Be aggressive, audacious, and possibly even reckless

Monday, October 9th, 2017

Techniques of Systems Analysis eventually moves past offense to “consider what happens when the enemy drops bombs on us — an unpleasant but necessary part of our study”:

We believe that it is reasonably correct to say that western military leaders (historically) have a bias for the offense. It is easy to see why this might be. For example, the Air Force probably wants its enlisted men and junior officers to be aggressive, audacious, and possibly even reckless. A pilot who is instructed to fly through an anti-aircraft barrage is in no position to compare the military worth of evasive action versus accuracy in dropping his bombs. If he is told to make the comparison in a cool calculating way, there is likely to be a great deal of highly emotional evasive action and very little straight line flying. In order to balance the reasonable regard that people have for the value of their own lives, military organizations train and select people to emphasize the offensive spirit. (Actually, of course, responsibility for other people’s lives can be even more paralyzing. And, therefore, even leaders must be trained to have an offensive bias.)

Even though this offense-mindedness is desirable in operating people, it can have very regrettable results when it invades the planning and policy levels. It is often said that defense alone will not win a war. While this is patently true if taken in a ridiculous sense, wars have in fact been won and will be won in the future by emphasizing defense as much as, or in some sense more than, the offense.

We hear many warnings about Maginot-mindedness. It may be that most of these warnings are based on a misunderstanding of the lessons of history. We should first realize that the French built the Maginot Line as a reaction against the excesses that offensive minded generals committed in the first World War; secondly, that it was, probably, a good idea. If the French had built their Maginot Line without any holes, and used it properly to enable a relatively small number of soldiers to defend a larger fronter, they could have concentrated troops where they needed them — to conduct offensive operations. It is one of the purposes of a good defense to enable one to pursue offensive operations when and where needed. A good defense not only prevents the enemy from destroying one’s offensive capability; it causes him to divert and use up larger resources in his offense. This presumably weakens his defense.


  1. Bob Sykes says:

    “be aggressive, audacious, and possibly even reckless”

    Am I wrong to think that pretty much describes young black ghetto males?

  2. Lu An Li says:

    Dupuy and his thirteen verities of combat, success cannot be achieved without offensive action. The boxer who just absorbs and blocks punches can fight but not win the bout.

  3. Isegoria says:

    Trevor N. Dupuy’s Timeless Verities of Combat, from his Understanding War: History and Theory of Combat:

    1. Offensive action is essential to positive combat results.
    2. Defensive strength is greater than offensive strength.
    3. Defensive posture is necessary when successful offense is impossible.
    4. Flank and rear attack is more likely to succeed than frontal attack.
    5. Initiative permits application of preponderant combat power.
    6. Defender’s chances of success are directly proportional to fortification strength.
    7. An attacker willing to pay the price can always penetrate the strongest defenses.
    8. Successful defense requires depth and reserves.
    9. Superior Combat Power Always Wins.
    10. Surprise substantially enhances combat power.
    11. Firepower kills, disrupts, suppresses, and causes dispersion.
    12. Combat activities are always slower, less productive, and less efficient than anticipated.
    13. Combat is too complex to be described in a single, simple aphorism.
  4. Dan Kurt says:

    Here is where to download Russel H. S. Stolfi’s A Bias For Action: The German 7th Panzer Division in France & Russia 1940-1941

    Dan Kurt

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