Teutoberger Wald, 9 A.D. – Strategic Implications

Teutoberger Wald, 9 A.D. – Strategic Implications

By John M. D’Amico

US Army War College, 2000

The Battle of Teutoberger Wald (9 A.D.) in which tribal Germans defeated a highly professional and disciplined Roman Army is not only one of the most decisive battles of the western world, but a historical example of successful asymmetrical warfare. At Teutoberger Wald, the technologically inferior Germans led by Arminius chose the time, place and circumstances that best enhanced the impact of both their primitive and their primitive weapons on a superior army. As a result, they completely destroyed three Roman legions under Publius Quinctilius Varus.

The defeat ended Augustus’ plan to extend the Roman empire’s frontiers beyond the Rhine to the Elbe River. Four hundred years later, the untamed German threat east of the Rhine would figure greatly in the fall of the Rome Empire. Just as the Romans dominated their world and were compelled to respond politically, economically and militarily to threats to their vital interests of their empire, the United States as today’s only super power is obliged respond to threats to its national interests. Ancient Rome and the United States faced similar challenges in employing forward deployed reduced armed forces. Another valuable lesson to be learned from the battle of Teutoberger Wald is that great powers sometimes let the arrogance of their power and capabilities cloud their view of the dangerous asymmetrical options available to a determined enemy.

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