Why Did Game Of Thrones' Biggest Battle At Winterfell Go So Poorly For Humanity?

Sebastien Roblin

Key Point: Why did humanity not come up with a better strategy? 

The Game of Thrones episode "The Long Night" features the last stand of a fantastical medieval army against an implacable horde of White Walker zombies led by the chilling undead Night King.

It also showcases a series of terrible command decisions made by its protagonists, Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen, squandering their forces lives in poorly thought-out gambits.

These episodes of military ineptitude may be one of the TV show’s most believable attributes, reflecting real-world military disasters. As such, a battle featuring a zombie horde and fire-breathing dragons offer surprising insight into classic errors in battlefield command.

Failing to Act Cohesively Against the Enemy’s Center of Gravity

Carl von Clausewitz, the grandfather of modern Western military theory, wrote in On War that it was vital to identify and strike at the enemy’s “center of gravity”—that is, “the hub of all power and movement, on which everything depends.”

That ‘center of gravity’ varies based on the nature of the adversary—it could be an enemy capital, a charismatic leader, or a strategically-deployed army.

In the episode prior to the battle, Jon and Daenerys correctly identified the Night King as the center of gravity, as the White Walkers have no will to fight (or ability to remain animate) without their leader. However, so long as the Night King lives, he can replenish his army’s losses extremely quickly and cheaply by reanimating the dead.

Unfortunately, Jon and Daenerys’s battle plans are incoherent. They employ their dragons to personally hunt the Night King, but commit the rest of their troops to fighting a conventional defensive action predicated on the Night King evading their dragons and entering an ambush on the ground. Thus, they fail to ensure their forces are all acting upon the center of gravity with a common strategy.

Allowing Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery to Act Without Mutual Support

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