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Divided We Fall

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"We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."

The Evil Overlord is about to conquer the country, and The Rival is more concerned about his personal feud with the hero. He may not realize the danger. He often disbelieved either because of his resentment, or honestly, not trusting The Hero. But the damage is real even so.

Malicious Slander often fans the fire. The Rival may perpetrate it — or just be extremely gullible, blinded by his dislike for The Hero. Can also be egged on by Divide and Conquer tactics by the real enemy.

Heroic counterpart of Enemy Civil War — though, obviously, at least The Rival is not usually very heroic. Enlivens the life of many a hero, though.

The better sort of rival will come to his senses with the enemy actually at the gate, but not without doing heavy damage to the cause first. However, often, Redemption Equals Death. Not always. Sometimes, at that, The Hero learns An Aesop about how people can legitimately suspect him without being evil. Either way, Teeth-Clenched Teamwork is likely to ensue — though that may lead to Fire Forged Friendship and prevent reoccurrence. The Leader can sometimes resolve it earlier by trampling objections.


The worse sort may actually become the Turn Coat, undergoing a Face–Heel Turn. This shifts them out of the ambit of this trope. Obstructive Bureaucrat and The Resenter frequently cause this.

Contrast With Friends Like These..., where your ally is only your ally because the two of you happen to be fighting the same villain at the same time; this has deadly serious effects, and also can be carried out with perfect courtesy all around. Contrast Enemy Mine, where someone who is usually an opponent is willing to work with you against a common enemy. Contrast Sour Supporter, who will work for you, but just to let you know, he thinks you're insane. When The Hero and The Rival work for different organizations, Interservice Rivalry may be involved. Supertrope of We ARE Struggling Together and A House Divided. See also Ignored Enemy, Rebellious Rebel, Headbutting Heroes, Let's You and Him Fight, Who Needs Enemies? and Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Shakugan no Shana, the Flame Hazes tend to be lone wolf types and apparently it's unusual for Flame Hazes to ever work together, even though they have the same goals; Margery Daw is hostile when first encountered (she wanted to kill the one particular Tomogara who isn't harmful). Later, when Wilhelmina shows up, she conflicts with Shana, who has decided to save the world without killing Yuji.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion, NERV is fighting to save the world the world from complete destruction, yet the UN keeps cutting its defence budget; heck, it even wanted to Nuke Tokyo 3 into oblivion if the situation looks bleak. Might even be deliberate, seeing as after the Angels are destroyed, civil war swiftly erupts.
    • Somewhat justified in the fact that over the course of the series, Tokyo-3 and the evas take an ernomous amount of damage, and NERV's infastructure is incredibly expensive just to begin with (Massive rifles for the Evas to use? Experimental particle beam weapons? That crap's not cheap). It's also implied that the economy of the post-2nd impact world is much worse then ours, particularly if doing your laundry and buying steak dinners is "expensive".
  • Thanks to an Evil Plan by the villain of the School Festival arc in Negima! Magister Negi Magi, lead Negi was being held responsible for The Unmasqued World, with his True Companions being hunted as accomplices. This had the re-grouped friends fighting far better-trained mage teachers and students employed by the school is guards with Negi taken prisoner. They ultimately succeeded in rescuing the lead, though not without tremendous hinderance and generally having life made a little harder.
  • In Code Geass, Lelouch and Suzaku want to end Britannia's tyranny. They also happen to be best friends. Unfortunately, Lelouch uses ruthless tactics to get results for the Japanese, while Suzaku believes that Britannia can be reformed with patience. Lelouch's best schemes are too often foiled by Suzaku's ace piloting at the worst possible times, and Suzaku is being used as a pawn by Britannia's corrupt nobility. Eventually, Lelouch is expelled from the Black Knights due to a brutally effective frame-up / exposition combo ploy by Schneizel. Meanwhile, Suzaku realizes he effectively became the very Britannian nobility he spent his whole life opposing and defects to Lelouch. Schneizel believes that two bitter rivals teaming up will still be a fractured allegiance that can be defeated with the combined forces of Britannia's warhead science division and the Black Knights. He's dead wrong.
    • Also, the Black Knights leaving the JLF to dienote . Nightmare of Nunnally takes this one step further into Zero and Kyoto flatly selling them out.
    • Britannia made a back-deal with the Chinese Federation's leaders to assimilate them into their empire, but quickly reneged on the deal once it became apparent that the whole country was in a complete anarchic riot. This rational act eventually leads to the total collapse of Britannia, because they unwittingly left one of their key assets in China undefendednote .
  • At least twice in Dragon Ball Z, Vegeta would deliberately allow the Universe-Destroying Abomination Of The Week to power up so he could have a "worthy" opponent to fight —even going as far as to battle his own allies to let it happen. First, he did it in the Cell Saga, where he stood back while Cell attained his "Perfect" body, then battled Trunks, his own son, when the latter tried to stop it. In a later arc, when he and the other Z fighters raced to avoid the awakening of Majin Buu, he let the magician Babidi empower him with a malevolent sigil, and forced Goku to battle him instead of helping save the world. Gohan and the Kaio-Shin were left to try to stop Buu on their own. Naturally, they failed, since Buu absorbed the Battle Aura shed by Vegeta and Goku in their duel.
  • Averted in Death Note: while Mello and Near start out as enemies (at least, from Mello's perspective), and when Mello visits the SPK headquarters he uses a hostage and is held at gunpoint, but instead gives him a vital- if cryptic- piece of information about Kira.
  • Cosmo Entelechia and Ala Alba are both trying to save the magic world in Negima! Magister Negi Magi. The problem is that the former doesn't believe in the latter's plan, which has a more optimistic solution. Which is honestly justified considering the situation and who is informing them of it.
  • By volume 4 of Maiden Rose, Eurote and some aristocrats from Taki's country are so determined to get rid of Taki because he's second-in-line to the throne that their in-fighting becomes a great asset to the Western Alliance who they are currently at war with.
  • Narrowly averted in Naruto at the beginning of the Fourth Shinobi War. The Kages barely agree to forming an Alliance to counter Obito and their shinobi nearly start fighting one another over old grudges when assembling for battle against a common foe.
  • In Episode 11 of Attack on Titan, Pixis tells Eren a story about how humanity used to bicker and fight wars until the Titans showed up and was supposed to force them to unite together against a common enemy. Eren has heard that legend before and thinks it's naive because humanity still hasn't banded together. Pixis agrees with him. He tells Eren that humanity does need to stand together soon, or they would all be wiped out eventually by the Titans.
  • This is the reason the Free Planets Alliance falls in Legend of the Galactic Heroes: selfish bureaucrats are in charge and too busy making themselves look good and make sure the military cannot take over to effectively support Yang and the competent members of the FPA Star Fleet, and in fact would even sabotage them if 'unreliable' officers (that is, people who weren't professiona asskissers) appeared to gain too much following in the public and send the fleet on suicidal missions to bolster their own prestige. This came to a head when admiral Greenhill and a number of competent officers launched a coup... Only to fail to gain Yang support, as the latter was too loyal to the ideals of democracy to support them, leading to a short and disastrous civil war right when the Galactic Empire was undergoing its own civil war (and in fact Reinhardt orchestrated the Alliance Civil War specifically to make sure they wouldn't be a threat or capable of rebuilding after their recent losses). Yang being Yang, he won, restored the democratic but corrupt government... And was the victim of an illegal inquiry because he had saved them in addition to being a war hero, and thus had enough popular support he could have toppled the government by announcing he was doing that. With the Empire fragmented by its own infighting the Alliance could survive, but once Reinhardt stopped the infighting and installed himself as emperor the war ended in short order.

    Comic Books 
  • Extremely common in superhero comics, as many writers look for any excuse to have heroes fight each other. As a specific example, the official superteams of countries America is less than friendly with, like Marvel's (former) Soviet Super Soldiers/Supreme Soviets/People's Protectorate/Winter Guard and DC's Great Ten (China's national super team) are always - ALWAYS - more interested in keeping American hero teams out of their home countries than they are in teaming up to stop the rampaging monster/villain/aliens/whatever that the American heroes have chased across their border.
    • That said, the People's Protectorate and the Avengers make for a pretty good team when they stop squabbling.
  • Supergirl: In the post-Flashpoint timeline, Zor-El and Jor-El both believe Krypton is doomed, but can't agree on how to save its people. Jor-El favors building rockets to flee the planet, while Zor-El wants to build force fields around their cities. Both of them are right about their ideas being viable (as shown when Jor-El saves his son while Zor-El saves Argo City) but neither of them saves as many people as they could have by working together.

    Fan Works 
  • In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, by Episode 13, tension between Roll and ProtoMan has hit a breaking point, and they may fight soon if not stopped.
  • Sort of invoked in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World. The four are baffled that the Guardians and the Circle, the two main good Power Groups, haven't banded together to fight the Black Tower, which is poised to take over C'hou in just over a year. Indeed, the two groups actually spend more time sniping at each other than attempting to defeat the baddies. When the four ask if there's any chance at all the two groups can cooperate, they're told that the two groups have been rivals for a long time, and it would take more than the defense of the minor, extrauniversal C'hou to bring them together. Which of course makes them wonder why the Pyar gods would bring both of them over—not to mention the people who make up the Animals, and the secret Power Groups who are cooperating with no one.
  • A Brighter Dark: Ryoma becomes so focused on the war with Nohr that he completely ignores the opinions of the Obstructive Bureaucrat shoguns that run the different provinces of Hoshido. While this appears to be an awesome moment at first, Ryoma realizes that dismissing nobles of high status isn't such a good idea when you need their assistance in fighting a war, and they eventually break away from Hoshido all together to fight the war on his own.
  • Throughout Code Prime, the Britannians and Decepticons, despite being nominally aligned together, tend to argue to hell and back and attempt to one up each other. This comes to a head in Chapter 22, Divided They Fall, where Airachnid ends up trapping Cornelia and Starscream in half of the wreck of the Harbinger so that she can claim the immobilizer. Not only do the Autobots and Black Knights get away with the weapon (in part because Airachnid immobilized all of her allies in addition to the Autobots and Black Knights), Lelouch was able to use his Geass on Cornelia to obtain information on all of Britannia's military operations in Japan. Megatron smacks some heads after this and threatens any Con who refuses to properly work together for their greater agenda, which miraculously works, though their relationship with Britannia doesn't get any better and ultimately the Decepticons overthrow and conquer the Britannian Empire.
  • Chasing Dragons: Any hope that the remnants of the slavers' Grand Army had of escaping from the abolitionists' siege at Ghoyan Drohe intact falls apart due to its internal factionalism — the Tattered Prince's mercenaries (which represent most of the Grand Army's remaining cavalry) desert and flee, while the Volantene Militia and the Exile Company turn on each other when the Militia realizes that the Company is planning on using them as a diversion to cover their own escape. This all leaves the Grand Army disorganized enough for the abolitionists to charge in and wipe the floor with them.

  • Emperor (2020)
    • Ruthless Bounty Hunter Luke McCabe gets into a standoff with two men over the body of his latest bounty, but regains the advantage because his would-be ambushers get distracted debating whether to give the body a proper burial or turn it in for the reward themselves.
    • Abolitionist leaders John Brown and Frederick Douglas can't agree on whether they should attack an armory to trigger a slave rebellion or merely help more slaves flee to non-slave states. Douglas disapproves of Brown's willingness to risk the lives of his men and sons and feels that as a white man, Brown isn't in as much danger and can't appreciate the risks. Brown feels drastic action is necessary even if it means being Inspirational Martyrs, goes ahead without Douglas, and fails (although his pro-slavery enemies only get a Pyrrhic Victory, as The American Civil War isn't far away).
  • High Noon: Kane's deputy refuses to help him unless Kane agrees to the deputy becoming his successor.
  • In 1776, as well as in real life, Benjamin Franklin says "If we do not hang together, we shall most assuredly hang separately!" Also, until Richard Henry Lee brings Virginia's approval to debate the idea of independence, most of the congressmen refuse to second John Adams' proposal to debate independence. John Dickinson never stops supporting the crown however, even after his cause is lost, although that is not out of pure animosity towards Adams.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • This trope plagues The Avengers for the first 2/3rds of the film, with their multi-sided bickering, mistrust, derision, and lack of professionalism leading them to be so wrapped up in yelling at each other that they fail to realize that Loki is actually counting on them to be so wrapped up in yelling at each other that they fail to head off an ambush, are swiftly laid siege to, the Helicarrier is badly crippled, their ranks are scattered, Loki escapes, and Coulson is killed. It's only after this happens that they retroactively realize they could've avoided it all if they had just worked together from the start.
    • In Avengers: Age of Ultron, conflicts within the team and the lack of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s presence are a major factor in driving the plot.
    • The tagline for Captain America: Civil War invokes it word for word: "United we stand. Divided we fall."
    • Avengers: Infinity War: Prior conflicts and inability to get past them (best demonstrated by Tony Stark's unwillingness to call Steve Rogers) lead to groups of heroes acting on their own (on Titan, in Wakanda) and without any common plan, which is deemed to result in failure. They do lose.
  • Every film of George A. Romero's Living Dead Series —save perhaps Dawn of the Dead (1978)— revolves almost entirely around this. No matter how petty the squabble or how many restless undead are pounding on the weakening barricades outside, the main characters will never, ever just swallow their pride and work together, because Romero is a strong believer in Humans Are the Real Monsters and he will get his pet message across even if he has to roll it up and cram it right down your throat.
  • Star Wars: Palpatine's plotting throughout the Prequel Trilogy culminates with separating the heroes in Revenge of the Sith, with Obi-Wan and Yoda going offworld on different missions and Padme standing in opposition to the Republic's increasing authoritarianism, leaving Anakin isolated from the people that care about him, thereby falling to the Dark Side of the Force and becoming Darth Vader.
    • The Last Jedi Does this too: Holdo's lack of communication with the Resistance results in the entire crew distrusting her, leading to Poe setting off a chain of events that indirectly destroy the majority of the Resistance.
  • Discussed thoroughly in Exam. Because the characters can't decide whether they're supposed to act as a group to achieve a goal that they can't achieve alone or they're meant to pull the carpet out from under each other, they keep debating this theme. Black and Blonde are the ones that most advocate this idea.
  • Ran: Being an adaptation of King Lear (for which see Theatre below), this is the basic problem. Lord Ichimonji uses the classic metaphor of three arrows in a bundle being harder to break than three arrows separately to demonstrate the importance of strength in unity. Saburo subverts this by using his knee to break the bundle, showing that even a united family can break under the right circumstances. Ironically, it is Saburo who tries the hardest to heed his father's advice, and is thwarted by his brothers' ambitions (and Lady Kaede's machinations).

  • In David Wingrove's Chung Kuo series: the Ping Tiao rebels, the Yu rebels, the businessmen in Europe and later the businessmen in North America, and of course Howard deVore's operations
  • Pretty much why the maze remains unsolved in Dis Acedia, as its prisoners are too busy fighting each others to make coordinated efforts.
  • From Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000 novels:
    • The Gaunt's Ghosts novel First & Only is driven by two rivalries: between the Ghosts and the Jantine Patricians, and between Dravere and Macroth. Indeed, the first rivalry, and its Revenge, is used to cover up other intrigues — and this in the face of the forces of Chaos!
      • In Ghostmaker, they have another rivalry between the Ghosts and the Volpone Bluebloods. While the Bluebloods themselves are not all evil (at worst, Blueblood guardsmen are just haughty and elitist) their commanders once wittingly ordered an artillery bombardment where they knew the Ghosts were currently encamped, and at the climax, two officers are in a brawl until a Chaos beast actually erupts on them, killing several of their troopers.
      • In Traitor General, Sturm blamed his fall on Gaunt's unwillingness to let the past go and jockeying for power. He realizes the truth, in time.
      • And of course there's Rawne, Gaunt's own third-in command, who has tried to kill Gaunt himself on several occasions. Admittedly this was because he blamed Gaunt for saving only his regiment and not allowing them to fight the forces of Chaos at their Founding, forcing the regiment to abandon its home and people - even though doing so would have done no practical good at all, and would have rendered the Tanith people totally extinct.
    • In his Inquisitor series — both Eisenhorn and Ravenor — the inquisitors in question spend as much time resisting the Inquisition as they do the forces of Chaos.
    • In Brothers of the Snake, a Space Marine Khiron shot and killed another after a fight with Chaos forces. When another Marine, Priad, finds it hard to believe that he just murdered him and investigates, the squad of the dead Marine corner Priad in an attempt to intimidate him out of dishonoring them. Khiron had shot him because a daemon had possessed him, and Priad deduced that the captain of the squad was now possessed and killed him — fortunately, with evidence of the daemon at hand.
    • In Titanicus, a member of Adeptus Mechanicus reveals a purported proof that the Omnissiah and the Emperor are not one and the same, contrary to the accepted Imperial dogma. This results in almost total rupture within the Mechanicus order and with the Imperial forces, with religious disputes quickly causing factions to fight both each other and the blasphemous machine men / uneducated fleshbags arrayed against them — while their planet is being invaded. Fortunately, Varco's Heroic Sacrifice revealed more invaders, so they went to fight them instead. One conspirator, lamenting that Fire Forged Friendship would prevent support, reveals that the evidence had been tampered with before it was distributed, as part of a power ploy. Afterward, they do notice that "this was a power ploy" does not exactly exclude "this was true." They decide to black it out anyway, because even if true, the ensuing schism would be fatal to both sides.
    • In the Horus Heresy novel Legion, Namatjira learns that the Alpha Legion is operating on a planet he is trying to bring into compliance. When his subordinates speak of a lack of respect, Namatjira complains that it makes strategy impossible, because he does not know what his forces will be doing.
  • In Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain novel The Traitor's Hand, when Cain is trying to stop a daemon-summoning, Rival Commissar Tomas Beije tries to arrest him out of sheer spite. Only by deploying Kill Me Now, or Forever Stay Your Hand does Cain succeeding in getting to the summoning.
    • Cain also exploits this trope in the same novel by following a rival band of Chaos Space Marines into the facility and allowing them to do most of the work of clearing the defenses between him and the summoning, all the while trying not to provoke them himself.
    • In Cain's Last Stand, Cain acts to forestall this between Adeptus Mechanicus and the Inquisition. When they are disputing who is responsible for the Chaos forces possessing knowledge of a relic, Cain puts the blame on a rogue Inquisitor that caused them some problems years earlier — not knowing whether it's true or not, but wanting them focused on the forces currently at hand.
  • In the Codex Alera series, as the extremely deadly Vord Queen and its millions of minions, execute many Curb-Stomp Battles on the Alerans, the First Lord realizes this trope will be true unless the Alerans forge alliances with all of their long-time enemies.
  • George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia discusses a couple of republican groups who teamed up together to fight nationalists groups in the Spanish Civil war. Tensions between the groups on the Republican side though reach so high that they begin fighting each other on the streets and members of organizations like the one Orwell was in, POUM (who are communist but anti-Stalin) end up getting imprisoned and being branded as traitors by other Republicans (particularly by other communist factions).
  • The Honor Harrington series had one of these on the Haven side - in War of Honor, one character (the Havenite Secretary of State) is sabotaging diplomatic communications to engineer a crisis that he can ride to the Presidency. His predictions of how everyone will react to the altered communications, particularly the person he wants to replace, are proven drastically wrong.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Night Watch Ned Coates fits this trope, at least in the scene where he tries to convince the members of the Watch not to follow Vimes, warning them that they'll all be killed. The kicker is that, since Vimes is from the future, he knows that Ned is almost certainly correct (he can't be 100% sure, because of quantum).
  • In William King's Warhammer 40,000 Space Wolf novel Grey Hunters, Trainor recounts the infighting between the separate factions on Gram. Among the Space Wolves themselves, political conflict is enough to make Ragnar think of this, though it does not actually affect their ability to fight (to be just to Ragnar, yes; to fight, no). And when Ragnar has retrieved Trainor and his men, the Inquisition tries to keep them as prisoners; the Space Wolves refuse.
    • Wolfblade opens with Ragnar being sent to Terra to protect him from those who blame him for the loss of the Spear of Russ, who are partly motivated by existing rivalries within the Chapter. And on Terra, he finds himself in the thick of the rivalry of Navigator Houses, on possibly the most treacherous planet in the entire Imperium.
    • In Lee Lightner's Sons of Fenris, Ragnar recognizes Dark Angels and reflects on their Chapters' long hostility. The Dark Angels and Space Wolves fight. When Ragnar and some others capture some Dark Angels, they both see the Commander attack and kill Dark Angels and Space Wolves. Jeremiah, the Dark Angel leader, gives his word that they will not try to escape, and Ragnar gives back their weapons — but the fighting still goes on about them while they take out the real foe. Later, Changed My Mind, Kid occurs but was actually a feint; the Dark Angels could not tell the Space Wolves that, though, because they had only open comm channels.
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Ultramarines novel Nightbringer, the cartels are neck-deep in pointless fighting with each other, despite constant Dark Eldar Pirate raids and bomb-setting Cults attacking the cartels simultaneously.
    • In The Killing Ground, Uriel is enraged at the prospect of dying at the hands of a man whom they should fight beside and roars at that man to kill him and be done. Whereupon Leodegarius explains that their successful passing of the third ordeal was that they lose to him. If they had defeated him, they would have irrevocably proven that they were tainted, but now they have been acquitted.
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 novel Storm of Iron, the Warsmith deliberately cultivates rivalries in his underlings (using such things as Honsou's mixed ancestry), in order to spur them to greater heights and keep them too busy to betray him.
    • Conversely, on the Imperial side, the Space Marine captain sees great bitterness and division in a briefing meeting (partly fueled by a grievous failure on the part of some forces), and demonstrates with the proverbial "sticks in a bundle that can't be broken" the danger of this. He cites their slogans and how they obviously pertain to the situation at hand, and the quarreling factions reconcile.
  • In Ben Counter's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel Galaxy in Flames, Lucius, envious about authority that he doesn't have, complains that Tarvitz is giving him orders while they are under attack by superior Imperial forces. This attitude leads to his betraying them to Horus's forces.
    • In James Swallow's The Flight of the Eisenstein, Decius quarrels with Garro while forces loyal to Horus are actually attacking. Later, Voyen complains that his actions were foolish. When he suggests a Mercy Kill for a wounded Marine, Garro accuses him of wanting to suppress the evidence of what the lodge he belonged to did.
    • In Mike Lee's Fallen Angels, when they have found Chaos, the anger as they quarrel over how to deal with it and who is to blame is so palpable that Zahariel interposes himself between two Dark Angels to stop it. Later, Zahariel finds that the rebel forces are also quarreling among themselves.
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 Blood Angels novel Deus Sanguinius, at the climax, a Blood Angel explicitly declares that another Blood Angel ship is more of a danger than a Chaos ship.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, a civil war engulfs the seven kingdoms while a supernatural army is about to invade.
    • Even within the civil war there are elements of this. Robb Stark, Stannis and Renly all hate the Lannisters, but instead of teaming up against them Renly and Stannis fight each other and Robb refuses to set aside his crown for an alliance with one of the Baratheon brothers.
    • The Lannisters all hate each other more than their enemies. Tywin particularly hates Tyrion and Cersei, and the two hate Tywin and each other all the same. When it seems they have won the war, they proceed to focus their anger toward each other, in the end Tyrion kills Tywin and leaves Westeros, leaving Cersei as the one running things in Kings Landing, things start going down hill fast for her and the rest of the house. The only Lannister who loves and is loved by all the others is Jaime, and once he starts drifting from them, either from Tyrion with a confession or Cersei due to his reemerging conscience (and her rejection of him), the noose around the Lannisters' neck only tightens more.
  • In Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, a chronic problem for the White Council. Perhaps particularly acute in Turn Coat. Understandable, in some ways, though; it's extremely obvious that there's at least one traitor on the Council, and he was using mind-control magic on everyone.
    • Changes hints that at least some of the bickering is fabricated to cover for the real plans.
  • In Nick Kyme's novel for Warhammer 40,000 Salamander, although the Marines Malevolent have played The Cavalry, and they and the Salamanders are still on enemy territory, tension and sniping arise almost immediately on their meeting.
    • The Marines Malevolent are colossal Jerkass loose cannons even by Warhammer 40,000 standards, and almost everything they do results in this. Nobody likes them, especially not the Salamanders, who are as close to "nice" as Space Marines get.
    • Tsu'gan, dissatified with the new captain, foments discord in the company.
  • In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion: Fëanor and his sons repeatedly turn against their own allies in the war they are trying to wage against Morgoth. All the Free Peoples (Elves, Dwarves, Men, Hobbits, Ents) indulge in We ARE Struggling Together instead of focusing in defeating Sauron, at least at first in The Lord of the Rings.
  • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the Ministry of Magic seems to do nothing else.
    • In this case, the difficulty can be traced to the rivalry that Fudge believes exists between him and Dumbledore. Having successfully defeated Grindelwald and opposed Voldemort before, were the Dark Lord to return again then Dumbledore would be the one people followed. With prompting from Lucius, Fudge happily buried his head in the sand and started slandering Dumbledore and Harry Potter.
  • In Norman Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth, the two kings know that bringing back the princesses Rhyme and Reason is what is really needed, but they'd rather disagree with each other. Until Milo points out that they are in agreement: they agree to disagree.
  • In David Brin's Startide Rising, the fleets of aliens hunting them does not prevent fierce infighting among the dolphin crew. (Fortunately, the aliens don't get along with each other, either.)
  • In The King Must Die, a bull-jumper is killed because his team does not help him, which would create some risk for them. Theseus points out to his team-mates how defeated the survivors look, and how certain they are to die, before having them take again The Promise that they will consider each other's lives as valuable as their own. Keeping it lets them outlive the rest, and indeed, other teams take the same oath and start to live longer, in imitation.
  • A chronic problem in the Codex Alera, to the point where the Alerans are so busy fighting amongst themselves that threats like the army of 60,000 Canim that landed on the coast or the Vord colonies that have already covered a continent and a half wind up taking a back seat in many people's minds (especially the Senators) to personal feuds and scrabbling for power. This gets to the point where, in the last book, Senator Valerian is trying to accuse Bernard of treason for fortifying the Calderon Valley (even though it's the only place left where they have any hope of holding back the Vord) and saying Doroga is an untrustworthy savage. So Lord Placida picks him up and throws him bodily out of the meeting.
  • The Wheel of Time is filled with those : Elaida, the Whitecloaks ( up to the point where Galad takes over, at least), the Seanchan, Andoran Houses contesting Elayne's claim to the throne, the Shaido, Carhienin and Tairen rebels...
  • Variants of this are all over Battle Royale, and in the novel this turns out to be the whole point of making the students kill each other. Every six months, everyone in Japan gets to see a broadcast giving the body count of a particular runthrough, categorized by means of death. They all have it ingrained in their minds that the people they grew up with are willing to kill them to survive. If they can't trust each other, they can't coordinate effectively to overthrow the government.
  • This trope is brought up in Star Trek: Destiny, though it's ultimately averted in one instance. As the Klingon Empire faces a massive Borg invasion, Martok's nemesis Councillor Kopek agrees this is no time for politics. When Martok, leading the Klingon fleet, calls Kopek back on Qo'noS to warn him of impending Borg attack, Kopek assures Martok his throne will be waiting for him upon his return. Martok replies "with you sitting in it, I imagine?" However, Kopek for once isn't planning anything, and says so. It's the first time the character has been presented as anything other than selfish; he understands the severity of the situation. He also dies defending Qo'noS, so possibly Redemption Equals Death.
  • In Aaron Allston's Galatea in 2-D, Donna and Roger quarrel bitterly, insulting each other, while in hiding in the hotel. Donna stalks off.
  • In Safehold, Dohlarans and Desnairans, while they form the Army of Justice together, are at each others' throats almost as often as they are on Charis'. It only gets worse when they start losing.
  • In Shanna Swendson's Once Upon Stilettos, they discover someone was at Owen's desk and hunt for The Mole. It may even be an operation to get them all Hanging Separately, they realize.
  • In Andy Hoare's White Scars novel Hunt for Voldorius, La Résistance splits over an assassination attempt.
    • Later, after they manage to avoid a friendly fire incident — barely — the Raven Guard and White Scars snipe at each other with accusations of Glory Hound and sneaking about.
  • In Robert E. Howard's "Shadows In The Moonlight" the pirates after they capture Conan the Barbarian.
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero's Daughter trilogy, Prospero's children were not getting along well even before the story starts. And their enemies go to foment dissension.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Kull / Bran Mak Morn story Kings of the Night, Bran is about to lose a tribe because they want a leader of their own blood.
  • In Adrian Tchaikovsky's Shadows of the Apt, a continually problem among the countries the Wasps are conquering one by one.
  • In Jack Campbell's The Lost Fleet, a pervasive problem.
  • A massive problem for the good guys in the New Jedi Order series. Initially, the agents of the invading Yuuzhan Vong drove wedges into the New Republic themselves, dividing senators against each other, military leaders against politicians, and everybody against the Jedi. It only got worse when the galactic capital fell, as individual senators, planetary governments, and fleet commanders were left on their own initiative as the Republic tried to get back on its feet. Reorganizing the government into the Galactic Alliance and beefing up the federal government in general and the chief executive in particular helped smooth over the ideological differences, but damaged infrastructure would continue playing havoc with their efforts until the end of the war. (At one point, Chief of State Cal Omas claimed he had eight separate spy networks, none of which were in communication with each other... and he couldn't be certain there weren't others out there that didn't talk to him.)
    • Even before this, during the Thrawn Trilogy, Senator Borsk Fey'lya undermined every effort to counter Thrawn. Partly because he wanted to grab power for himself, and partly because he thought everyone else had the same motivations.
    • There was a lot of this going around during the Black Fleet Crisis.
  • A persistent problem for Rosemary Sutcliff's ancient Britons – the Celtic tribes can't get over their feuds to defend themselves against the Romans (Song for a Dark Queen, Eagle's Egg), the Celts and Roman Britons can't cooperate long enough to hold off the Anglo-Saxons (The Lantern Bearers, Sword at Sunset, The Shining Company). Not until the 12th century do the Saxons and the Normans manage to unite and make it stick – against the French, naturally.
  • Bramblestar from Warrior Cats: Dovewing's Silence says this phrase after the distrust towards the Dark Forest trainees goes too far. That involved getting them to attack an injured fox, which prompts Bramblestar to tell everyone that the time of mistrust must end.
  • The Correction Army from The Dinosaur Lords is made up of forces of several different duchies. Two of them have a territorial dispute, three hate one because of class conflict, one is barely under its general's control and annoys the rest, and everyone but one of them hates their commander, who's from opposing religious faction. Suffice to say, even getting to the warzone proves to be a slog.
  • In The Initiate Brother, Emperor Akantsu won't send forces to help against the barbarians, believing that Lord Shonto is disloyal and is exaggerating the threat as an excuse to build up an army. Inverted and subverted, though, since Shonto ends up pursuing Divided We Stand: he encourages these fears of rebellion, figuring that if he can't convince the Emperor to raise an army against the barbarians, he can still convince the Emperor to raise an army against him, and it's better the army is prepared for the wrong reason than not prepared at all. Shonto then agrees to surrender his "rebel" army so that the Emperor can meet the barbarians with a joint force - although in fact, the Emperor screws it up.
  • Used as an object lesson several times in Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Examples include:
    • The battle at Hulao, where Yuan Shu's reluctance to send supplies to Sun Jian nearly leads to the latter's forces being routed from the field in spite of being a capable general.
    • The aftermath of Guandu, where Yuan Shao's sons can't get their act together and cooperate, and so are picked off piecemeal by Cao Cao's forces, even though his troops were less than their combined forces.
    • The battle of Chibi, where Wu's navy and the nascent Shu army have to work together to defeat the enormous Wei navy—this lesson sticks and they succeed in driving off Cao Cao's forces.
    • The battle for southern Jing had several Wei-allied local commanders who just couldn't manage to work together, and each lost their garrisons in turn to Shu forces.
    • Hefei is notable for Li Dian, Yue Jin, and Zhang Liao not getting along at first and at risk of being wiped out in their garrison. However, Zhang Liao convinced Li Dian and Yue Jin to put aside any personal inemnity for the duration of the battle, and they were wise enough to listen to him, resulting in a surprise Wei victory.
    • Meng Da's rebellion fell apart because its conspirators were too interested in saving themselves when cornered rather than supporting each other, leading to Wei forces taking the rebellion apart with ease.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Robb, Stannis, and Renly are all enemies of the Lannisters, but they cannot cooperate. In "You Win or You Die", Robert's death and Joffrey's ascent to the throne causes Renly, who's more or less on Ned's side, to become exasperated with Ned's support of Stannis and leave King's Landing. When he declares himself King, Robb Stark refuses to support him because he sees Renly as threatening the line of succession and his bannerman insist that he become the King in the North instead. As a result, all of them lost the War of the Five Kings.
    • This trope is what holds the Lannister-Tyrell alliance together despite the Tyrells obvious Dragon with an Agenda role. And when Tywin Lannister died, Cersei is so focused in destroying the Tyrells that she seemed to forget the threats outside King's Landing. By the time she destroyed her enemies, the Starks are finally back at the North after crushing the Boltons, the Freys lost control of Riverlands after their patriarch was assassinated and Daenerys Targaryen finally arrives at Westeros to reclaim the crown.
    • The War of Five Kings is seriously weakening Westeros and distracting it from the coming invasions by the White Walkers.
  • "The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street" from The Twilight Zone is perhaps the television Trope Codifier.
  • Spike drove a wedge between the Scoobies in season 4 of Buffy. His plan was fatally flawed, but it made for a hell of a falling out between the gang, if only a temporary one.
  • This happens frequently in 24, usually in the form of an Obstructive Bureaucrat who doesn't understand that Jack Bauer is always right. Jack is often arrested or otherwise delayed by a new CTU director who generally gets in the way for the first few episodes after his introduction.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • Maybourne and the NID do this a little in the first few seasons. Particularly the episode "Politics," in which Daniel knows that the Goa'uld will attack Earth, and no one outside of the main characters believes him.
    • In the later season episode "Ethon", both the Rand Protectorate and their political and military rival, Calledonia, would rather nuke each other into the stone age than unite to oppose the impending Ori invasion. Even when a peaceful solution to their rivalry is offered, they still launched nuclear missiles against each other...
  • The Wire runs on this trope. The office politics and rivalries within the police department and city management is Inherent in the System, causing investigations that would actually do something about the rampant crime rate or projects that would reverse the hollowing out of the schools to be scuttled by those higher up in the chain for the sake of their own careers, which depend on results. The result is juking of the stats and nothing being fixed.
  • From Torchwood: Children of Earth. Say you're the British government. Say you have an alien problem. You also happen to know of an organisation which fights hostile aliens. It is willing to work with you. What are you going to do? That's right, put a bomb inside their leader's stomach.
  • On Lost, Jack Shepherd's statement that "Either we live together or we die alone" qualifies. Subverted in the Fourth Season Finale when Jack started to say it, only to have Rose interrupt to notify him that if he did so, she would punch him in the face.
  • Doctor Who
    • In Revenge Of The Cybermen, one set of Vogans risks them all in an attempt to escape their hiding. Conflict ensues.
    • In Warriors Of The Deep the spies for the other human bloc use the alien attack to cover up their own activities.
  • Happens a lot on Law & Order and its spin-offs. Typically, it comes when a case happens involves multiple jurisdictions for various reasons.
    • New Jersey officers are portrayed as competing with New York ones for the chance to get the 'collar' (arresting a suspect). In one episode, a DA even remarks that New Jersey has an 'inferiority complex' about the NYPD getting in their affairs.
    • Police departments in parts of New York north of New York City ('upstate') and east of it (Long Island) as being at the best laid-back local sheriffs who don't like city-slicker interference and at worst in on the crime.
    • At various times, the Brooklyn and Bronx DA's are portrayed as headline-seeking opportunists more interested in padding conviction rates than actually ensuring the guilty are convicted.
  • Virtually all crime dramas portraying city-level police portray Federal authorities as authority wielding Men in Black who are all too willing to let a horrific crime go unpunished to further what they see as a bigger picture.
  • Dead Set uses this trope effectively:
    • The only reason that the virus reaches the inside of the Big Brother house is because the housemates refused to believe Kelly. They soon changed their minds.
    • Grayson refuses to kill an infected Angel. He regrets it.
    • Patrick and Jonty open the gates holding the undead out in an escape bid, against the wishes of the rest of the group. The result? Everybody dies.

  • In 1972, Capitol Records (under the label of the Beatles' corporate entity, Apple) had planned to release an album of songs the Beatles released after the band separated. The album was to have been titled "Divided We Fell." The project never went through.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • This is an old, old trope in professional wrestling in general and tag team wrestling in particular; teams that would present an invincible challenge so long as they maintained a united front being torn apart by infighting, power struggles, and personality conflicts, leading to their dismantlement.
  • Team Lucha Underground was divided in AAA's 2015 Lucha Libre World Cup, with Johnny Mundo throwing his lot in with TNA wrestlers Matt Hardy and Mr. Anderson while Brian Cage teamed with Ring of Honor representatives Moose and ACH. Team Lucha Underground/ROH and Team Lucha Underground/TNA came in third and second place, both eliminated by the first place Dream Team. At the 2016 cup Mundo and Cage teamed with Chavo Guerrero Jr. as a united Team Lucha Underground and managed to win first place.
  • After they dealt a crippling blow to VALkyrie, La Rosa Negra went back to STARDOM to run with Oedo~tai, so she couldn't help when C4 formed to destroy Las Sicarias. That wasn't this trope. Mercedes Martinez, who said she would watch the other Sicarias for stable leader Ivelisse Vélez, responding to the attack by bringing in her own Trifecta from SHIMMER and announcing her intentions to take down Velez, was this trope. Thus no one, besides Thea Trinidad, noticed C4 member Amber O'Neal turning Amanda Carolina Rodriguez into a mole within Las Sicarias. La Rosa was taken out by ACR upon return, which distracted Velez from LuFisto while Martinez was off fighting Allysin Kay in a failed bid for another title shot, leaving Las Sicarias with no belts or contenders in SHINE. C4 couldn't beat Las Sicarias in straight matches and lost a member trying. Las Sicarias could have just kept whittling away at C4 before fighting each other for the belt. Despite this, Las Sicarias still proved to be the stronger stable, as once Velez was no longer considered a threat LuFisto dismissed the rest of C4 for being of no further use for her, while Velez and Martinez got better at working together and won the Tag Team title belts.
  • Taya Valkyrie has never treated Ivelisse Velez well, but her behavior never had a negative impact on her team, Perros Del Mal, because Velez was too brief and minor a member to matter. Not so in Lucha Underground, where Catrina used her distaste for Velez to sow discord among Velez's team with The Son Of Havok after Valkyrie's boyfriend Johnny Mundo was chosen as their substitute for the injured Angelico. For added measure, Catrina also went about seducing Velez's boyfriend Jeremiah Crane, making the unit that much more disfunctional. While Velez would confront, challenge and defeat Catrina in a match, Catrina seemed to successfully put an end to "Team Havoc" for good, as Havoc and Velez wound up forming new trios apart from each other that were not as successful as the original.
  • Alas, Martinez hadn't learned her lesson. After beating out Velez for a singles title shot she rejected Velez's offer to help her win the belt and told Velez to stay out of New York. Thus no one was in position to stop Kay when she got fed up with wrestling and bashed Mercedes Martinez over the head with the championship belt.

  • King Lear have this quarreling problem. The daughters of Lear don't learn the lesson and everything gets worse.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer has this as a consistent theme. It's emphasized again and again that when Order unites, they beat Chaos. When Order falls to infighting, Chaos takes ground. For thousands of years after banishing the daemons, the great elven and dwarf empires held the world in such a state that Chaos was a marginal threat. This was only disrupted after the elves fell to civil war and the elves and dwarfs went to war themselves later over misunderstandings and pride. This gave Chaos the foothold they needed, but even after that, Chaos was never able to take on Order at their best and only made progress when the non-corrupted humans, elves, dwarfs, and lizardmen were fighting themselves or each other. Twelve successive Everchosen led worldwide invasions, and twelve successive Everchosen were slain when Order got their act together. In the case of the second most recent, Asavar Kul's attacks in the Great War Against Chaos, his forces launched invasions of the Old World and Ulthuan while the Empire was in the middle of a civil war and the High Elves were in a dynastic struggle and being attacked by the Dark Elves. In both theaters, the old pattern played out: Chaos made early gains but were crushed when Order unified (the High Elves by combing the strength of their disparate kingdoms and later sending wizards to help the Empire, the Empire by combining the strength of their disparate electorates and drawing on forces from the Karaz Ankor Dwarfs, Kislevites, and High Elves), resulting an Order victory and the Realm of Chaos shrinking to below its pre-invasion size.
    • The two main alternate timelines that ended the setting emphasize this. In the End Times, the Order factions don't work together and spend most of the arc infighting (with the most notable examples being the High Elven and Bretonnian civil wars). The ultimate result is Chaos and the Skaven destroying the planet, with only a handful of survivors making it to the new realms formed by the old world's destruction. In the Storm of Chaos, on the other hand, Order unites early on in the Conclave of Light and lays out a coherent plan of action; the High Elves use their navy to disrupt Chaos's northern flank and send an elite expeditionary force to help out on the mainland, the Empire unites fully under Emperor Karl Franz and integrates their commands with those of the Dwarfs, and the Bretonnians send their cavalry forces on crusades to the northeast to help out the Empire and Dwarfs. Even the otherwise isolationist Wood Elves send out forces to bushwhack particularly troublesome Norscan and Beastmen warbands, helping to secure Order's home front. Thus Archaon's invasion gets defeated before it even manage to take down one of the great powers; the attack still does a lot of damage but the world survives and rebuilds. Out of universe, Josh Reynolds (who wrote most of the End Times novels) confirmed that if the humans, elves, and dwarfs had unified early on, the result would have been an early and anticlimactic victory for Order. In-universe, Archaon himself acknowledges that he has little chance of victory if Order unites against him, hence why he focuses on sowing disunity.
  • Warhammer: Age of Sigmar (the result of the aforementioned End Times timeline) continues this. In the Age of Myth, Sigmar united the gods and peoples of Order and delivered an unholy beatdown on Chaos, smashing every attempt they made to invade the Mortal Realms (late in the Age, the elven deities even managed to injure and imprison Slaanesh, one of the big four Chaos Gods). They then built prosperous civilizations within the Realms that eclipsed anything in the old world in both wealth and size, resulting in a thousands-year long golden age. The Age of Chaos, when Chaos forces managed to overwhelm much of the realms, was a direct result of the pantheon fragmenting and falling into their old habits. The titular Age of Sigmar is Order's counteroffensive, and it's made clear that only by sticking together can they prevail.
  • Warhammer 40,000 takes this to insane levels (look at how many Literature examples it has on this page!). A relevant Imperial propaganda piece states that 'There is no innocence, only shades of guilt.' Everyone is held in the darkest suspicion of heretical thought, entire worlds are lost while organizations bicker over their jurisdiction. The only person above reproach is named the Immortal God Emperor of Mankind and he might be dead.
    • The Imperium has at least half a dozen Thoughts For The Day dedicated to this, among them "Divided we stand, united we fall". Considering the extreme hierarchical nature of the Imperium, a few higher-ups going rogue could (and has) lead to massive problems - some regiments probably only recognized their superiors turning to the side of Chaos a few weeks after being told to paint those cool spiky stars over their old insignia.
      • The Imperium at present is extremely decentralized for a reason, though, because of laws enacted after the events of the Thorian Reformation, no one power group can have control over more than one function (administration, technology, etc.) of the Imperium, and there are several extremely powerful watchdog organizations in place to make sure no-one oversteps their mandated authority and to control abuses of power. And burn heretics, of course.
      • This state of affairs came about as a direct result of the Age of Apostasy, where due to some complex political maneuvering one man, Goge Vandire, became head of the Administratum, the Ecclesiarchy, and the Imperial Assassins at the same time, and (as a result of controlling the entire supply chain and being able to excommunicate anyone he wanted) also became de facto leader of both the Imperial Guard and the Imperial Navy. He promptly set himself up as Emperor-in-all-but-name, established a rule that became notable in Imperial history for its tyranny, despotism, and body count even by Warhammer standards, acquired a harem/bodyguard of elite female fanatics, and had a personal fleet of warrior-priests who went around purging everyone who might be a threat. Only the Space Marines and (parts of) the Adeptus Mechanicus remained outside of his command, mostly because they withdrew into their own fiefdoms. Needless to say, nobody with knowledge of the Age of Apostasy is eager to let it happen again, hence the decentralized command structure.
      • Said organisations are also hanging separately within their own ranks. The Inquisition spends hours in philosophical debate with a bolter in one hand and a power sword in the other. There's even two different factions within the Inquisition arguing over whether or not it's a good idea to euthanize the Emperor to see if he'll reincarnate. Oh dear.
      • You have this problem within organizations within the Imperium, with many sub-factions constantly fighting each other, sometime literally. One common justification for Imperium players to fight each other on the tabletop is that both companies got the same order to get some holy item and bring it to their superiors, and they're fighting to the death to just make sure the other guy doesn't do it first. On a grander scale, you would think the Tau, Eldar, and Imperium would work together more often against the Cyborg skeletons, raving green brutes, galaxy eating bugs, and the literal legions of Hell, but you'd be dead wrong.
    • Thankfully, this also works against the Imperium's enemies as well. Ork Waaaaghs only last for as long as a single Ork Warlord can successfully exert his authority; if he dies or gets discredited in some way, the battered defenders now face a dozen smaller Ork armies fighting each other as well.
    • Chaos works like this: Khornates turn on each other if no other enemy presents itself, Slaaneshi think of defeat as yet another sensation, Nurglites will spread disease to everyone, and Tzeentchians will backstab you at the most inopportune time to carry out some massively convoluted plan (and that's not even getting into the established rivalries between servants of opposing gods). Each and every of Chaos' Black Crusades have all failed for this reason.
    • Even the Eldar will occasionally fight each other, usually because two Farseers had differing visions of the future and how to bring about the best possible outcome. One White Dwarf battle report had Ulthwé fighting to stop Alaitoc from massacring a human colony based on how they saw the resulting domino effect playing out. This is really bad because even without killing each other, they're sliding to extinction due to low birth rates and almost every other race in the universe wanting to kill them too.
  • Exalted, oh so very much. Solars, Lunars, Sidereals and Dragon-Blooded are all trying to protect Creation in their own way; it's just that the Dragon-Blooded's way involves demonizing all the others to keep their orderly society going, the Sidereals' way involves manipulating said society from behind the scenes because they don't trust any of the others with power, and the Lunars' way involves tearing down said society because of its increasing corruption and instability. The end result is Creation's heroes spending a whole lot of effort fighting each other when they could be fighting the Abyssals, Deathlords, Fair Folk, and other forces who want to destroy the world.
  • Hunter: The Vigil has its own version, as a good number of the Compacts and Conspiracies are at direct odds with one another. Let's see, Task Force VALKYRIE wants to deal with the supernatural in secret, while Network Zero wants to blow open the Masquerade through new media. The Long Night are premillenialist Christians aimed at "redeeming" monsters who view the Malleus Maleficarum, the Catholic Church's black bag group, as followers of "the Great Whore of Babylon." The Philadelphia sample setting takes it a few degrees further, with the general mood of "Not In My Backyard" and an emphasis on how the hunters are more devoted to territorial pissing than, you know, monster hunting.
  • Vigil gets it from its spiritual predecessor Hunter: The Reckoning, which prominently features the imbued at odds with each other over how exactly they should engage with the supernatural.
  • In BattleTech, the Free Worlds League is subject to a lot of infighting. And then, after the Jihad, it literally fell apart.
    • During the Clan Invasion, the invading Clans all have personal grudges against each other, most notably the Jade Falcons with the Wolves. When Ulric Kerensky became the new ilKhan he deliberately used this to his advantage to sabotage the Crusader Clans' efforts. He assigned Clan Steel Viper with Jade Falcons, who the Falcons dislike as much as the Wolves, and Clan Nova Cat with Smoke Jaguar, who also dislike each other.
  • Wraith: The Oblivion is all over this trope. The Legions of the Hierarchy squabble amongst each other, as do the Guilds, the Renegades, and the Heretics. Even the Spectres, who seek the destruction of all existence, are busily engaged in a perpetual Enemy Civil War.
  • This happened to the forces of evil in Dragonlance during the War Of The Lance. After the Heroes of the Lance banish Takhisis, the Dragonarmies disintegrate into five mutually hostile factions, making it much easier for the forces of good to fight them. In the original Chronicles trilogy, the Co-Dragons are more interested in fighting each other to get the Crown of Power and become the new Dragon Emperor after Tanis and Raistlin kill Ariakas than they are in stopping Caramon, Tika and Tasslehoff from getting Berem to the Foundation Stone so he can do the banishment.

  • In 1776, avoiding this situation is why John Hancock casts the tiebreaking vote in favor of requiring unanimity among all the American colonies' delegations when it comes to the vote on whether to adopt the Lee Resolution and declare independence, even though Hancock himself is in favor of the resolution and his vote made it harder for Congress to adopt it. Not having that requirement would set colony against colony from the get-go and make it too easy for Britain to exploit the divisions between them, even if the Americans end up winning the war.

    Video Games 
  • This is a prominent theme in StarCraft. Particularly the first Terran campaign, which is almost entirely about humans fighting each other, rather than fighting aliens. The Protoss Judicators are also more worried about the Dark Templars than they are about the Zerg. The dominant force at any moment is the faction that is able to act as a unified team without infighting. Not even the Zerg are immune.
  • This happens in the GDI campaign of the original Command & Conquer. Partially due to propaganda made by Kane, the United Nations temporarily cut military funding to the GDI. For a few missions, the commander is left on his own to fight without vital base structures. Though when those missions end it turns out GDI's commanding officer suggested the temporary suspension of funding himself as a way to bait Kane into launching a premature offensive. Once Nod was fully committed, he returned with funding not only restored but increased.
    • A little distraction like, lets say... a fullscale alien invasion is not a reason for Nod and GDI to quit fighting each other. This caused some irritation by the aliens, calling humans "warlike to the extreme". However, neither the GDI nor the aliens knew that it was all according to Kane's Evil Plan.
    • In the fourth game, Kane actually joins forces with GDI (for his own purposes, of course), offering them the blueprints of a "Tiberium Control Network" that can control Tiberium and save Earth from certain ecological collapse. Everybody promptly loses their shit over the decision, leading to a three-way war between GDI (with some of Kane's loyalist supporters), GDI (a breakaway faction under Colonel James), and Nod (another breakaway faction, led by Gideon, yet another of the 'Kane isn't really the Messiah, I am' line).
  • In Thomas Was Alone, a track of the OST is actually called "Divided We Fall". In the plot, the group realizes they can do less things when they are alone than when they are together.
  • In Mass Effect, Ambassador Udina tries to stop you from saving all life in the entire galaxy from certain destruction because it might damage humanity's reputation (granted, he didn't believe you were telling the truth, but still).
    • Shepard can level this accusation at the Illusive Man in Mass Effect 3, calling him out on his descent from quasi-heroic Doing What He Had To Do to out-and-out attacking the Alliance at a critical time. Despite his efforts to brush aside Shepard's allegations, it's clear he doesn't really care, mostly because he's indoctrinated. Conversations with Javik and the AI Vendetta suggest this is pretty common where Reapers are concerned; they had a similar faction in their own politics which prevented them from deploying the Crucible.
  • World of Warcraft and all its expansions, are is built by this trope.
    • In the vanilla game, the Alliance and Horde are in a cold war, but that does not stop either side from having adventurers(i.e. players) screw with the other side. When C'thun shows up and kicks off the Old Gods plan to kill the planet, it is only because they worked together did they stop Crisis #1. Once that's dealt with however, it's right back to screwing the other which starts Crises #2 through #4.
    • Burning Crusade brought Crisis #2 which opened the Dark Portal to Outland and an invasion from the Burning Legion. The Alliance and Horde team up and push them back and, once they get through the gate, the first thing they do is screw the other side over. Because they are so busy screwing each other, they do not deal with Illidan Stormrage, and tha t threat falls to the Sha'tar and adventurers to deal with. When Kael'thas goes all Burning Legion, the Sha'tar form the Shattered Sun Offensive which was comprised of both Alliance and Horde and they successfully averted Crisis #2.
    • In Wrath of the Lich King Crisis #3 takes center stage. At this point, WoW takes this trope and goes ham: the the Alliance and Horde weren't fighting each other at first, they just thumbed their nose while they actually dealt with the Lich King. Then rebel Forsaken kill both the Alliance and Horde troops at the Wrath Gate, then the Alliance invaded Undercity in an attempt to take back Lordaeron while the Horde was in disarray, then King Varian Wrynn and Garrosh Hellscream got into a fight and open war was declared, while they were already fighting a war against the Scourge. This led to the Broken Front, where the Alliance was beating Scourge forces, only to be attacked from behind by the Horde, who were in turn slaughtered by the Scourge giving the undead two battlefields worth of troops in one victory. Meanwhile, the Argent Crusade, realizing that the Lich King would not fall to a world divided, decided to host a friendly jousting tournament designed to get the Alliance and Horde to work together when the time came to assault Icecrown Citadel, but this ended up being all for nothing because the two factions ended up fighting each other again in a gunship battle over Icecrown. The Lich King would have won the final battle if it were not for the intervention of Tirion Fordring and Terenas Menethil's ghost. And it should be pointed out that while the paladins and death knights of their respective organizations don't get along perfectly well due to their contrasting motivations and methods for their fight against the Lich King, they are able to work together.
    • Cataclysm shows up Crisis #4 & spends a large portion of time on the very costly and devestating war Garrosh Hellscream is waging against the Alliance, and not the giant pissed off dragon that wants to end the world. Various lesser factions end up pulling most people's heads out of their asses and avert the end of the world.
    • In Mists of Pandaria, the Horde under Garrosh's leadership is falling apart because everyone started to notice how big of a prat he was. Garrosh's warmongering, disregard for all life that isn't an orc, and his love of Kick the Dog tactics have caused the Horde to fall apart, while the Alliance solidify their unity and take advantage of the fracturing Horde which will eventually lead to a two sided invasion of Orgrimmar to end Hellscream's rule.
    • Following their formation in Cataclysm, the dwarves' Council of Three Hammers was beset by mutual distrust on the part of the Bronzebeard and Wildhammer representatives towards Moira Thaurissan of the Dark Iron Dwarves. This paralyzes them in Mists of Pandaria when the Zandalari trolls get the local trolls to rise up against the dwarves. Neither Muradin Bronzebeard nor Falstad Wildhammer will send troops out of fear Moira will take advantage of their absence. In response, Moira sends her troops out to fight and aid Varian Wrynn. Shamed at how their distrust nearly doomed them, Wildhammer and Bronzebeard swear to not let such feelings get in the way of what has to be done again. As a result, in Warlords of Draenor, the Dark Irons are an active participant in the Alliance's campaign into Draenor.
    • Legion starts a whole new crisis in the form of a fresh invasion by the Burning Legion. At the beginning, the Alliance and the Horde were working together, launching a joint attack on the Broken Shore. Things go sour when the Horde is forced to retreat and, to the Alliance, it looks like they're being abandoned. This, as well as the fact that the battle cost both sides their top leaders, leaves them disinclined to work together in the Broken Isles and even has Gilneas's Genn Greymane actively gunning for Sylvanas Windrunner.
    • There's some of this in the Order Hall campaigns unique to each class. Some of the campaigns consist of avoiding this trope by bringing together disparate factions of the same class under one banner regardless of being Alliance, Horde, or other. For example, the multiple paladin orders joining the Order of the Silver Hand. The Shaman campaign consists of trying to unite the four elemental lords together under one cause, the problem there being most of them are concerned only for their own realms and the Firelands and Skywall both being in the midst of a Succession Crisis that the Earthen Ring shamans must resolve before securing their aid. The death knights of the Ebon Blade actively attack the paladins' Order Hall out of a desire to resurrect Tirion Fordring into their ranks, despite the rift and outrage this would cause.
    • The backstory of Battle for Azeroth has Sylvannas intending to cause this in the Alliance with the War of Thorns. She believed that occupying Darnassus would force an immediate response from Anduin to free the hostages. However this would anger the Gilnean refugees, who have spent years waiting for the Alliance to retake their homeland from the Forsaken. The resulting friction would have weakened the Alliance and given the Horde the upper hand, were it not for Genn becoming more level-headed and Sylvannas deciding to simply burn Teldrassil and Darnassus with it.
  • In Suikoden Tierkreis, this plagues the Magedom of Janam. The Mage Forces are led by Danash VIII's first wife, Shairah; their Arcane Acadamy is headed by his second wife, Rizwan. Then there's the Blades of Night's Veil, commanded by Chrodechild, who Danash wants to take for his fourth wife — yes, there's a third, who complicates things even more without her own command... Needless to say, they have problems without The Order of the One True Way breathing down their necks.
  • Tsukihime: Arcueid seems to have little issue with cooperating with the Church when necessary. They, on the other hand, feel differently as she's technically a vampire as well. Fortunately, she's essentially indestructible so they decided 'Fuck it' and agreed to work with her on occasion. That's mostly background material due to our only seeing sane Church members, but Ciel and Arcueid also have a funny tendency to start fighting to the death when differences arise. And they're friends.
  • Dragon Age: Origins takes this trope and runs with it. At the end of the first (non unique) chapter, Loghain ditches the battlefield and lets the king die - along with all but two or three Grey Wardens. The Wardens themselves are then persecuted from one side of Ferelden to another, even as the darkspawn steadily devour the countryside.
    • Worse, a civil war starts when Loghain basically shoves his own daughter and the queen off the throne as her "regent" and more than a few of the nobility take offense to this, as the King of the Ferelden must have the support of the Bannorn and Loghain isn't even in line for the throne. It also helps (?) that Loghain doesn't believe that a Blight is occurring and thinks the Wardens (who know that a Blight is happening) are enemy agents from a country that occupied Ferelden and ruined his childhood. Since Loghain is a war hero that freed Ferelden from said country a lot of his supporters follow him even as he grows increasingly paranoid and commits greater atrocities to protect his nation.
  • Used to great length in Dragon Age II with multiple factions warring against one another. The templars and the mages fight constantly, even though they should be working together to help everyone in Kirkwall. Members of the Chantry oppress the qunari, who in turn try to overtake Kirkwall in disgust. This even occurs with members of player character Hawke's party. If Hawke picks a side in the final act and the party members on the opposing side don't have their friend or rivalry meter high enough, they'll leave the party. In some cases, they may even try to kill Hawke.
  • Pokémon Gold and Silver has your rival. He hates Team Rocket beacause Giovanni was his father and after Team Rocket was defeated by Red, Giovanni left him and he blames Team Rocket. But on the other hand, he absolutely hates the player character, pushing them around, and even taking off your disguise while you're Dressing as the Enemy. He's actually the worst rival; Kanto's rival says things like "Smell ya later!", Hoenn's rival is a pretty good friend, and Sinnoh's rival is your best friend.
  • In Infinite Space, Yuri points out this is the reason why the SMC nations fell into Lugovalos' hand so easily. To elaborate, Elgava was far too confident with its military strength, and both Kalymnos and Nova Nacio were more concerned with their long-running bitter hatred to each other. And in Act 2, the LMC nations almost made the same mistake...
  • Yet another Warhammer 40,000 example is in the Dawn of War series, which contains five different campaigns (so far) in which everyone would much rather kill everyone else than work together to defeat the Orks, Necrons, Tyranids, and/or Chaos that are rampaging everywhere. This ranges from Winter Assault, in which the Imperial Guard and Eldar briefly ally before arbitrarily betraying each other, to Soulstorm, in which three different divisions of the same faction are pounding at each other.
    • It gets lampshaded repeatedly in the sequel, especially the Retribution expansion, as you can hardly go two plot-centered missions without someone calling out their same-side enemies on how there's such a bigger issue at stake. The Space Marines deal with the obfuscating Senator, they end up fighting themselves when Chaotic corruption begins to infiltrate their ranks, they have quite a few bitter issues with the Guard, the Eldar want to wipe out the entire planet rather than fight WITH the Imperium against the Tyranids, etc. Ironically enough, only the Inquisitor (the one usually most hell-bent on driving wedges between factions) seems willing to use cross-faction Alliances, even enlisting the Orks as mercenaries during their campaign.
  • Final Fantasy XIII. Five individuals are given superpowers and sent on The Quest of vague nature, just like in so many Player Party-based RPGs. The problem is that two of them hate the third one's guts, the fourth has a hidden agenda, and the Only Sane Man is appalled by the others so much, he decides to quit. None of them have the same idea of how to treat their new Cursed with Awesome status and go about their quest.
  • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors: Suffice it to say, that isn't how the nonary game was supposed to end.
  • This is the plot of the third Spec Ops mission in Marvel: Avengers Alliance. Five of the X-Men got possessed by the Phoenix Force and wanted to use it to save mutantkind. The Avengers, on the other hand, were of the opinion that the Phoenix Force Is Not a Toy, and that it would end up wiping out the entire planet, mutants and all. And while they were at each others' throats, the bad guys were trying to turn the situation to their advantage. This even turned into a gameplay mechanic; you had to choose whether to side with the X-Men or the Avengers each time you started a mission, and you weren't allowed to use core members from the opposite side during fights or deploys.
    • The Syndicate soon fractures when the Red Skull was resurrected, who then proceeded to attack mutants, even those in Syndicate.
  • Parodied in a Lineage 2 comic where an orc father tries to teach his quarreling sons this lesson using the "bundle of arrows" analogy... but is stronger than he thinks and easily breaks the united spears. He makes the best of it and converts it into a lesson in the importance of overwhelming strength.
  • Firefall: Despite the fact that literally over 99% of the planet is covered in Melding (alien corruption used by the Chosen alien race) and humanity's populace has dwindled from ten billion to less than a million, you still kill about 4-12 humans per mission. On average. Between the Somalian Pirate look-alikes, the Black Hills gang, the Reaper Assassin's Guild, the Biker Buzzards (though, about a third of these guys are nice people), the android-loving Ophamin, and even some fucked up corrupt Accord Generals, the Accord and Ares have more than they can take. Even ARES teams will duke it out against each other and fill mass graves, especially over valuable resources like mineral-rich mining sites and high-value treasure maps. Luckily for humanity, the Chosen tribes have their own tribal wars in pursuit of total dominance over the rest of the Melding lands, so the Enemy Civil War prevents total victory for the Chosen.
  • In Star Trek Online, all of the Iconians' schemes were attempts to prevent the races of the galaxy from becoming an alliance. They were defeated by an alliance in ages past, and they do not want history to repeat itself.
  • Happened in the backstory of Tyranny, as the nations the game is set in (the Tiers) all fell to Kyros' invasion because of this. Eb points out that if Stalwart, Apex, Azure, the Sages, the Free Cities and the Bastard City had all banded together from day one they could probably have given a much better account of themselves, but instead they stood aside, guarded their own borders, and watched Kyros' armies dismantle their old enemies one by one. It is possible for the Player Character to resurrect the Tiers by building a coalition between the survivors of several of these factions, but only because Kyros' forces have themselves fallen victim to this trope in the following years.
  • The main character of Ghost of Tsushima, Jin Sakai, believes this. He chastises fellow warriors for pursuing petty vendettas instead of banding together to fight off the current Mongol invasion, stating that this infighting is only helping the Mongols.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Exploiting, and even inducing, these kinds of political fractures is a favored tactic of the Thalmor in their long-term war of attrition against the Empire:
    • After taking over their own province of Alinor, seceding and annexing the provinces Valenwood and Elsweyr to create The Aldmeri Dominion, the Thalmor manipulated the centuries of racial strife between the Argonians of Black Marsh and the Dunmer of Morrowind to provoke the former into warring with the latter while they're still reeling from a much bigger crisis, causing the Empire to withdraw from both provinces and leading to Morrowind and Argonia's independence.
    • When they finally attacked the empire openly, their invasion was driven back by the combined might of the Imperial Legion, Skyrim's Nord militias, and Hammerfell's Redguard warriors defeating them on separate fronts. Yet because the war had been so costly for the Empire, the Dominion were able to force a "peace treaty", known as the White Gold Concordat, that was heavily skewed to their interests, in particular agreeing that the Empire would relinquish territory in southern Hammerfell that the Redguards were still holding. Rather than accept this and yield to the Dominion, the Redguards chose to secede from the Empire and the Concordat, and continue to hold off the elven invaders themselves. Though the Dominion was eventually driven out of Hammerfell as well, it's thought by many that that forcing this issue and fracturing the Empire further was what the Thalmor had wanted all along.
    • Finally, another key concession in the Concordat was renouncing the man-turned-deity Talos from the Empire's pantheon. As the Nords of Skyrim deeply revere Talos, and already hold mutual animosity and suspicion towards elves, seeing the Empire renounce their venerated hero for the sake of elven interests is taken by many Nords as a sign of cowardice and surrendering, turning a good portion of the once-totally loyal province sour towards the Imperials. The Thalmor at this time had also captured a skilled Nordic aristocrat-turned-soldier, one who would naturally become a strong leader and champion for the Nordic people, and subtly manipulated him into developing an anti-Imperial secessionist agenda of his own, planting the seeds for the Skyrim Civil War within the main game, the outcome of which could potentially fatally shatter what's left of the Empire and leave both sides weakened for an inevitable second invasion.
  • Dwarf Fortress has an oddity in the way it handles loyalty and enmity, which can result in what Toady calls the "civil war bug" and the fandom calls a "loyalty cascade". Normally, your dwarves are loyal to both your fortress and your starting civilization, because your fort is clearly meant to be an extension of that civilization. Any creature which attacks another creature with intent to kill becomes an enemy of all its victim's factions. So far, this is all very logical and intuitive. However, the dwarven caravan are members of your civilization and not your fort. This, too, seems the logical choice — but it opens up the possibility of one of your dwarves attacking a member of the caravan, resulting in them simultaneously being loyal to your fort yet an enemy to your civilization. Then, any of your dwarves who attacks one of these "separatist" dwarves will become an enemy of their factions — making them "loyalist" enemies of your fort and allies of your civilization. This can result in rapidly-spreading divided loyalties, up to a full-blown all-fort civil war — to the point that a bugged dwarf killing an ordinary citizen is a relief, because it makes them an enemy of both factions and no longer able to spread the cascade. Other possible triggers for loyalty cascades include attempting to train captured enemy mounts and sending your military after a berserk or werebeast dwarf.


    Web Original 
  • In Worm, when Scion kills off half the world's population and many of the most powerful heroes sent to stop him, various groups decide to fight amongst themselves believing it's hopeless to resist.
  • In Deviant, various conflicts are made ten times more difficult because of the frequent heroic in-fighting. The fact that they don't share many similar goals and have clashing personalities only makes matters worse.
  • In RWBY, This is what Salem is relying on, as she sends her followers into the different Kingdoms to divide them against each other, to ensure that they can never unite against her, which is what Ozpin is trying to accomplish.
    • Volume 7 ends this way. After defeating Tyrian and Watts, the heroes discover that Cinder has infiltrated Atlas Academy, most likely to hunt down the Winter Maiden, and that Salem is on her way to Atlas with an army of Grimm in tow. The next course of action? Ironwood decides to turn on Ruby’s group for keeping vital information from him and going against his orders, and has the Ace-Ops (sans Clover) take down Team RWBY, as well as sending all other personel after Jaune, Nora, Ren, Qrow, and Oscar. When the latter attempts to confront the General and try to restore peace, Ironwood responds by shooting Oscar, a boy in his early teens, off a cliff. (Thankfully, due to the intervention of Ozpin, he survives.) What are the results of these extreme actions? Well, thanks to their own in-fighting, the Ace Ops are brutally beaten down by Team RWBY, Neo takes advantage of the confusion and steals the Relic of Knowledge from Team JNR + Oscar, Winter’s attempt to obtain the Winter Maiden Powers was thwarted by Cinder’s attack, and they end up going to Penny instead, who decides to switch sides and join Ruby due to Ironwood’s cold methods, and finally, The Ace Ops Leader, Clover, is brutally murdered by Tyrian, who took advantage of the confusion to escape and frame Qrow for the deed. Now, the heroes are divided and in worse shape than ever- just in time for Salem to arrive and finish them off.
      • On a smaller scale, The Ace Ops continuously bicker with each other without Clover’s leadership, which is what allows the much more united Team RWBY to defeat them in battle in the 12th Episode of Volume 7.

    Western Animation 
  • The American military in Justice League spends so much time making superweapons to defend against/destroy the Justice League, they completely ignore the fact that relying on Lex Luthor as opposed to the people who are busy saving the world every day might actually be a bad idea. To be specific it was because of Project Cadmus's idea in recruiting villains to do their work for them.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Long Feng, the Evil Chancellor and default ruler of Ba Sing Se (the capital and last major outpost of the Earth Kingdom) refuses to aid and actively hinders Avatar Aang, The Chosen One, in the fight against the Fire Nation. After his manipulations are exposed and he's jailed, his Dai Li help him orchestrate a coup from his cell. But he is being played by a greater Chessmaster, Fire Nation Princess Azula, who gains the Dai Li's loyalty and uses them to sabotage the city's defenses. End result?
    Earth King Kuei: The Earth Kingdom... has fallen.
    • On a larger scale, this has played out in the war as a whole. The Fire Nation launched an overwhelming first strike against the Air Nomads, managing to commit genocide without any other nation coming to their defense (at least successfully). The Water Tribes and Earth Kingdom then decided to see to their own defenses, with the Southern Water Tribe only coming to the Earth Kingdom's aid 97 years into the war.
      • The Southern Water Tribe had been enduring constant raids by the Fire Nation for sixty years before the beginning of the show, so they had their own problems to worry about. The Northern Tribe, though? No excuse. They pay the piper after the Fire Nation invades them and gives them a severe beating.

    Real Life 
  • A classical parable concerning this is about the sons of king Attalus of Pergamon (although similar motifs seem to reoccur about a lot of different people) and his large number of sons. As they were squabbling over who would succeed him, he took a bundle of spears and asked his sons that whoever could break them could succeed him. No one could. The king then took each spear in turn and broke it easily, making a point about unity being strength.
    • Variations of this parable have since been recounted far, far too many times to count, in both history and fiction. When it's not representing the fascist movement, it's illustrating the key to defeating Cao Cao, or teaching three young brothers about The Power of Friendship. It has nonetheless avoided becoming a Dead Horse Trope.
    • The metaphor for this "strength through unity" approach is visually symbolized by a bundle of sticks often including an axe and is called a fasces. It is commonly found in art and heraldry all over the world. Its use has lessened somewhat after Mussolini adopted it as his symbol and named his ideology after it, but unlike another symbol we could mention, it is still fairly easy to find outside of Italy, particularly in the United States (where the old national fondness for Roman imagery and the institution of federalism make the fasces an apt symbol) and France (they're on the semi-official arms of the Fifth Republic).
  • A warning against this was attributed to Benjamin Franklin at the signing of the Declaration of Independence: "We must all hang together, or assuredly we will all hang separately."
  • Extremely prevalent trope in the military: every organization has some degree of political infighting and factionalism. Patton himself said that 'Competence in the battlefield is a myth. The side who screws up the least wins.'
    • Many, many other examples can be found here.
  • This was the primary reason behind the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In a time when nations were becoming defined by a shared national identity, Austria-Hungary, whose territory encompassed many different ethnic groups, was becoming increasingly unstable as said groups became rife with nationalist sentiment, and Austria-Hungary found it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to quell this sentiment and unify the empire under one nation. By the turn of the twentieth century, most European powers expected Austria-Hungary to collapse at any moment. The collapse ultimately did come during World War I, when its army had lots of trouble getting things done due to the fact that Hungarian troops had trouble collaborating with Czech soldiers, who in turn were struggling to understand the orders of the German-speaking Austrian high command. Needless to say, by the end of the war the empire had pretty much fallen apart, and these national divisions were confirmed by the Allied Powers following the treaties of St. Germain and Trianon in 1919 and 1920, respectively.
  • The First Philippine Republic failed for reasons similar to the aforementioned Austria-Hungary, albeit the former's lifespan lasting far shorter. Though Philippine nationalists had declared the archipelago's independence from Spain in 1898 during the Spanish-American War, the new republic's Spanish-speaking leadership soon found difficulty gaining popular support from the people, who had been separated by millennia of cultural and linguistic barriers, with most Philippine commoners speaking little to no Spanish. Thus, when the Americans came in to secure their claim of their newly-acquired colony, the disunified Philippine Republic, with its lack of a shared national identity among its people, was unable to unite against its foe. Attempts by the Philippine army to force its people to join them only further destroyed the republic's credibility, and by 1901 the republic had collapsed after less than three years of existence. Ultimately, it was the American colonization and nation-building efforts which eventually unified the Philippines under a single national identity.
  • This was the reason the republicans lost in the Spanish Civil War. While the fascists were all united and had a well-defined leadership and chain of command, the republicans had many factions. The Trotskyists allied themselves with the Anarchists because they thought the Revolution needed to come along the War (on grounds that not doing so would be the reason they would lose, just as the German revolutionaries had). The Stalinists thought that they needed to win the war first and then implement the Revolution. However, despite their ideological differences, the Stalinists openly persecuted the Trotskyists and the fact that their factions split further between Stalinists, Trotskyists, Anarchists and democrats meant the fall of the Republic and the rise of Franco's regime.
  • This is also the reason why the Nazis arose in the first place. Quoting the International Socialist Review: Again and again [Trotsky] called for a united working class action against the Nazi movement. The reformist SPD —the largest working-class based party in Germany— feared mobilizing its ranks against Hitler, preferring parliamentary manuevers and appeals to the state instead. Trotsky argued that the the Communist Party (KPD)—which alone still did not have the forces to defeat Hitler— should propose a United Front with the Social Democrats (SPD) for the purposes of physically confronting the Nazis. Such a policy would have been gladly supported by rank-and-file workers of all political shades, would have exposed the Social Democrats' half-heartedness and would have stopped Hitler in his tracks. Sadly, the KPD followed a completely opposite strategy. Under the directives of Stalin, the KPD leaders refused to call for a United Front with the SPD, whom they insanely considered to be the “moderate wing of fascism” [social-fascism]. This policy paralyzed the working-class movement and allowed Hitler to take power without a fight. This disastrous strategy is what led the union leaders, party directives and congressmen of both the SPD and KPD to the concentration camps.
  • Another example, although this time it applies to the bad guys: towards the end of World War II, prominent Nazis were tearing each other apart to succeed Hitler, despite the advancing Allied armies. This continued until the literal last days of the war.
  • The Byzantine Empire indulged in this all too frequently. Internal political squabbling at the Battle of Manzikert whilst on the battlefield with the enemy was a major cause of the Byzantine defeat there. Their army was almost destroyed, and the Empire never fully recovered. A century or so later, after Constantinople was conquered by the Venetians and their allies during the Fourth Crusade, the three Byzantine kingdoms that formed from the remnants of the Empire spent more time fighting each other over the Imperial title than trying to take their city back. All the squabbling between Christian Balkan states pre-Turkish conquest partially fits this trope.
  • A perfect example was the Serbian Empire, a powerful state in Middle Ages Balkans, with a modern Code of Law...But after the death of a strong Emperor, it was conquered by Turks, because its Lords couldn't unite and were fighting about who would be new Emperor. It resulted in 5 centuries of bondage under the Turks(well actually the Turks only controlled Southern parts of today's Serbia, the Northern and Central parts were under the Turks only for 219 years)
  • An absolutely perfect example is the Battle of Arausio circa 107 BC. Two Roman armies were raised to stop the advance of the Three Germanic Hordes (Teutones, Cimbri, Marcomannii), one led by a Patrician, and one by a Plebian. The Patrician, Quintus Servilius Caepio, absolutely HATED his counterpart, to such a degree that he refused to go along with his plans to merge the two armies as one and wait for the German attack. Caepio kept his army separated due north of the other army, and when the Germans came, they swarmed over his army and utterly crushed it, then waited a short time before swarming over the other army next. Nearly 100,000 Roman soldiers and camp followers were killed, nearly twice as many as the Battle of Cannae.
  • Even when the Second Sino-Japanese War had broken out in 1937, Yan Xishan (warlord of Shanxi province and owner of the Taiyuan arsenal, China's only manufacturer of artillery) was still more worried about avoiding being brought into the orbit of Chiang Kai-shek than he was of actual military defeat by the Japanese. While he was right to suspect that Chiang wanted Taiyuan arsenal for his own troops, Chiang's real concern was preserving the railway connection to the border with Soviet Mongolia as this was the most efficient route by which Soviet aid could be delivered to his troops note . Then again, Yan's ability to retain control over his personal fiefdom despite its nominal occupation and even to bribe the occupying force of 15,000 Japanese troops into staying on in China under his command for four years after the Japanese surrender (through the literal and liberal application of gold, hookers, and heroin) shows that perhaps he had nothing to worry about from occupation after all.
    • To a much lesser extent, Chiang Kai-shek and the petty Warlords of Shandong and Guizhou provinces. They suspected that Chiang only thought them useful as passive meat shields. They were right, if only because their military capabilities were that non-existent. When they gave up Shandong without a fight, those foolish enough to flee to the Nationalists were summarily shot for treason - to unanimous public approval.
    • And in the Japanese-occupied areas, many partisan groups failed to co-ordinate their activities and resources or even actively ratted each other out. As a result it was almost laughably easy for a more centralised and less cruel faction (the Communist Party, then run from Yan'an in Shaanxi province) to eventually take over in those areas furthest from the front lines (and Nationalist support and control).
  • It has been suggested that this is the problem with global warming. No country is willing to decrease its own emissions when other nations are still increasing theirs. This is especially true with developed vs developing countries. Developed countries consider it unfair that they are forced to cut their emissions when developing countries are still increasing theirs. For their part developing countries decry it as unfair that they are being forced to solve a problem that they did not create, even if they are currently contributing to it just like everyone else.
  • The Roman Empire had this all the time. In many cases senators would spend most of their time arguing with each other, and would try to scapegoat or assassinate anyone they deem a threat to their post. It also faced many cases of Succession Crisis, with more than a dozen men claiming the title Emperor in less than fifty years. Then the empire was split in half into the Western and Eastern Roman Empires, which ended with the Western Empire finally falling after a long period of decline. The Eastern portion (called either the Roman or Byzantine Empire depending on where you lived), survived and even thrived until it too wasted away until it was nothing more then a impotent, little city-state.
  • The American Motors Corporation was a conglomerate designed to compete with the seemingly unstoppable Big Three (Ford, GM, Chrysler) companies in The '50s. The leader of the merger envisioned it becoming the world's largest company, encompassing many of America's independent marques (Nash, Hudson, Studebaker, Packard, etc). However, he died in 1954 before a deal could be formed with Packard or Studebaker, leaving just Nash and Hudson to merge into AMC. Packard and Studebaker were dead within a decade, and AMC saw the writing on the wall following The '70s Oil Crisis and was sold out in The '80s to Renault, then Chrysler.
  • British Leyland, a conglomerate of independent British automobile marques, was (as described by Top Gear) plagued by sectarianism with employees not wanting to work with their former competitors, which when combined with poor management and nonexistent quality control, led them to make some shockingly awful vehicles.
  • The Incan civil war, between brothers Atahualpa and Huáscar, between 1529 and 1532, is this trope to the core. Not only was it an intern war, but the various tribes that formed part of the empire actively purged each other over previous conquests or fightings. In the end, Atahualpa won, and over 1 million people had been killed. And then the conquistadors arrived. The rest is history.
  • One of many reasons the American-Indians were crushed is that they did not perceive themselves as all being "American-Indians". They perceived themselves as being from separate tribes. An Apache, for example, would have considered a Cherokee only slightly less foreign than a white colonist. By the time all tribes realized just how big the English-Americans' ambitions were, they were too weakened (from both inter-tribal wars and conflict with the whites) to form an effective alliance.
    • Similar logic explains the Plantation-era phenomenon of "African" warlords selling African slaves they conquered to the British. Back then, racial identity was more tied to country/state/tribe than a shared skin color. People simply did not think on a national scale.
  • Many people believe that this is why the United Kingdom will ultimately leave the European Union on World Trade Organization rules (known less formally as a "No Deal Brexit"). Even ignoring Jeremy Corbyn's whipping Labour to vote against the withdrawal agreement (which could be expected due to tribal party politics), Remain-supporting MP's in the British parliament are refusing to vote for the deal on the table because they think they might be able to force a second referendum on Brexit. Meanwhile, many Brexiters in the Conservative party also chose to vote it down, in the hopes of forcing Theresa May into making more concessions in order to win them over. All the while, if the negotiating time runs out and no withdrawal agreement has been ratified, then the UK exits by default without a deal in place - something many experts agree would be a disaster.
    • Ultimately the UK left with a deal... though on very bad terms and in a much worse position. Factions within the Labour Party so disliked Corbyn they sabotaged his hopes by attacking him. Some M Ps broke away to form a new Party, Change UK... which basically collapsed after winning no seats in the 2019 election. The vote was split in many constituencies between Labour and Lib Dem, enabling Tories to win the seats, the Lib Dem Leader Jo Swinson spending a lot of time attacking Labour and Corbyn and assuming people would naturally vote Lib Dem instead.
    • When Corbyn was succeeded by the more moderate Keir Starmer, ironically, the same thing seems to be happening, with the Pro-Corbyn people not seeing the irony. Many people who had been lifelong Labour voters proudly boasted that due to Starmer's leadership they would never vote Labour again and called on Corbyn to start a new Party, as if this would somehow help fight Right-Wing policies, without seeing the problem of more in a FPTP system.
    • Worse, disintegration of the United Kingdom as a result of Brexit remains a very real possibility. Polling strongly suggests that the Scots (who voted overwhelmingly to Remain in the 2016 referendum) would vote for independence in order to remain with the EU if May's successor were to successfully force a no deal Brexit through Parliament. In addition, Northern Ireland may decide to hold a referendum on unification, if only to avoid a return to a "hard" (policed) border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. After a very hard Brexit which has left the United Kingdom in a ruinous economic state despite which many people in England refuse to admit how bad it has been and are continuing to cheer on the Conservatives, with Boris Johnson remaining high in the Polls, Scottish Independence looks increasingly likely.
  • This is commonly considered a weakness of the Democratic Party compared to the Republican Party in United States politics: the Democrats are a big tent party with a lot of wings that are both distinct and distrustful of each other. A leader of the Democratic party needs to be able to operate with the Blue Dog, Progressive, and other wings to push policies along and minimize defections. The party, however, is generally able to get things passed and stand in unison when it needs to. The party is even able to weaponize their fractious nature at times: at many times candidates are able to run not just against Republicans, but against their own leadership in Washington, and the leadership (usually Pelosi as this is most common in House races) even encourages it.

Lord protect me from my friends, I can handle my enemies myself.

Alternative Title(s): Hanging Separately