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An example of victory disease and its catastrophic results: Napoleon's retreat from Moscow, painted by Adolph Northern in the 19th century

Victory disease afflicts military commanders and armies who, after victories, become weak and susceptible to defeat. Signs are:

While the winning side grows complacent, arrogant, feeling invincible, the enemy adapts. Military disaster ensues.

While "victory disease" does not automatically foretell failure, it is a strong indicator. The term also applies outside the military world.

Concept in more detail[edit | edit source]

A recently-defeated force should analyze the loss and change tactics, but the winners may follow old tactics, overconfidently ignoring basic rules of strategy, thus the term is usually applied after a series of military victories and later disaster.

So an army may be unprepared or use old tactics, or try to oppose a superior force. It may lead an army into battles or a nation into wars until exhaustion. Related is logistics — a series of victories may lead to battles farther and farther from home, stretching supply lines.

On the origin of the term[edit | edit source]

The origin of the term is usually associated with the Japanese advance in the Pacific Theater of World War II, where, after attacking Pearl Harbor in 1941, they won a series of nearly uninterrupted victories against the Allies in Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

the Japanese cruiser Mikuma shortly before sinking in the Battle of Midway.

Although they had planned to establish a perimeter and go on the defensive, their victories encouraged them to continue expanding the proposed perimeter to the point where it strained their logistics and navy. This culminated in the 1942 Battle of Midway, a catastrophic defeat to the Japanese navy and the loss of all four of their aircraft carriers involved. The decision of Japan to start a war against the United States is viewed as Victory Disease, following successes in the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) and the 1904-1905 Russo-Japanese War.

A few historical examples[edit | edit source]

Examples abound; see the main article at history of victory disease for more examples and detail.

The following (extremely abbreviated) list is perhaps illustrative:

Graph of the strength of Napoleon's army as it marches to Moscow and back.

File:Custer's Last Stand, 1877.png

Scene of Custer's last stand, 1877.

  • The catastrophic decision of Hitler to invade the Soviet Union in 1941, underestimating Soviet military resilience, counting on success of old tactics; and Germany's subsequent declaration of war on the United States.

Quotes[edit | edit source]

"The enemy we're fighting is a bit different from the one we war-gamed against."Lieutenant general William S. Wallace, on the 2003 invasion of Iraq

See also[edit | edit source]

Main links[edit | edit source]

Minor links[edit | edit source]

External links and references[edit | edit source]

Note: the references have far more detail than this small article can hold

Major references:

Minor references:

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