Explaining the offensive bias in military tactical thinking

New article with LtCol (ret) Peter Ahlström in Defence Studies that explores why the offensive dominates military tactical thinking. Our article, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the most offensive of them all? – Explaining the offensive bias in military tactical thinking” is published open access, so anyone can download the article free:
https://doi.org/10.1080/14702436.2019.1599287 .

This article explores why the offensive predominates military tactical thinking. With survey results showing an offensive bias among 60 per cent of senior Swedish officers and as many as 80 per cent in the case of the army, it is clear that this is not just a problem of the past but is equally relevant today. The article asks why there is a tendency to perceive and understand offensive tactics as the preferred choice and the way to conduct battle that should be encouraged and preferred. Drawing on existing research and the findings of a pilot study, ten propositions for why the offensive bias exists are tested using a mixed-method approach. Based on the findings, the article develops a model to understand why the offensive dominates military tactical thinking. It is found that the two key constitutive factors behind the offensive bias are military culture and education. These factors most directly and profoundly influence an officer’s identity, perceptions, and thinking. Military culture and education, in turn, work as a prism for four other factors: military history, the theory and principles of war, doctrine and TTPs, and psychological factors.

KEYWORDS: Militarycult of the offensiveattackoffensivetactical thinkingtacticseducationmilitary cultureSwedenarmy