Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER VII: MUTUAL ACTION AND REACTION OF ATTACK AND DEFENCE - On War, vol. 2
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CHAPTER VII: MUTUAL ACTION AND REACTION OF ATTACK AND DEFENCE - Carl von Clausewitz, On War, vol. 2 
On War, trans. Col. J.J. Graham. New and Revised edition with Introduction and Notes by Col. F.N. Maude, in Three Volumes (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & C., 1918). Vol. 2.
Part of: On War
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MUTUAL ACTION AND REACTION OF ATTACK AND DEFENCE
We shall now consider attack and defence separately, as far as they can be separated from each other. We commence with the defensive for the following reasons:—It is certainly very natural and necessary to base the rules for the defence upon those of the offensive, and vice versâ; but one of the two must still have a third point of departure, if the whole chain of ideas is to have a beginning, that is, to be possible. The first question concerns this point.
If we reflect upon the commencement of War philosophically, the conception of War does not originate properly with the offensive, as that form has for its absolute object, not so much fighting as the taking possession of something. The idea of War arises first by the defensive, for that form has the battle for its direct object, as warding off and fighting plainly are one and the same. The warding off is directed entirely against the attack; therefore supposes it, necessarily; but the attack is not directed against the warding off; it is directed upon something else—the taking possession; consequently does not presuppose the warding off. It lies, therefore, in the nature of things, that the party who first brings the element of War into action, the party from whose point of view two opposite parties are first conceived, also establishes the first laws of War, and that party is the defender. We are not speaking of any individual case; we are only dealing with a general, an abstract case, which theory imagines in order to determine the course it is to take.
By this we now know where to look for this fixed point, outside and independent of the reciprocal effect of attack and defence, and find that it lies in the defensive.
If this is a logical consequence, the defender must have motives of action, even when as yet he knows nothing of the intentions of the offensive; and these motives of action must determine the organisation of the means of fighting. On the other hand, as long as the offensive knows nothing of the plans of his adversary, there are no motives of action for him, no grounds for the application of his military means. He can do nothing more than take these means along with him, that is, take possession by means of his Army. And thus it is also in point of fact; for to carry about the apparatus of War is not to use it; and the assailant who takes such things with him, on the quite general supposition that he may require to use them, and who, instead of taking possession of a country by official functionaries and proclamations, does so with an Army, has not as yet committed, properly speaking, any act of warfare; but the defender who both collects his apparatus of War, and disposes of it with a view to fighting, is the first to exercise an act which really accords with the conception of War.
The second question is now: what is theoretically the nature of the motives which must arise in the mind of the defensive first, before the attack itself is thought of? Plainly the advance made with a view to taking possession, which we have imagined extraneous to the War, but which is the foundation of the opening chapter. The defence has to oppose this advance; therefore in idea we must connect this advance with the land (country); and thus arise the first most general measures of the defensive. When these are once established, then upon them the application of the offensive is founded, and from a consideration of the means which the offensive then applies, new principles again of defence are derived. Now here is the reciprocal effect which theory can follow in its inquiry, as long as it finds the fresh results which are produced are worth examination.
This little analysis was necessary in order to give more clearness and stability to what follows, such as it is; it is not made for the field of battle, neither is it for the Generals of the future; it is only for the army of theorists, who have made a great deal too light of the subject hitherto.