We’re only six weeks into Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine, but the conflict has already settled into a familiar pattern. The two sides often go to war with a theory of victory, and it is only when both theories fail that the true shape of the conflict begins to emerge. During the Second Punic War (218-201 BC), Hannibal thought that if he could send an army to Italy and achieve remarkable victories, the other Italian city-states, restless under Roman rule , would revolt and allow him to break the Roman power. for real. The Romans believed that their superior legions with their fighting spirit and discipline would quickly show Hannibal who was boss.
Both parties discovered that their initial strategies weren’t working. The Romans were shocked by a series of disastrous military defeats and faced the greatest challenge in Roman history. Hannibal achieved his original goals, marching his army over the Alps and winning a series of spectacular victories, still studied today by ambitious young officers around the world. But his strategy failed. Even after his landslide victory in Cannes, only a handful of Italian city-states joined him. Roman power survived and the war dragged on.