The army, the business, the political party, the sports team with the most resources is usually expected to win in confrontations. But history has shown us countless times that this is not always the case. One underappreciated example of a battle where an army beat a larger, better trained and resourced army was the Battle of Cannae.
The Battle of Cannae happened on August 2, 216 BC in southeast Italy near the ancient village of Cannae, between Carthaginian forces led by Hannibal Barca and Roman forces led by Lucius Aemilius Paullus and Gaius Terentius Varro.
The Roman army of 90,000 well-trained soldiers was decimated by the smaller Carthaginian army of some 50,000 soldiers. It was the darkest day for the Romans in ancient history. General (later President) Dwight Eisenhower said of the battle: “every ground commander seeks the battle of annihilation; so far as conditions permit, he tries to duplicate the classical example of Cannae.”
Hannibal was successful in defeating the Roman army because he was able to identify his adversary’s biggest weaknesses. The Roman army was inflexible and slow to react. The Roman army was much larger, highly trained and well armed, however most of its military tactics were designed for a head-on confrontation, preferably on a flat terrain, a show of muscle and might. Hannibal drew the Roman army into believing that this would be one such battle, then sprung his trap.
Hannibal was not only a shrewd strategist, but an outstanding leader. His army included African, Iberian and Celtic soldiers and mercenaries. Yet not only did he manage to get them to work together and be disciplined in the execution of his plan, but he knew how to maximise their diverse skills and strengths. When one succeeds in harnessing diversity and unleashing the potential of a diverse team, the results can be spectacular.
We have also seen this happen in our time, in our context.
A handful of resourceful people have been successful in booting out a Prime Minister – Joseph Muscat – whose tenure was characterised by corruption, sleaze, impunity and the rapid decline of the Rule of Law. A man who is at the centre of investigations on his actions both before and after his tenure as Prime Minister.
A handful of resourceful people have been successful in booting out the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff – Keith Schembri – who engineered and was at the centre of a number of fraudulent deals, such as the Vitals/Steward saga.
A handful of resourceful people have been successful in booting out a Minister – Konrad Mizzi – who executed a number of shady deals, such as the Electrogas deal and Vitals/Steward saga.
A handful of resourceful people have been successful in booting out a Minister – Chris Cardona – after his name cropped up in the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech in the case of the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
A handful of resourceful people have been successful in booting out a Police Commissioner – Lawrence Cutajar – whose chief accomplishment during his short-lived career was his inaction in the face of blatant corruption and crime.
A handful of resourceful people have been successful in booting out an Attorney General whose career was marked by a manifest reluctance to see justice delivered.
There’s a war of attrition going on. A handful of people versus a large mob that wields the power of the state to protect its own and their interests. Yet though the battle is protracted, and we are fighting an enemy far larger than us, victory is in sight.
It’s amazing what a handful of resourceful people, erbat iqtates, can do.
Now let’s see it through.