Offence and Defence
Too Long; Didn't Read1.—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. A partial combat is defensive if we receive the onset, the charge of the enemy; a battle is so if we receive the attack, that is, wait for the appearance of the enemy before our position and within range of our fire; a campaign is defensive if we wait for the entry of the enemy into our theatre of war. In all these cases the sign of waiting for and warding off belongs to the general conception, without any contradiction arising with the conception of war, for it may be to our advantage to wait for the charge against our bayonets, or the attack on our position or our theatre of war. 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 balls into the enemy’s ranks. The defensive form in war is therefore no mere shield but a shield formed of blows delivered with skill.