him.
Xenophon (430-355 B.C) said you know, I am sure, that not numbers or strength brings victory in war; but whichever army goes into battle stronger in soul, their enemies generally cannot withstand them. This ancient comment explains a timeless force multiplier. The modern telling of this idea is, it is not the size of the dog in the fight that is important, rather it is the size of the fight in the dog. Motivation, desperation and sheer bloody mindedness of an individual or group are variations of a force multiplier that can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Robert Greene, author of the 2006 best seller, The 33 Strategies of War, writes that his 12th law is: Lose the Battles but Win the War: The Grand Strategy. “Grand strategy is the art of looking beyond the battle. It requires that you focus on your ultimate goal and plot to reach it. Instead of reacting emotionally to people, you take control, and make your actions more dimensional, subtle, and effective. Let others get caught up in the twists and turns of the battle, relishing their little victories. With a grand strategy, you will have the last laugh.”
A battle or engagement with an enemy viewed through the lens of a strategists will appear utterly different when view through the lens of a tactician. Strategists usually deal with the bigger picture or the longer term, the tactician has to deal with the immediate. The stress levels and responsibility may be the same however the two will see the immediate situation very differently in most cases. In most cases a tactician, dealing with an immediate threat or situation may not see or understand that the loss of this particular engagement will move the enemy into a much weaker position. Many times commanders have deliberately ordered their men to retreat in order to lure enemy to into an ambush or trap.
The Roman Republic army under the consuls Lucius Aemilius Paullus and Gaius Terentius Varro on 2 August 216 BC in Apulia greatly outnumbered the army of Carthage, under Hannibal. The Battle of Cannae a major battle of the Second Punic Wars demonstrates how one commander acting on a different level to his opponents can control the forces of a conflict to win. Hannibal understood that the numbers of the Roman Republic represented a greater force. However he devised a strategic plan of battle that would reduce the force of the Romans tactically by controlling how the armies fought.
By collapsing the middle of his army at the beginning of the battle, he drew the Romans into a trap. His army in the middle slowly, deliberately moved backwards while his wings advanced and finally surrounded the Romans. Instead of the Romans commanding a force of men greater in numbers found themselves in a situation where their greater numbers no longer gave any advantage of force.
Only the outer rank of their army could fight, the men in the middle became impotent witnesses to the deaths of their comrades fighting on the outer ranks. Hannibals’ tactics meant that the numbers were now even and the forces of the engagement equal. Depriving the Romans their ability to use the battle tactics they were trained in Hannibal gained a pivotal advantage. Paullus and Varro fought on a tactical level, Hannibal on the strategic. The Carthaginian used a tactic determined by a higher strategy to multiply his force, not his numbers while reducing the forces of the Romans by reducing the effective number of his enemy who could directly fight and so gained a famous victory. Controlling the pivotal force involved in the battle proved more important than numbers involved. Grand strategy comes in many different forms, as does force multipliers.
Thermopylae and the Alamo are usually depicted as famous and glorious defeats in the history books. However, this is not true, they are demonstrations of force multipliers applied on both strategic and tactical levels. Many battles are lost in the winning of a war however to knowingly and willingly lose a battle to ensure winning the war is the genius and discipline of Grand Strategists.