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קול קורא // לכנס: קטן ויעיל? איכות מול כמות בהיסטוריה צבאית [טרטו 09/20] דדליין=1.6.20

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Small but capable? Superiority over size in military history

The Baltic Defense College in co-operation with the Estonian War Museum – General Laidoner Museum and the Defense Forces Academy is waiting for proposals for presentations at the

International Baltic Military History Conference


Tartu, 22–23. September 2020

The written and oral tradition of mankind is rich in stories in which the small wins the great. The Christian world feels David’s struggle with Goliath. In China’s ancient laws of war, it is not a greater but a better-governed force that wins. There are also examples in the history of European military thinking of teachings that prioritize quality over mass. This already includes ancient authors’ overviews of the ancient Greek and ancient Roman military. The modern theorist Saxon Moritz (1696–1759) considered it necessary to limit the size of the force. He said the army of more than 50,000 men could not be led intelligently. However, only half a century later, Count Jacques de Guibert (1743-1790), a military expert in the Enlightenment, argued that the victory of war should be directed at the whole people, foretelling the transition to mass armies in post-French Revolution Europe.

The development of technology injected new faith into small armies. JFC Fuller (1878–1966) and Giulio Douhet (1869–1930) were confident that in the future, small, professional, and mobile armored forces supported by the air force would suffice. World War II wiped out these futuristic ideas as somewhat naive. The wars during and after the Cold War have restored faith in smaller but more efficient forces and units. Israel’s success has been numerically superior to that of the Arab coalitions. NATO’s modern strategic self-reliance is largely based on Cold War deterrence, including nuclear deterrence, to prevent a possible attack by Warsaw Pact forces, which have dominated Europe.

The situation on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea is considered a matter of concern for NATO. Somewhat like Cold War West Berlin, it is difficult to defend the Baltic states. In Russia, there is a numerical predominance of conventional forces in the Baltic Sea area, and this may not be offset by the nuclear deterrent that served as a lifeline during the Cold War. What is the solution?

One of the most enduring requirements of war is the need for the best methods of command. The importance of good governance was demonstrated by both the Baltic War of Independence and the Finnish Winter War. This experience still influences governance practices and trends in the Baltic Sea Region. However, we must ask, what are the best ways to learn from history in the 21st century and in peacetime?

Although something can be taken directly from military history to solve contemporary problems, it still provides a wealth of material to think about today’s concerns beyond the discourse that has become customary and routine. On September 22 and 23, 2020, the Baltic Defense College, the Estonian War Museum – General Laidoner Museum and the Defense Forces Academy will organize an international military history conference “Small but capable. A superiority in size in military history “and are awaiting proposals for presentations on:

  1. War and Small States: Reasons for Success and Failure in War with Bigger and Stronger Opponents;
  2. small wars and the problem of filling the battlefield: how to act in the absence of strategic depth and which operation concept is suitable for a small country?
  3. Leadership and War: What are the best methods to achieve victory with leadership? In what historical examples could we learn?
  4. how much does education affect leadership qualities?


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Tartu, Estonia
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