Offence and Defence

1 Conception of defence

What is defence in conception? The warding off a blow. What is then its characteristic sign? The state of expectancy (or of waiting for this blow). This is the sign by which we always recognise an act as of a defensive character, and by this sign alone can the defensive be distinguished from the offensive in war. But inasmuch as an absolute defence completely contradicts the idea of war, because there would then be war carried on by one side only, it follows that the defence in war can only be relative and the above distinguishing signs must therefore only be applied to the essential idea or general conception: it does not apply to all the separate acts which compose the war.
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But as we must return the enemy’s blows if we are really to carry on war on our side, therefore this offensive act in defensive war takes place more or less under the general title defensive -- that is to say, the offensive of which we make use falls under the conception of position or theatre of war. We can, therefore, in a defensive campaign fight offensively, in a defensive battle we may use some divisions for offensive purposes, and lastly, while remaining in position awaiting the enemy’s onslaught, we still make use of the offensive by sending at the same time bullets into the enemy’s ranks. The defensive form in war is therefore no mere shield but a shield formed of blows delivered with skill.

2 Advantages of the defensive

What is the object of defence? To preserve. To preserve is easier than to acquire; from which follows at once that the means on both sides being supposed equal, the defensive is easier than the offensive. But in what consists the greater facility of preserving or keeping possession? In this, that all time which is not turned to any account falls into the scale in favour of the defence. He reaps where he has not sowed. Every suspension of offensive action, either from erroneous views, from fear or from indolence, is in favour of the side acting defensively. This advantage ... is one which derives itself from the conception and object of the defensive, lies in the nature of all defence, and in ordinary life, particularly in legal business which bears so much resemblance to war, it is expressed by the Latin proverb, Beati sunt possidentes. Another advantage arising from the nature of war and belonging to it exclusively, is the aid afforded by locality or ground; this is one of which the defensive form has a preferential use.

Having established these general ideas we now turn more directly to the subject ... in order to express ourselves distinctly, we must say, that the defensive form of War is in itself stronger than the offensive.
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If the defensive is the stronger form of conducting war, but has a negative object, it follows of itself that we must only make use of it so long as our weakness compels us to do so, and that we must give up that form as soon as we feel strong enough to aim at the positive object. Now as the state of our circumstances is usually improved in the event of our gaining a victory through the assistance of the defensive, it is therefore, also, the natural course in war to begin with the defensive, and to end with the offensive. It is therefore just as much in contradiction with the conception of war to suppose the defensive the ultimate object of the war as it was a contradiction to understand passivity to belong to all the parts of the defensive, as well as to the defensive as a whole. In other words: a war in which victories are merely used to ward off blows, and where there is no attempt to return the blow, would be just as absurd as a battle in which the most absolute defence (passivity) should everywhere prevail in all measures.
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  By PanEris using Melati.

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