What's the dumbest moment in history?

I’d have to stick close to home on this one. I was just thinking about this, trying to make it into a coherent post.

I’m from Pennsylvania, home of Senator Arlen Specter. Home of magic bullets that make right turns and leave multiple exit wounds.

Now, while I admit that Hitler was stupid to invade Russia in the fall (among other things), I think he was out-stupided by my fellow Pennsylvanian.

Never before has something so stupid been believed by so few but accepted by so many.

So, I wanted to nominate Arlen Specter for the title of “Originator of the Stupidest Idea Ever”. Not even the spork can top this one.

David Duke, grand wizard of the KKK, gets the Republican nomination for Governor of Louisiana.

Politically ambitious General George Custer decides that attacking a Sioux village full of women and children near the Little Bighorn River may help him get to Washington.
Lee orders Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg. The Confederate advance toward Philadelphia and Washington is stopped dead.

Hitler signs a pact with Stalin, then doublecrosses Stalin and tackles a two-front war.

Hitler’s decision to take top-down management to its ridiculous extreme. Rather than wake their boss, Hitler’s staff lets him sleep while the Allies hit Normandy.

Xerox fails to see any value in the work of one of their research teams that came up with graphical interfaces and a pointing device called a “mouse.” They give the work away to kids called Jobs and Wozniak.

Gary Hart, with an excellent shot at the Presidency, dares the press to tail him. He then seems to forget they’re tailing him when he chases Donna Rice’s tail.

Dumb: Washington DC Mayor Marion Berry smokes crack.
Dumber: DC voters reelect him.

Fredericksburg, 1862. The US army (under the orders of Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside, the dumb one in this story) crossed 2 tiny bridges to make a frontal attack on a well-dug-in CS position with (for once) plenty of ammo and powder for the cannons, and commanded by a career artilleryman (Stonewall Jackson). The Confederate gunners didn’t take out the bridges–they aimed just on their side of the bridges as the Union soldiers came over in small groups. Slaughter ensued. The most one-sided battle of the US civil war.
And I’ll second OrcaChow’s nomination of Custer, who had reinforcements (and his boss) on the way, with the help of which he could have easily massacred the Sioux. But Custer wanted to be a hero, and went on in with his small part of the main attack force. Slaughter ensued.

Saddam invades Kuwait. 'Nuff said.

Hitler - a popular blunder-maker, I see - allows the bulk of the British Expeditionary Force to escape at Dunkirk in 1940. To be followed by another one almost as bad, though Goring gets partial credit - the decision to bomb London instead of RAF airfields and factories. Result four years later - D-Day.

Fredricksburg was indeed bad but the Union absorbed many such debacles. Gettysburg was worse, the South couldn’t handle one loss like that.

The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor seems to be considered by historians these days as a really bad move, but it can also be agrued they had little choice given their strategic goals.

More ancient times - the destruction of the library in Alexandria.

Huh? Since when is June the fall? IIRC, the German estimate was 6 weeks to Moscow. Based on the Soviet performance in Finland and the German performance against France, I don’t think one can even put it among the top ten dumbest decisions in history unless everybody could read the future.

Other mistakes if one had perfect foresight:

Germany embracing the Nazi Party. “Oops” isn’t a big enough word.

Hitler’s brutality toward the people he conquered, especially in the Soviet Union. Many Russians embraced German occupation at first–until they realized Hitler was worse than Stalin. (Or at least more efficient, apparently due to IBM punch card systems, according to a recent book.)

U.S. intervention in Vietnam.

A few more contenders in the 20th century:

Germany going to war with Russia and France 1914 because the trains were on the way and “couldn’t” be recalled.

Germany not suing for peace after the victories of 1914.

Japan going to war with the U.S. 1941 because they needed resources to fight the war in China. Why did Japan go to war with China? To secure resources in the event another Russo-Japanese war broke out. Let’s get this straight. The Japanese didn’t want to have an industrial disadvantage in a war with the Soviet Union, so they end up declaring war on the United States? Hmm…

Oy. So many to choose from.

44 BC: Having killed Gaius Julius Caesar, the assassins return to the Senate and expect the Republic to be instantly returned to its glory days. Their failure to address any of the actual issues which allowed Caesar to become so powerful lead to Gaius Octavian following in the footsteps of Caesar, Sulla, and Marius to eventually make himself (in fact, if not in name) Emperor.

1863: General Jeb Stuart, incensed at having lost a skirmish with the Union cavalry, decides to reprise his glory days by riding his cavalry around the entire Union army. As a result, Lee has no cavalry during the coming battle of Gettysburg and has no idea where the Union troops are nor what strength they have, and his plan for an attack on the Union rear ends up actually hitting the center of the Union’s left line, and the Confederates lose the battle (and possibly their last chance of winning the war).

1864: Disgusted with General Joe Johnston’s constant retreating, CSA President Jefferson Davis fires him and replaces him with General John Bell Hood, stating, “This man will fight.” Hood immediately drops Johnston’s strategy of delay and replaces it with a strategy of ‘smash Sherman’s army’. This fails miserably, and while Hood is nursing his army back to health, Sherman proceeds to take Atlanta and begin his march to the sea. Hood eventually strikes out to hit Tennessee, where he will fight in the battle of Nashville and become the only general on either side of the war to lose his entire army. Johnston later points out that had he continued his delay strategy, Sherman never could have taken Atlanta by Election Day, and Lincoln likely would have lost his bid for re-election, thus making it possible that peace terms would have been reached and the CSA’s independence regonized.

1919: President Wilson leaves for the peace negotiations for ending World War I without bringing along a single Republican in his delegation; he expects the Republican controlled House and Senate will readily accept whatever treaty he comes up with simply by the moral force of his position.

1957: After Vietnam overwhelmingly elects Ho Chi Minh as President, US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles steps in and negotiates a partition of Vietnam so that the defeated candidate can have his own puppet-state to run.

1976: President Gerald R. Ford declares that there is no Soviet domination of Poland. Millions of listeners are stunned, and Ford loses re-election to Carter by a mere 10,500 votes (electorally, had 10,000 votes in Ohio and 500 in Hawaii switched, Ford would have won. He actually lost the popular vote by 1.5 million).

[ul][li]Speaking of dumb moves at Sharpsburg, how about the anonymous Confederate officer who left behind a copy of Lee’s battle plan? D’oh![/li][li]And speaking of the Civil War, how about the Confederate decision to fire on Ft. Sumter? Nice recruiting tool for the Union, that.[/li][li]I don’t think anyone has yet mentioned the launching (and subsequent annihilation) of the Spanish Armada. D’oh![/li]The persecution of Galileo for vocally embracing the Copernican model and rejecting the idea of the Earth as the center of the universe.[/ul]

1812-Napoleon invades Moscow in the middle of winter. Dumb, dumb DUMB!!!

Late 19th century-Bismarck makes a lot of secret treaties and coddles the young Prince Wilhelm. When the Prince becomes Kaiser Wilhelm II, he dumps Bismarck. Dumbass.

1914-Austria declares war on Serbia just because of the Black Hand’s assassination of the Heir to the Throne. The Serbian government had nothing to do with it. Austria spells their downfall.

Versailles in 1918 decides to punish Germany so severely that later on Hitler is able to gain the confidence of the people.

Tsar Nicholas II’s trusting of Rasputin, and not making any concessions to the people and the Duma.

Crown Prince Frederick of Prussia talks his father into NOT abdicating, thus, misses his own chance to take over and make Prussia more liberal. (Frederick reigned only 90 days before he died of throat cancer).

William Walker overthrows the government in oh, shit-Nicaragua was it? Or was it Honduras? Anyhoo, gets his ass kicked eventually.

Alexander Kerensk-too trusting of the Petrograd Soviet.

I’ve got to read posts more carefully. Of course, I was thinking of the ill-fated Union attempt to cross Burnside Bridge at Sharpsburg, while the earlier posts concerned the river crossings at Fredericksburg.

Burnside seemingly had a weird compulsion about trying to move large bodies of troops across narrow bridges while under fire…Twice in one war! Sheesh! You’d think the guy would learn…

As you pointed out, Wilhelm I’s expected successor was his son, Frederick, with whom Bismarck was on good terms. Considering that Frederick’s father lived to 90, Bismarck probably assumed he would be dead himself before Wilhelm II took over.

Despite post-war claims to the contrary, Austria and Germany were both looking for a war in 1914 for what they thought were good reasons. Austria was beset with growing ethnic problems and a vulnerable dynastic situation. It was felt that a war with a foreign power would unite the county. And Serbian government officials were definitely giving significant covert aid to terrorist groups in Austria, including the Black Hand.

Germany was concerned about Russia’s growing economic and military strength, Britain’s increasing political attachment with France and Russia, and the above mentioned problems of their Austrian ally. Germany felt that within five years or less, they would be faced with a hopless military situation, so their best chance was to defeat France and Russia while it was still possible.

It was Nicaragua. And Walker’s biggest mistake was not in taking over the country, which he succeeded at doing, but in getting too cocky afterward. Walker’s early success was financed by Cornelius Vanderbilt, but after he took power, Walker decided he could repudiate his promises to Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt got his revenge by turning around and finacing the coup that overthrew Walker.

Looking for a stupid decision? Let’s go back to the classic “Hey look, the Greek army that’s been fighting us for ten years has inexplicably disappeared. And they left us this neat horse statue. Let’s tear down a section of our city’s walls so we can wheel it inside.”

In addition to the stupidity of attacking Russia, I’ll pile on and condemn Hitler for declaring war on the United States, on December 11, 1941. Ostensibly the declaration enabled the German navy to expand its Atlantic operations, since there was no longer any “neutrality” to violate. The cost, however, was a bit excessive, and foreseeable absent Hitler’s dogmatic, myopic dismissals of American industrial and technical capacities. Since by then it had already become apparent that Germany would not win a quick victory over the Soviets, it was utter foolishness to intentionally provoke another large, resource-rich combatant (particularly one capable of supplying the enemy you’re already having trouble overcoming).

This is debateable. The question of course is, who specifically do you think was looking for a war: the heads of state, military leaders, or the general populace? To quote Keegan’s The First World War:

I’ll second Napoleon’s march to Moscow.

He left with 422,000 troops, found an abandoned city,
then marched back, with only 10,000 troops making it
to Poland again.

Andy Williams Is trying to talk to Stevie Wonder, via sattelite transmission during the Grammy’s.
Stevie’s end has trouble with audio reception.
Andy asks “Can you hear me? Can you hear me?”
Stevie dosen’t answer.
Andy asks " If you can’t hear me,…
CAN YOU SEE ME?"

Andy Williams asked not to host the Grammy’s again.

With the benefit of hindsight . . .

-Since Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak worked at Hewlett-Packard, all intellectual property they had belonged to the company. They presented their idea of a “personal computer” to their bosses, and were rejected since their idea was “impractical” and of course, what use would homeowners have for a computer? This freed them to start Apple Computer.

-Richard M. Nixon and his difficulties with the “erase” button.

-Hitler’s refusal to commit enough forces to destroy Moscow, opting the spread out the front instead. Destroying Moscow would have ruined Russian morale and possibly forced the Soviets into Asia.

-Stalin killing most of his qualified military leadership in the late 1930s, leaving the Red Army woefully unprepared for Hitler’s invasion.

There’s more I’m sure . . . I’ll be back . . . .

Sorry, but this simply never happened. Xerox knew that their early GUI had practical and long-term uses; that’s what their Palo Alto R&D faciliy was supposed to do, after all. They certainly were able to recognize its value enough to charge Apple Computer $1 million in stock options to see the prototype GUI and to allow Apple to enhance upon it.

Not meant to be a hijack, but this old story is still making the rounds, and is a pet peeve of mine.

As opposed to the gunman on the grassy knoll, where a look at the map shows you any bullet had to make a right angle turn before it hit anything? Talk about magic!

However, without getting into that, my pick for the dumbest moment was the U.S. capture of Guam during the Spanish-American War. It went something like this:

  1. U.S. gunboat sails into harbor.
  2. Spanish fort does not respond.
  3. U.S. gunboat fires warning shot at Spanish fort.
  4. Spanish fort does not respond.
  5. Spanish fort sends small boat to U.S. gunship.
  6. Spanish soldiers come aboard U.S. gunship.
  7. Spanish soldiers apologize, saying they can’t return the U.S. gunboat’s salute, as they have no ammunition.
  8. Spanish soldiers are informed a state of war exists between the two countries.
  9. Spanish fort surrenders.

Actually, Bismarck hated Frederick, and even more he despised his wife, the Crown Princess Victoria. He turned Willy against his own parents, and thought Frederick was too liberal. He spread tons of rumors about them.

The US should never have been so heavy handed in Cuba from the Spanish American War until Castro took over. We kind of made Castro inevitable.

The Archduke Ferdinand’s driver, for not taking the altered route they were supposed to take. And Ferdinand himself, for being so stupid as to go to Sarajevo, when he was warned it was a bad idea.

The King of Yugoslavia, for not wearing his bullet proof vest because it didn’t quite fit under the uniform he had to wear the day he was shot in Marseilles.