Sigh... the constant bashing of the Starks' "mistakes" from the fandom gets really irritating, especially because most of it is Flanderizing them for being "too honourable" and sneering at them for... basically being decent people, instead of HARD MAN pragmatists/organic tactical computers.
That said, nobody's perfect, especially in GoT, so let's break this down and see which of these criticisms are actually merited, before deciding which failure was worst.
Crazedwraith wrote: ↑
I was going to title it "what was Robb Stark's worst mistake?" but his absolute worst is pretty obvious in and out of universe, breaking a marriage alliance in favour of someone who brings very little to his cause. But really Robb made plenty of mistakes in retrospect.
I will never condemn someone for refusing to follow through on an arranged marriage that they agreed to under coercion. To blame Robb for this would make me, in my eyes, an apologist for forced marriage/rape. I don't hold this against Robb any more than I hold Robert's Rebellion against Lyanna for going with Rhaegar. And before anyone says "but Robb agreed to it"- he agreed under coercion because the Freys strategically had his balls in a vise. Frey's demands were utterly unreasonable and frankly disloyal (he was a sworn Tully bannerman, yes?).
Should Robb have known what the consequences would be? I would argue no. Violating guest right is a big fucking deal in Westeros- there was no fucking way Robb could have known how far Frey would go, especially since Frey has a reputation in-universe for being a coward who likes to hedge his bets. The Red Wedding is arguably seriously out of character behaviour for him, and happened only because he had strong allies prompting him to do it, of which Robb was unaware.
If you want to blame anything, blame Robb's lack of a better spy network, Caetlyn for negotiating such an absurd deal on his behalf, or best of all, blame Frey for being a piece of duplicitous human slime even by the low standards of Westrosi nobility.
including (based on the first three books):
- going South personally, leaving Bran to rule the north. This goes to shit quickly.
This is not a mistake. This was absolutely essential if he was going to wage war at all, in my opinion. In a society like Westeros, personal leadership on the battlefield matters, and long-distance communications are often unreliable. Moreover, considering how divided and unreliable his vassals seem to have been, who in the hell could he have trusted to command in his stead? If Bolton so thoroughly stabbed him in the back when he was present, God only knows what he could have done if they were a thousand miles apart the whole time.
Plus, Robb is an excellent tactician, and his personal leadership likely made a big difference on the battlefield.
Point noted above about Caetlyn telling him he didn't need to lead the army, but given that the very same post attacks Caetlyn for her poor judgment in other areas, there seems to be a bit of a contradiction here. Moreover, while I actually sympathize with Caetlyn a great deal and think that she probably gets the most disproportionate and excessive hostility from the GoT fandom of any single character (with the possible exception of the "blame Lyanna for not being a good subservient sex slave
wife to Robert" crowd), I also am aware that Caetlyn's driving motivation as a character, much of the time, is her desire to protect her family. So I am skeptical as to how much of her argument is a strategic assessment, and how much of it is "How can I get my first born home and away from the battlefield?"
- assigning Roose Bolton to command his entire force of foot independently, allowing Bolton to undermine him and waste his forces.
Probably a big mistake, yeah. In fairness, however, I'm not sure if Robb had any reason to suspect Bolton's treason, and Bolton is to all appearances a capable battlefield commander, so this is more a mistake with the benefit of hindsight.
- sending Theon to treat with his father rather than keeping him close as a hostage
I'll give you that one. Robb seems to have had a blind spot where Theon's character is concerned, and foolishly counted on him to side with his best friend over his family. In fact, I'll say this is his biggest one, since it cost him his capitol, endangered much of his family, and seriously eroded his credibility with his vassals all in one go.
- not letting edmure in on the big strategic plan, which leads Edmure to screw things up with best intentions
No comment. My knowledge of this aspect of the story is shaky at best. That said, I will point out that there is an argument, as a general principle, to keeping strategic plans as "need to know" as possible, especially when those plans rely on surprise.
Why do I have a bad feeling that this is going to turn into another version of the "should Holdo have told Poe the plan" debate over TLJ.
- breaks marriage alliance for another house
I don't recall this. Can you elaborate?
- executes Rickard Karstark and makes no efforts to retain the rest of his forces.
No comment. I'm not sure how I feel about that one myself.
It's easy to think of Robb as a great guy who only made one big mistake, but really the dude messed up a lot, understandably for 14 year old. He seems to be a competent enough tactician and strategists but lacking in leadership, losing people's allegiance easily and not regaining it, not trusting subordinates excepting them to follow him loyally and to the letter without question.
What do you guys thing? Have I missed any fuckups?
His "big mistake' was entirely justified in my view, but other than that this summary is more or less right, I think.
Worst mistake, as noted above, was trusting Theon.