10 Catastrophic Solutions That Backfired Spectacularly and Made the Problem Worse
10 Catastrophic Solutions That Backfired Spectacularly and Made the Problem Worse

10 Catastrophic Solutions That Backfired Spectacularly and Made the Problem Worse

Khalid Elhassan - February 25, 2018

10 Catastrophic Solutions That Backfired Spectacularly and Made the Problem Worse
Egyptian soldiers celebrate successful crossing of Suez Canal in Yom Kippur War. Reddit

Israeli Government Tries to Save Money by Dismissing Warnings of Impending Attack, Suffers Worst Military Setback in Israeli History

Israel defeated Egypt and seized the Sinai Peninsula in the 1967 Six Day War. Thereafter, Egyptians and Israelis glared at each other across the Suez Canal, as years of low intensity warfare simmered, comprised of artillery exchanges, commando raids, and air attacks. In the meantime, Egypt rebuilt, reorganized, and retrained its military for a rematch that all knew was coming.

Years before the attack, Egyptian president Anwar Sadat began running massive military maneuvers near the Suez Canal, in order to accustom the Israelis to large scale Egyptian troop movements in vicinity of the Sinai. That way, when the time came for the actual attack, the Israelis would be lulled into dismissing its preparations as just another drill.

By mid 1973, however, a highly placed Mosad agent had informed the Israelis of the Egyptian plan of attack. What the Israelis did not know was when the attack would begin. Israel’s small population precluded a large permanent military establishment, so knowing the when was vital. Israel could not afford to mobilize hundreds of thousands of soldiers indefinitely, just to have them ready when the Egyptians finally got around to attacking. Instead, Israel used a small standing military, that would get fleshed out in time of war with a rapid mobilization of civilian reservists. Such mobilizations were highly disruptive and expensive, however, and the mass of civilians taken from their daily occupations could not be kept in uniform for long.

The Egyptians played upon that vulnerability. Months before the planned attack, the Egyptians tricked the Israelis into believing that an attack was imminent, causing Israel to declare a disruptive and expensive emergency mobilization. No attack came, and the Israeli government ended up with egg on its face. Thus, when the Egyptians began preparing for the real attack a few months later, the Israeli government, burned once by a false alarm, was reluctant to call another mobilization.

A week before going to war, the Egyptians carried out major military maneuvers near the Suez Canal, during which they called up reservists. Israeli intelligence dismissed it as just another drill. To further lull the Israelis, the Egyptians announced the demobilization of the reservists called up for the “military exercise”, two days before launching their attack..

Reluctant to declare another expensive and disruptive mobilization, the Israeli government ignored dissenting voices sounding the alarm that Egypt was preparing for actual war. So when the Egyptians attacked across the Suez Canal on October 6th, 1973, Israel was caught off guard and wrong footed. The Israeli Defense Forces sustained high casualties as their forward fortifications were swiftly overrun, and the Egyptians secured a beachhead on the eastern side of the canal. The IDF eventually clawed its way back up, encircled an Egyptian army weeks later, and prevailed in the war. However, their early setbacks and high casualties at war’s beginning were a direct result of the Israeli government’s attempt to save some money.

10 Catastrophic Solutions That Backfired Spectacularly and Made the Problem Worse
Milan Poison Scare. Message to Eagle

Authorities Warn Citizens to be on Lookout for Saboteurs, Trigger Ruinous Paranoid Panic

In 1629, the governor of Milan, Italy, received an alarming message from king Philip IV of Spain. It warned him to be on the lookout for four Frenchman recently escaped from a Spanish prison, and who might be en route to Milan to spread the plague via “poisonous and pestilential ointments“. Word spread, as the Milanese were instructed by the authorities to be on the lookout for suspicious characters and potential poisoners. The warning fell on fertile soil, since fears that sinister people planned to spread a plague throughout Christendom were rampant in 17th century Europe.

Tensions mounted in Milan in subsequent months, as citizens kept a lookout for suspicious figures. With each passing day, Milanese nerves grew more frazzled and tensions were heightened, as fears mounted of an imminent poisoning. After months of sitting on a powder keg, the city finally erupted in what came to be known as “The Great Poisoning Scare of Milan”.

On May 17th, some Milanese reported mysterious people placing what appeared to be poison in a cathedral partition. Authorities found no evidence of poisoning, but by then, paranoia had gripped the city. The following morning, the Milanese woke to find that all doors on the main streets had been marked with a mysterious daub. Health officials inspected the daubs, found nothing harmful in them, and concluded they were a prank by trolls getting some laughs out of the citizens’ fears.

The Milanese were past official reassurances, however. Taking the mysterious daubs as a sign that the long-anticipated poison attack was finally underway, the citizens gave in to a collective bout of paranoid insanity, and began accusing random people. The accused ran the gamut from strangers on the streets, to various nobles, to Cardinal Richelieu of France or general Wallenstein, commander of the armies of the Holy Roman Empire in the then-raging Thirty Years War.

One of the early victims of the mass paranoia was an old man, spotted wiping a bench in church before sitting down. A mob of crazed women accused him of poisoning the seat, seized him, and began beating him up in church. They dragged him to the magistrates, continuing their violent assault upon him along the way, and ended up killing him en route.

On another occasion, a pharmacist was accused of being in league with the Devil when he was found with unknown potions. After prolonged torture, he changed his protestations of innocence to a confession of guilt, repeating whatever his torturers wanted to hear in order to end the pain. Admitting to working for the Devil and foreigners to poison the city, the pharmacist named other accomplices who were innocent of any crime. They in turn were arrested and tortured, and to end their suffering, they named yet more innocents, repeating the process. All were tried, convicted based on the confessions extracted under torture, and executed.

As paranoia and insanity tightened their grip on the city, many Milanese stepped forward to accuse… themselves. Many went to the magistrates and voluntarily confessed to supernatural deeds, describing meetings with the Devil, witches, sorcerers, and sundry practitioners of black magic, in which they plotted to poison city. As reported, “The number of persons who confessed that they were employed by the Devil to distribute poison is almost incredible“. Many were executed based on their voluntary false confessions.


Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

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CNN – When Italian Immigrants Were ‘The Other’

Cracked – 7 Serious Problems That Had Hilarious Cartoon Solutions

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Encyclopedia Britannica – Yom Kippur War

Guardian, The – How Prohibition Backfired and Gave America an Era of Gangsters and Speakeasies

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Thought Co. – Massacre of British Army in Afghanistan in 1842

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