(Why) is the offensive predominant in military tactical thinking?

The background to this project is a combination of observations in teaching and exercises situations and the study of military theory, practice and history. In both cases, it has been found that “the offensive” stands out, with a preference for offensive approaches being dominant in strategy and tactics alike. We think it is important to understand if this is correct, and if so why the offensive is predominant in military tactical thinking.

If such a bias exist, it risk being a tactical problem if military organizations rationalize the use of offensive approaches due to a general preference for the offensive rather than correct assessments of the defenders position. It is also problematic as victory conditions are not clear cut, as it is not always necessary a need for a complete victory. It risk being a problem in international stabilizing operation, where not only are victory conditions are different, but there are also constraints on what tactical options/methods allowed to use, and also high value put on avoiding casualties. Furthermore, the reduction of the size of the military also cause a problem, when in small countries they are not big enough for offensive warfare.

This project is based at the Swedish Defence Univerity, and is a collaboration with LtCol Peter Ahlström.