20
$\begingroup$

Imagine a scenario where a country around the size of New Zealand (in GDP, population, military strength and other areas) decides that it wants to take control of or at least destroy a much larger country (think Russia, USA or China).

The following rules apply:

  • Neither country can call on other countries for help
  • Either country can take over and hold parts of their opponent (similar to how ISIS has taken over parts of the middle east)
  • The small country is run a lot like North Korea, with little to no regard for its citizens. They can devote almost all of its resources to the war and citizens (for the most part) actually approve of the war
  • The small country has even less regard for rules of war than it does for its own citizens. For arguments sake, the large country still has to maintain appearances and not anger the UN
  • The large country must at least try to keep its citizens happy because they are much more likely to revolt or disapprove of a long war
  • Both countries are at a similar, modern or near modern technology level
  • The countries are on the same planet, but can be situated however you like
$\endgroup$
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ I see really strong similarities between this question and a major tenant of many martial arts such as Judo. it's not the size that matters. Once the opponent is off balance, it doesn't matter how big they are. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon - Reinstate Monica Nov 30 '16 at 1:01
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ How did Britain take over India? Of course 'India' is only a single country (or rather British India became 3 countries) because of the British, but they did take over the multiple countries of the subcontinent, many of which had decent armies and access to western tech like guns & cannon. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Nov 30 '16 at 4:26
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ See my edit for future reference. I had to confiscate those apostrophes. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Nov 30 '16 at 5:37
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Reminds me of The Mouse That Roared book. $\endgroup$ – Reinstate Monica Nov 30 '16 at 11:00
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Why not study: Roman Empire, Carthaginian Empire, Alexander's Macedonian Empire, Spanish conquests in the new world, British Empire, Ottoman Empire, The 6 day war (for how to "simultaneously" defeat 3 countries that completely surround you), Germany's Second World war up to America's involvement and the invasion of Russia... $\endgroup$ – Grimm The Opiner Nov 30 '16 at 14:53

13 Answers 13

10
$\begingroup$

The subtlest way to do this would be through infiltration, but this could take several years to accomplish. Continually send citizens from the smaller country into the larger country, get them into key positions within the government and society, and when the saturation of citizens from the smaller country exceeds 50% of the total population of the larger country, launch a coordinated interior/exterior offensive.

$\endgroup$
  • 29
    $\begingroup$ This doesn't pass the smell test: immigration tends to be tightly controlled, nevermind half their population. Even if you managed to drain the small country into the large (is there even enough population?) that your people rise up against their new homeland is no longer a given. People don't work like that. Any smaller scale plan is essentially basic espionage, and not guarantee to return a "win" result (if it were that easy then surely there would be a historical example). $\endgroup$ – Nathaniel Ford Nov 30 '16 at 4:58
  • 10
    $\begingroup$ @NathanielFord: "immigration tends to be tightly controlled" - not anymore. Until very recently you didn't need any kind of document to get into Europe if you claimed you came from Syria (even if you were never even near Syria in your life), and even now you don't need any kind of document if your boat sinks in the Mediterranean a few miles away from the African coast. $\endgroup$ – vsz Nov 30 '16 at 10:31
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Rather than trying to have 50% of the total population of a large county be made up from a smaller country, would it not just take over the government? $\endgroup$ – Whinja Nov 30 '16 at 10:33
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ You don't need to immigrate that many at all. Just reproduce more when you are in. If your minions give birth to 6 children and locals only have 2, then it's very easy to start with 1% and reach 50% in a few generations. Assimilation is your enemy, so find a way to hold that off. $\endgroup$ – jf328 Nov 30 '16 at 16:19
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Ok, now y'all are moving the goalposts. "In a few generations"!? That is not one country taking over another. Are the descendants any more loyal to the OG country? Still no examples of a mass migration taking over a country; handwaving doesn't count. The fact is that migration as a form of immediate conquering doesn't happen, period. $\endgroup$ – Nathaniel Ford Nov 30 '16 at 18:09
23
$\begingroup$

I think the answer to this is introducing some reason why people in the larger country would be willing to collaborate with the occupying forces of the smaller country. Perhaps the smaller country is considered the centre of a certain religion/ideology/ethnicity that a significant number of adherents/etc. in the larger country.

So imagine the large country is ethnically diverse. A third are Blonkians, another third are Donkians, and the remaining third are Jonkians. The Blonkians are the dominant minority. Their ancestors originally settled the fertile coastal regions centuries ago and they have long dominated the country's economy and politics. The Donkians and Jonkians hate the Blonkians, but also hate each other. The Blonkians are terrified that the Donkians and Jonkians will one day join forces and overthrow them, so they use their power to stoke tensions between the two communities as far as possible. The Blonkians say that without their firm leadership, their country will undoubtedly descend into generations of Donkian-v-Jonkian civil war.

Blonkia, where the Blonkians ancestors hailed from, is a small country, but is generally ethnically and ideologically homogeneous, with a government that touts a philosophy of Blonkian supremacy. The Blonkians in Blonkia and the ethnic Blonkians in the larger country would make very obvious bedfellows.

So say there is a situation where unrest is building in the larger country, the Blonkians there want to impose martial law and send the army in to maintain their control, but the army is mostly made up of Donkian and Jonkian conscripts, as more often than not, the wealthy and well-connected Blonkians are able to dodge military service. The obvious solution is to invite the Blonkians back in the motherland to send their soldiers over and help with the suppression of descent in the country.

This starts off as a reciprocal arrangement, but the Blonkians in the larger country are eventually going to be squeezed into doing anything the Blonkian Blonkians want as the Blonkian Blonkians can simply threaten to withdraw from the country and leave the native Blonkians to the mercy of the Donkians and Jonkians. Before you know it, you have a situation where the larger country is under the colonial control of Blonkia.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ +1 specifically because of those names! I will be using those for many answers to come. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Nov 30 '16 at 21:12
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Blonkian ~= Balkans.... no one? Just me? $\endgroup$ – Michele C Dec 1 '16 at 9:54
13
$\begingroup$

see literally all of europe's colonial period. Just have it be a left over from one of these periods, like Canada before 1982. becasue a smaller country really can't take over a much larger country unless there is a significant technology or infrastructure gap.

Or as a different option you could have another third party country do the bulk of the damage but lose and then have the smaller country sweep in afterwards taking advantage of the infrastructure gap in the damaged larger country. You need a pretty significant war though. Basically create an infrastructure gap with a third party.

$\endgroup$
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Administrative gap also helps. Look how long it took the English to conquer Ireland, which was right next to them and smaller in every way, not tied in any important alliances or anything; contrast how long it took them to conquer all the Indian states. When the British came to India, they just had to replace the ruling classes with their own people or local sympathisers. Ireland didn't really have a bureaucracy they could exploit. If the large country has a strong government, taking over the country means replacing the rulers - the weaker the government, the more the people matter. $\endgroup$ – Luaan Nov 30 '16 at 14:27
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Both countries are at a similar, modern or near modern technology level which is not the situation that describes Europe's colonial period. Or as Captain Blackadder has put it: back in the old days when the prerequisite of a British campaign was that the enemy should under no circumstances carry guns -- even spears made us think twice. The kind of people we liked to fight were two feet tall and armed with dry grass. $\endgroup$ – Ghanima Dec 1 '16 at 0:29
6
$\begingroup$

How about trickery and guile? A clever, ruthless, well-resourced small country might pull this off by tricking the larger country into welcoming (even begging) the smaller country to come in and help them survive the horrible plague-X, when no other country can/will.

Plague-X was, of course, artificially created/weaponized in the smaller/attacker for just this purpose. They created an incident on their own soil, as a basis for researching this disease and developing a cure. A cure they have stockpiled and willing to provide (to a fellow nation in need), but insist on administering themselves, to deal with known side effects. The cure does something nasty, like makes the populace (who's already scared and disoriented) highly suggestive and amenable to propaganda. The plague-curers are welcomed as heroes -- and never leave....

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Sneaky, treacherous and pretty evil. I love it! $\endgroup$ – Braeden Orchard Nov 30 '16 at 2:05
4
$\begingroup$

Maybe it might be possible if the larger country was throw into a state of disorder. You wrote that the people of the lager country may revolt. Perhaps there is infighting with in the larger country. If the infighting were to become violet then perhaps the small country could step in to "restore peace and order." If they are able to convince a large enough group of natives that they are there to liberate them (To add them there army and make things more equal), and if the larger country continues to fight among them selves instead of fight the invader (perhaps they don't see the army as threat because of it small size) then the smaller country has a good chance of gaining full control over the larger one.

additional thoughts: It possible that the smaller country might even be secretly be responsible for creating the strife in the lager one so that they could then step in. It also might help if many in the lager country have strong cultural ties to the smaller one. This would encourage them to see the invading force as liberators.

$\endgroup$
4
$\begingroup$

Strong similarities could be drawn with how Gengis Khan built the Mongol empire:

  • superior tactics and strategy
  • absolute terror against defeated an rebellious populations
  • relative independence of conquered populations provided subservience (sending troops and taxes)

Another item could be derived from the US offset strategy which aims at identifying technologies which give and edge against bigger and more populous countries.

It could be said that Gengis Khan's offset was his cavalry.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ This only worked because it turned out to be vastly more profitable to be mostly independent vassals, rather than engaging in war. This might be true for the OP's scenario, but you should add your reasoning for why this would be the case. $\endgroup$ – Luaan Nov 30 '16 at 14:31
4
$\begingroup$

Yay, an opportunity to drop one of my favorite historical quotes!

Whatever happens, we have got
The Maxim gun, and they have not.
--Hilaire Belloc

The Maxim gun was an early machine gun, and one of the primary reasons that Britain was able to do exactly what you state on the scales that it did. Though the psychological effects of the weapon are often credited equally or moreso than the weapon's actual lethal power, it makes no difference in the end.

We live in a different world today than we did in the age of Imperialism, but in some ways the groundwork that was laid and the ideas and goals are still in place. We ship capital and labor overseas rather than challenging a nation's political soverignty, but in effect we still extend our own power and gather resources. We've just gotten more diplomatic about our imperial ambitions.

Likewise, we live in a world where running in with a machine gun is just going to result in answering to the opponent's machine guns. The Maxim gun strategy is dependent on two conditions: that we have the Maxim gun, and that they do not. The strategy breaks down when both sides have a Maxim gun as badly as when neither side does. In fact, we've so thoroughly advanced the art of physical destruction that we can completely destroy any nation on Earth that we want to--or all of them, if we desired--with a sufficient number of missiles that can be launched and make contact in minutes. And the most compelling reason not to is that they can do the same to us (at least, if the two countries happen to be the US and Russia, who own the vast majority of known nuclear weapons).

What we require, then, is to find a method of conquest that our small nation has but the large nation can't match. Which would mean that the small nation needs to be a highly tech-savvy nation. Zero day attacks against the larger nation's infrastructure may be effective, especially with careful planning. Playing your cards just right, a cyberattack can allow a nation with high technological prowess to attack another nation's systems in such a way that their involvement can not be proven and thus retaliation is unsuitable. In fact, this has been done before. Choosing the target systems carefully can allow the attacker to do anything from destroying powerful weapons to disrupting logistics, leaving them wide open to invasion.

$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

Military operation
The strike must be fast, hard and focused. New government must be set and new laws enforced prior the "resistance" can be organised. New rules must improve the life quality significantly and in short term. With full stomach, there wouldn't be force to revolt back.

Blitzkrieg
Your military operation must be well organized, focused and it must eliminate military bases faster than they can regroup. Even if they outpower you in total numbers, the key to success is that you can overpower them locally. Citizens in conquered areas shall be turned into your allies - improve their life quality ASAP and spread this information to the unconquered areas.

Infiltration
Small country's TLA (Three-letter-agency) infiltrate the large country's government and army headquarters with sleeping agents. Compromise any candidate, that is not member of TLA or TLA-loyal. When you reach 2:1 Loyal-to-independent ratio in both government and army, run the revolution. Improve the life quality significantly.

The fewer changes for the citizens the better.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

War is probably the most obvious and crudest of methods, and will only work if the smaller country has SIGNIFICANT technological advantage over the larger one. If the larger country is having trouble like civil unrest, that would make the conquest even easier.

However, IMHO, the best way to take over any country is Ideological Subversion, which doesn't require any bloodshed at all, just time enough to brainwash an entire generation.

I would ask you to watch this entire video of a USSR defector: Yuri Bezmenov explains ideological subversion

Through Ideological subversion, the size of countries doesn't matter at all, since the citizens of the target country will happily let the invader country take over theirs.

Strip them of their national identity, any respect of standards and differences between individuals, cultures, countries, races etc. and make them believe everyone and every ideology is each other's equal, and people lose ability to see danger even when its staring them right in their face.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ That is both incredibly interesting and a little creepy because it sounds an awful lot like the standard millennial mindset these days... $\endgroup$ – Braeden Orchard Nov 30 '16 at 7:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ That's because it IS happening in US and Europe, even though USSR is gone and I don't think Russia wants to participate in it any more. Check out this video: link $\endgroup$ – c.sh Nov 30 '16 at 9:23
  • $\begingroup$ (can't watch videos) If the point is to encourage people to think that everyone has an equally valid truth and there is no way to measure things empirically, that's just postmodernism; which unfortunately has infected both sides of the political establishment in the USA especially. And it hasn't led to the USA becoming more easily invaded. It's made the people far more extreme in their religious, nationalist, and racist views. Post-truth and all that, which explains how Trump can lie almost all of the time and nobody cares, he's elected anyway. $\endgroup$ – inappropriateCode Nov 30 '16 at 12:01
  • $\begingroup$ Also, can you cite any text (instead of video; more accessible) which support that this policy actually worked? The Soviets tried lots of things... like psychic research. So the question is, which side of Soviet capability does this proposal fall closer to: satellites or psychics? Sounds like one of the KGB's hair brained schemes. Plenty of them in intelligence agencies around the world. $\endgroup$ – inappropriateCode Nov 30 '16 at 12:45
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @inappropriateCode I'm pretty sure it didn't work very well. The ideological war was mostly lost - while the "internationalists" made many friends among intellectuals, they didn't actually manage to subvert even a single country, to my knowledge, despite making many attempts. They failed even in France, the great bastion of socialism, which was utterly destabilized by unionism, corruption etc. and rather promptly occupied by the Germans. But they didn't welcome Germans (or Soviets) - they just couldn't put up a resistance anymore. $\endgroup$ – Luaan Nov 30 '16 at 14:37
2
$\begingroup$

All of these other answers are looking at military, or sneak invasion and infiltration via immigration.

How about economically? If a country is able to obtain massive gold reserves and is prepared to loan the opposition government money, what would happen when the big country owes trillions?

What if instead of government loans, they were loans to massive businesses, with enough interest transferred that the small government could control massive corporations. Then the blackmail starts. "Ah, yes, senator... we'd like this bill passed. Or we close/move our $somecorp headquarters and fire all of the current employees, who are your voter base. Have a nice day. We'll be in touch."

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

What is the nationality of the people in the big country? If there is a huge population from that small country it could be that the big country fails to mobilize because it needs to be paranoid about its own citizens and the guerrilla warfare has already begun.

The small country can have naval or aerial overpower. If the big country is not self sufficient the time they can fight before they have to surrender could be fairly short. This would require the small country to be in a strategically vital position for the big country.

These two could also explain why the small country gets its way to be a North-Korea without intervention.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

Overwhelming Technological advantage

Historically, each time a tiny country took over a bigger one it was only because of technological advantage.

The entire colonization Era of Europe (Spain/Portugal/Englan/France/Netherlands/Belgium) was based on the fact that natives were technologically retarded compared to Europeans (not politically correct to say but that s the truth). It s easy to kill an army of bowmen if you have gunpowder.

In our current world, a tiny country like New Zealand could conquer the US if it had developped futuristic technology like fusion power, nano robots, space battleships, cyborgs etc...

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

Your "countries are on the same planet" part opens this up to something I did in a SciFi setting. The answer is that they are populated by two different species, though you could adapt it to two very different cultures.

My one species was large, had a war-like culture and high levels of aggression. The other species was small, caution and even cowardice were valued highly, and they would rather run and hide than fight.

When species one invaded, there wasn't even a war. They just surrendered immediately because by their nature that was the right response.

$\endgroup$

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.