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Dealing With Enemies

By Louis Rosas-Guyon | Submitted On March 01, 2007

In 206 BC, during the Second Punic War between Rome and Carthage, Publius Cornelius Scipio was initially given the responsibility of securing the Spanish peninsula for the Roman Republic. In the final, definitive battle for Spain, Scipio faced the superior numbers of Hasdrubal Gisgo's combined army of Carthaginians and their Spanish allies. Hasdrubal organized his forces with his superior, veteran Carthaginians in the center with the Spanish allies on the wings. This tactic was typical of Roman warfare also since they tended to place their untested allied forces on the edges of the battle.

However, at the Battle of Ilipa, Scipio placed his well trained Roman legions on the wings and placed the entire contingent of allied non-Roman troops in the middle of his lines. They marched to battle to confront the Carthaginians who were unaware of this major tactical change. Once Hasdrubal's forces were in battle formation, Scipio ordered his legions to advance towards the enemy lines at a 45 degree angle, and once they were near the enemy flanks, they were to turn and attack Hannibal's Spanish allies. Scipio's allied forces were ordered to hold the center and not to engage the Carthaginian forces across from them.

Scipio's legions smashed through the Spanish lines, eventually causing a rout. The complete disorder on the wings of the battlefield caused the Carthaginian forces to flee without putting up a fight. These same Carthaginian forces under Hasdrubal eventually fled Spain and rejoined with Hannibal in North Africa. Spain was conquered and Scipio was heralded a great general by the Roman Republic. These Spanish victories were the reason why Scipio was granted command of the Roman armies sent to North Africa that ultimately defeated Carthage.

The reason why I relate this tale is because Scipio never lost sight of the objective. His duty was the capture and pacification of Spain. He was well aware that Hannibal was wreaking havoc in Italy but smashing the Carthaginian forces in Spain was not his duty. The Carthaginians were secondary to the goal and therefore, irrelevant. By smashing Hannibal's Spanish allies, Scipio removed their ability to defy Roman power in the region. He realized that in Spain, the Carthaginians were impotent without their allies. By smashing the Spaniards, Scipio denied the Carthaginians their allies and nipped any immediate rebellions against Roman rule. It would be another 50 years before another significant rebellion started in Spain.

Therefore, when dealing with trouble, it is often wiser to eliminate your enemy's allies first. Cut the strength out from under them in order to deny them succor and assistance. Send your strongest forces to deal with the allies first. This will sufficiently weaken them so that you can crush them at your leisure. The added benefit is that if you remove all the allies first, there is less rebellion afterwards.

"Always mystify, mislead and surprise the enemy if possible." -General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson

The other tactic is too keep all your enemies too busy to plot against you. Set them to different tasks where they will not work together. Always give them the same information. Never tell one more than another. Never tell them anything of value. Send them along roads with no end; this will ensure that they never know your goals or desires. Give them time consuming, meaningful work. Set for them high goals and push them to achieve. Give them the tasks that have always been talked about but never started because of their complexity. They should be sufficiently afraid of failure and public humiliation that they will spend their time on the task and not on you.

Monitor them carefully. Divide and conquer. Work to turn one to you. Find the weakest link and bend him to your purposes. Find commonality with that indivdual and show him how you are truly not different. Convert him and make him spy for you. Never trust this spy with any useful information. You can never be sure if they have turned completely. Be wary of the information they provide.

Do not permit enemies to linger. Their poison will eventually infect more people. The sheer power of repetition will create the illusion of truth. They will fight with rumor, innuendo and outright lies. In 2003 I tried to make peace with an open enemy. He informed me in no uncertain terms that he would continue to work against me. He and his cohorts poisoned good people. And when I refused to give them a position of merit or trust because I could not trust them, they all quit the company and tried to take as many people as they could with them. Because I did not act decisively and I thought I could win them back I risked destroying everything. The fallout of this poor decision still rears its head on occasion.

So if you are unable to stop their plotting then eject them without mercy. In order to do this properly, however, you must be convinced that your course is the proper course. If, for a moment, you believe that they might be correct, then stand aside and allow them the right to lead. You will be testing the limits of your power with this move. There will be upheavals that will cause ripple effects through the organization for some time. You must be strong to weather the storm and to keep your department on course. They must never see you waver or show doubt. This will prove your weakness and you will lose.

And if you do manage to crush them, you will poison this enemy against you forever, there can never be a reconciliation. Strike without mercy and know that you will carry that burden with you for the rest of your days. But, if this strike carries no psychic penalty then you must realize you are no longer fit to lead. Your inability to resolve the dispute, and the fact that this does not weigh on your soul, means you are fully given over to the arrogance of office. Step down now before you are toppled.

Louis Rosas-Guyon is a business and technology consultant for R-Squared Computing, Inc He is based in Miami, Florida.

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