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Defeat In Detail: How it works

Defeat in detail, or divide and conquer, is defined as a military tactic of bringing a large portion of one’s own force to bear on small enemy units in sequence, rather than engaging the bulk of the enemy force all at once.

This exposes one’s own units to many small risks but allows for the eventual destruction of an entire enemy force.

I still remember when I first heard about defeat in detail from Napoleon’s Lightning Campaign through Italy in the 17th century.

His army was outnumbered 2 to 1 by the Piedmonts and the Austrians and yet, Napoleon had victory across victory. 38000 to their forces of 60000 men.

Any strategist would tell you to defend and wait for the enemy to cut their number than to attack, but napoleon did just the opposite, a brave and legendary feat now known as Defeat In Detail.

Now Let’s dive in as how to how he managed to win this seemingly impossible war.



this video by Montemayor described the napoleon was perfectly

thus as seen in the image above, defeat in detail is separating your forces to make your odds favourable.

Breaking down the enemy and concentrating your forces will allow napoleon and you to do this.


According to The Art of war

“It is the rule in war, if our forces are ten to the enemy’s one, to surround him; if five to one, to attack him; if twice as numerous, to divide our army into two. 9.

If equally matched, we can offer battle; if slightly inferior in numbers, we can avoid the enemy; if quite unequal in every way, we can flee from him. 10.

Hence, though an obstinate fight may be made by a small force, in the end it must be captured by the larger force”

  • Sun Tzu, The Art of War


How to apply defeat in detail?

In the 33 strategies of war, Robert said:

“When someone or something imposing is taken as a whole, fear and uncertainty can set in. Instead, break down your challenger or challenge into smaller, more easily defeated parts.”

What it means is if we take in a big task to do, lets say make the competition bankrupt, it would seem like an impossible task.

But more often than not, it is very possible, Using the defeat in detail strategy, separating the issue into chunks and then ask yourself, which should I do first, and which would lead to maximum results.

Is there someone on the other team that they cannot afford to lose?