The top ten worst decisions in history

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Byzantine fanatic, Nov 21, 2018.

  1. Athelstane Anglo-Saxon Troublemaker

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    This absolutely has to be in the top ten.

    It was effectively an act of national suicide the moment the first bomb dropped on the battle line.
     
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  2. Unknown Member

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    And, also, three days later, Nazi Germany deciding to declare war on the United States (keep in mind that Japan hadn't helped Nazi Germany with the invasion of the Soviet Union (to be fair, Japan had been beaten in a border skirmish in 1939 against the Soviet Union, so they didn't want to try again, IMO) enabling the Soviets to send the Siberian troops to help in the Battle of Moscow). With Nazi Germany already at war with the Soviets and Britain, this doomed Nazi Germany...
     
  3. Unknown Member

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    Yeah, the only chance for Japan to win in that scenario was not to strike Pearl Harbor. Even if they had gotten the carriers in port, once the US got the Essex carriers available, the Japanese were screwed.

    While Admiral Yamamoto didn't actually say this, the statement "I fear we have awoken a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve." is completely correct...
     
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  4. Hegemon of words and thoughts

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    Nader Shah not consolidating his empire and going off on increasingly brutal and costly conquests, alienating his once-heir apparent, then pushing his officers to the point where they assassinated him and sparked yet another period of disunity and chaos in Iran.

    Phocas rebelling against Maurice, giving Khosrau a pretext to make a devastating invasion of the ERE

    Most of the Gothic War (20 years, devastated Italy and its population, and Rome itself, then got basically lost to the Lombards right away)

    Anyone who decapitated a diplomat from Genghis Khan or Timur made a bad decision...

    The Vietnam wa—er conflict. What a waste.

    Assassinating Aurelian. Really? What did you think that’d do for you, Eros?

    The last Sui Emperor being too ambitious. Exhausted the people and the state and led to more disunion after a brief period of union

    Alexander not being specific in naming his heir... at least that could have given his empire a better chance than OTL

    Apparently one of the Zhou Kings had a penchant for calling his vassals to assemble for battle, but then saying “jk lol I tricked you haha”. It wasn’t funny to him anymore after he called for them one time for real and nobody came. The capital was sacked, Zhou power and prestige was irreversibly shattered, and the Spring and Autumn/ Warring States period was ushered in, with hundreds of states/statelets and hundreds of conflicts, resulting in tons of deaths that might at least have been reduced had there been some more unity in the Zhou state.

    Not slowly phasing our slavery in the constitution. Led to the bloodiest war in American history.

    The watergate scandal: when you know you’re going to win, but cheat anyway and somehow get yourself to lose... good job.


    Okay, here’s my official top ten list:

    1. Slavery in general. Yeah, I know there were a ton of incentives and precedents for it, but that doesn’t change the fact that it was terribly wrong. I don’t think it was inevitable (for example, didn’t the Achaemenids frown upon slavery?)...

    2. Colonization of the Americas. Also don’t think this is inevitable, and boy did a lot of people suffer for it.

    3. Scramble for Africa. See above.

    4. The formation of totalitarian states like Communist Russia... millions of people dying, some sort of mass genocide/death occurring in many of these states (USSR, China, Cambodia)

    6. Every genocide ever. Why. Why would you do such a horrible thing. Case closed.

    7. The allies’ treatment of Germany post WWI. Sparked WWII, the deaths of millions in war, in concentration camps, as civilians.

    8. The linkage of Christianity so deeply with the state by Constantine. Now hear me out. I think religion is a great thing. I’ve felt the spirituality and connection of Christianity myself. But I think its deep linkage with the state in Rome was a huge mistake in the long term for everyone. I think it did Christianity itself a great disservice. It meant that many people were persecuted for heresy or paganism (Arians, Monophysites, Nestorians, Donatists, just to name a few), and it meant a lot of discord between competing interpretations. It led to splits and schisms, brutal wars in the name of religion. It meant corruption in the Church. It meant inquisitions, forced conversions, and Crusades (which were arguably a net negative). I understand that this is a controversial topic and that my opinion will be disagreed with by many.

    9. The loss of North Africa to the Vandals. One of the leading causes of the complete death (rather than just a severe falling back) of the WRE. Led to chronic disunion in Europe and some (read: a ton) of horrific, pointless wars.

    10. The Jin not recognizing the danger of the Wu Hu. I heard that the Wei actually didn’t do too bad in settling barbarians in their empire, but the Jin were not so careful. Caused 2-3 centuries of additional strife after a terrible conflict that had already ravaged China.

    11. Honorable mention: the last western Zhou king being... less than intelligent by alienating his vassals to the point where they ignored his summons.

    Edit: the kamikaze policy is somewhere up there... words cannot describe the extreme frustration and upset it causes me
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2018
  5. Fabius Maximus Unus qui nobis cunctando restituit rem

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    I don't think so? Maybe they didn't have slaves working their fields, but I'm pretty sure the rich Persians used slaves to work in their households.
     
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  6. Sertorius126 Badass guerrilla fighter

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    Persian slaves were mostly prisoners of war, nonetheless, no ancient society ever frowned upon slavery itself. The Achemenenids and Tolemaic Egypt, to pick two ancient civilizations, only had a small portion of slaves because most of their free commoners already lived as slaves, just not nominally so.
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2018
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  7. Hegemon of words and thoughts

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    I mean, if that’s not really a decision, I guess I could knock that off the list and bump all the others up one (it still sucks though).
     
  8. Atamolos Pontifex, princeps, and augustus

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    Hindsight bias. Nobody knew that carriers would have the significance that they eventually had. By all the conventional wisdom of the time, Japan should have neutered the Pacific fleet with the attack, having destroyed or damaged almost every battleship.

    Furthermore, it wasn't even a stupid decision. If Japan hadn't attacked Pearl Harbor, then they would have simply run out of petroleum supplies after the US embargo entered full force without a means of fighting back, effectively conceding their empire for nothing. By attempting to decapitate the Pacific fleet, they at least gave themselves a fighting chance, and there's a possibility that they may have never been occupied if it were not for the atomic bombings, which they couldn't have known about
     
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  9. Sertorius126 Badass guerrilla fighter

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    It definitely does, but it would have required people to be far more conscious of human rights than they actually were to nip slavery to the bud.
     
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  10. Athelstane Anglo-Saxon Troublemaker

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    Japan had zero chance to win a war with the United States - let alone a war with the United States, the British Empire, and China all at once.

    Zero chance. Zero.

    Even fighting to a draw was not in the cards.

    The United States had ten times the industrial capacity, twice the population, full self sufficiency in all critical natural resources even at full war mobilization, and superior technology in key fields. Launching a surprise attack on the U.S. guaranteed the final missing piece of the puzzle: the political willpower to see the war through to the bitter end. Atomic weapons don't even need to be in the equation: Japan was utterly broken as a great power before the Trinity test even happened.

    How Japan initiated such a war mattered far less than the decision to launch it in the first place.

    The petroleum and steel embargoes were grave blows to the Japanese economy. But any possible, plausible deal it could have reached with FDR would have been vastly preferable to going to war with him.

    Rarely has human history seen a state pick such a lopsided fight it was on the short end of.
     
  11. cmakk1012 Well-Known Member

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    Nope, they get partitioned between America and Russia with hundreds of thousands of more lives lost thanks to Operation Downfall if the Japanese don’t concede when the Russians invade. America was never going to accept anything less than total surrender.
     
  12. Skallagrim Not the one from YouTube. Different other fellow.

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    I agree with you 100% that Japan had no chance, but keep in mind that Roosevelt didn't want a "deal". He actively tried to get the USA into the war, and everything he did was geared towards purposely trying to get Japan to declare war. So there wasn't going to be any deal at all, short of "Japan gives up its Pacific empire, breaks its ties with Germany, and agrees to trade dictates set by the USA". That still would've been much better for Japan than OTL (after all, they would've had to give up a lot, but could probably have retained Korea, Manchuria, Taiwan and most holdings in China), but one can understand why they wouldn't go for anything like that. Hence: war. Just as Roosevelt wanted.

    Looking at it from this perspective, you could argue that Japan was already between a rock and a hard place, and that the real mistake Japan made was its decision to go after the Pacific colonial possessions of Western countries. If Japan had not done that (basically just never invading Vietname, the Philippines or anything beyond those), there would have been quite little American interest in whatever Japan did. Nor would Japan have been attacking the British Empire. (Which was reason for FDR to seek war with Japan: he was hoping to take pressure off the British; when Hitler actually declared war on the USA -- allowing for direct American entry into the European theatre -- Roosevelt couldn't believe his luck that Der Führer was such a moron.)
     
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  13. Liupardali Active Member

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    From an economics perspective, Japan should have just ignored their sunk costs and given up on the war in China as soon as the United States embargoed them. Then Japan should have focused on maintaining its remaining possessions and gaining international recognition of them.
     
  14. Atamolos Pontifex, princeps, and augustus

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    I'm not arguing that Japan could have won such a war, obviously that was out of the question. Japan simply miscalculated the US public's wherewithal to joining the war fully. But I don't think it was inevitable that Japan would end up occupied. The real force disposition of the Japanese army on the home islands was roughly equal (and in some places, superior) in number to the planned US invasion (since it wasn't really possible to misdirect Japan's defenses like was done on D-Day since there was only one realistic location to land). Given a few more years, the US could muster a much larger force to eventually overwhelm the Japanese, but it could take up to three more years, depending on how the Soviets react and how many of Japan's forces can be withdrawn from China, and the political will from the American public may have evaporated. By that time, it may be preferable to reach an accommodation with Japan to prevent them from falling to the Soviets (as the Cold War may be in full swing by this point, given the partition of Europe).

    I'm not saying Japan would survive the war without the atomic bombs being deployed, I don't even think that it's very likely, but I also don't think it was one of the stupidest decisions in history. In the end it was a miscalculation, but it was not one that was frivolously undertaken, and starting a war where one may have a fighting chance would be preferable to meekly backing down in the face of American pressure. When you're losing the peace, sometimes the only option is war.

    Just want to clarify that I'm not justifying Japanese imperialism, just that it wasn't unprecedented for them to think that a swift victory against a more numerous, yet distant enemy would cause them to back down (see also: Russo-Japanese War)
     
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  15. skarosianlifeform Well-Known Member

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    Or should have only taken Manchuria and nothing more, and then made the best of it.
     
  16. Athelstane Anglo-Saxon Troublemaker

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    I don't agree, actually.

    Roosevelt knew war of some kind was coming - but the one he really wanted was with Germany, which he and most of his advisers quite rightly saw as the much greater threat. It was, after all, the German conquest of France and the Low Countries that gave immediate spur to the Two Ocean Navy Act, not anything Japan had been up to in China. In the Pacific, FDR contented himself with an embargo and an extended deployment of the fleet to Hawaii. In the Atlantic, he was pushing naval deployments and ROE right up to the edge of war, to say nothing of the mountain of Lend Lease he was shoving at Britain and Russia.

    But it seems fairly evident from the archives and testimony that we have that Roosevelt (if not Hull) was keen to put off war with Japan as long as possible. He knew they weren't ready for one. He had King and Stark telling him that almost weekly.

    This does not mean that FDR wouldn't have played some hardball with Japan had the Konoye negotiations actually gotten serious. Full withdrawal from French Indochina (under whatever fig leaf or timetable) would be a bare minimum starting point. Some kind of concession would likely be needed in China as well, though I think that even something modest like a suspension of offensive operations in key areas and an agreement to enter into talks with Chiang just might well have been enough for Roosevelt to lean hard on Hull.

    But all that would have been vastly preferable to the bowl of destruction it had bought for dinner by the summer of 1945.
     
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  17. Athelstane Anglo-Saxon Troublemaker

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    Well, let's just freeze the war on August 5, 1945.

    Is there anything about that state of affairs that is anything but grand mal disaster? What would any Japanese policymaker in 1941 - even an Army fire-eater - have thought if given a crystal ball dialed to that date?

    * You've suffered over 2 million war dead, and almost another million civilian dead in bombing. Millions more have been made homeless.
    * Nearly all of your overseas empire has been overrun, or is dying on the branch.
    * The Japanese Imperial Navy - pride of the nation, third largest in the world - is hors d'combat. You don't even have fuel to send out the few hulks that aren't coral reefs, beyond a few submarines.
    * Nearly all of your merchant marine - over 10 million tons! - has been sunk.
    * Operation Starvation has smashed your food transportation infrastructure, even within the Home Islands; Mass starvation is already known to be imminent by the end of the autumn, regardless of whether the Americans invade or not.
    * Over 60 of your largest cities have literally been reduced to cinders. Mass formations of American bombers fly over the Home Islands with impunity almost daily.

    And on top of all that, the Soviets will be declaring war on you in three days. There's literally nothing you can do to stop them from overrunning Manchuria, most of North China, Korea, Sakhalin, the Kurils, or even Hokkaido(!) within 8-12 weeks.

    And all that is without any splitting of atoms over Japan. Or Operation Downfall.

    It's hard to see how Japan can sustain anything beyond the spring of 1946, even if the U.S. decides not to invade.

    I think The Red's timeline, Decisive Darkness, is a pretty fair look at what the war would have looked like for Japan, had it gone on for another year. End result: No more Japan. "Death of a Nation."
     
  18. Hegemon of words and thoughts

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    When I read through it, I had to resist the urge to tear my hair out. I was like, “surely it’ll be over now, surely Japan will surrender”.

    Nope.

    Terrible decision making.
     
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  19. profxyz Well-Known Member

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    A lot of examples of Chinese kingly idiocy tends to be propaganda or Confucianized moralistic storytelling. Truth was the relationship between the Zhou king and his vassals were naturally fraying after a 300-year relationship so vassals were not terribly inclined to send troops to the distant West when they were themselves being pressured by foreign powers (grouped directionally under Rong, Di, Man Yi, as well as the proto-Chu state) who were technologically catching up as Zhou tech was being disseminated. The 'fire beacon' story probably reflected the inability of the Zhou vassal army to assemble and counter-strike before the enemy had finished their raiding and left. Similarities with the Late Western Roman Empire there - I don't see it as a terrible decision, but rather an inability to reform the state according to the strategic situation.

    Same goes with the Jin. 'Barbarians' were in great demand because of their cavalry, and so to prevent them from defecting to a rival - not an idle threat given the political instability of the Jin - the court(s) had to give them tribute, land, legitimacy in the form of kingly titles. Most of the northern border was also already 'barbarianized' thanks to general depopulation during the Late Eastern Han (Qiang Rebellions) and Three Kingdoms period. Again, like the Roman relationship with the Goths.

    If I were to make a list of top 10 worst decisions (which I define as decisions with predictable results that run counter to the 'national strategy') in Chinese history (in chronological order):

    1. The choice of the Shang to ignore the rapidly strengthening Zhou and instead go for the Eastern Yi, which, rather than King Zhou's comically bad behavior, led to Shang's downfall.

    2. Qin Shi Huang's decision to eliminate pre-war elites and engage in massive 'unification' spending. Led to blowback which ensured the short life of his dynasty.

    3. Eastern Han's decision to eradicate the Northern Xiongnu instead of putting them under semi-vassalage. With no ability to control the northern steppes, this only meant that the decaying Xiongnu confederation was replaced by a much more powerful Xianbei confederation. (Mainly done because Empress Dowager Dou needed her relatives to achieve some military deeds).

    4. Fu Jian of the Former Qin attempting to conquer the Eastern Jin before he had consolidated his rule of Northern China. Defeat at the Fei River meant the end of his regime.

    5. Emperor Yang to Sui persisting with plans to invade Goguryeo after repeated failures (mainly due to the scale of the invasions preventing a) proper coordination and b) proper logistics).

    6. The Northern Song's willingness to upend the 100-year-long Liao-Song agreement in favor of a uncertain one with an expansionist Jin. Resulted in the fall of the Northern Song capital.

    7. The Southern Song Dynasty's military strategy at the Xiangyang-Fancheng siege, which saw the city become a prestige objective. The Song would essentially destroy its naval 'wooden wall' trying to relieve it, allowing the Mongols to easily breach the Yangtze.

    8. The Qing reluctance to establish a formal bureaucratic hierarchy to oversee Westernization efforts: Li Hongzhang did not have formal authority which meant others could and did ignore his views. This is a major difference leading to Japan's more well-grounded Westernization efforts compared with China's, most fatally in the area of military training (NOT just hardware).

    9. Yuan Shikai's decision to declare a monarchy before he actually solidified control over Republican China (though it might be because he realized he was dying...)

    10. Mao's decision to launch the Great Leap Forward. (Cultural Revolution from Mao's standpoint was OK enough since it solidified his power).

    Honorary mentions (institutional changes that solidified personal power at the expense of the stability of the broader realm): a) Qin's decision to invade the North, indirectly pressuring the nomads to such an extent that the Hun Confederation formed; b) Wang Mang's timetable for radical reforms; c) Jin's decision to reestablish a system of vassalage; d) Tang tolerating the rise of powerful jiedushi; e) Song's awful military hierarchy system; f) Ming's decision to eliminate the post of Chancellor.
     
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  20. Soverihn Proud Tribalist

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    All these replies and not a single WatchMojo reference?
     
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