Initiative in the Operational Defense: Is it Possible?
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Initiative in the Operational Defense: Is it Possible?

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Kenneth J. Quinlan
246x189x3 mm

This monograph investigates the possible use of initiative by the operational commander when conducting a defense. AirLand Battle doctrine is based on securing or retaining the initiative and exercising it aggressively to accomplish the mission, however, present U.S. doctrine treats initiative as an attribute of the offensive. Can the operational commander exhibit the tenet of initiative while in the defense, and if so, what aspects of initiative are possible? This monograph first examines the theory of initiative and defense to establish clearly both concepts. Subsequently, two campaigns are examined to provide insights concerning the question of initiative in the operational defense. Specifically, Wellington's defensive campaign in Portugal against the French in 1810 and Slim's defensive campaign against the Japanese at Imphal-Kohima in 1944. The monograph concludes with a discussion of the conclusions drawn from the campaign analysis. The study concludes that the operational commander can display initiative while in the defense, although admittedly to a lesser extend than while in the offense. Therefore, the tenet of initiative is as applicable to the defense as it is to the offense in AirLand Battle, yet it may manifest itself differently in each case. The use of the counterattack, which AirLand Battle doctrine stresses, is not the only way to exhibit initiative when in the defense. Because the terms of battle can sometimes be dictated when defending the operational commander should give credence to the possible use of the operational defense to set the terms of battle and grasp the initiative from the enemy.

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