The Magazine of Future Warfare
Bruce Lee was a great warrior. He was not a military man, but fought serious street brawls while growing up in Hong Kong, mastered all forms of close combat, and earned a college degree in philosophy. He eventually developed his own martial arts style which he called, "The Way of the Intercepting Fist." This principle is that a counterattack is the best form of fighting. Stand on the defensive until your opponent commits himself to striking, which leaves him open to an intercepting blow. Lee's conclusion was probably influenced by ancient Chinese warrior Sun Tzu who wrote: "In ground which offers no advantage to either side we should lure the enemy by feigned departure, wait until half his force has come out, and make an intercepting attack."
Western military thought emphasizes the offense, despite the historical success of counteroffensives. A major application of this strategy was by the Russians in 1942. As powerful German armored forces moved beyond Stalingrad, the Russians realized that a counterstroke along the lengthy German flank would be more effective than moving forces far to the southeast to defend against German armor. It was much easier to strike south into the long German flank. This resulted in the complete encirclement and surrender of the German 6th Army, while powerful German tanks were abandoned far to the east from a lack of fuel and supplies.
Starting the 1943, the greatly outnumbered Germans learned to use the intercepting fist as well, which they referred to as "mobile defense." Since the Germans lacked the resources to mount offensives, they found it easier to wait for the Russians to expose themselves with offensive thrusts, avoid their armored spearheads, then counterattack into their exposed flanks to maul Russian rear area troops and roll up the spearheads from behind. This led to political fights with Hitler who hated giving up ground and loved the idea of massive offensive operations rather than counterattacks.
German Generals wanted to use "mobile defense" against the Allies who had overextended their lines around Aachen in 1944. However, Hitler insisted on a major offensive in the Ardennes which ultimately failed. During that offensive, the Allies could have used an intercepting fist to surround German forces, but used reserves to block the German spearheads. This led to the bloodiest fighting on the western front and allowed German forces to gradually withdraw in good order. A bold Allied commander could have let the Germans advance while Patton rolled up their flank from the South. The farther German panzers advanced toward Antwerp, the farther they would have had to retreat to prevent encirclement. The Allies could have trapped the entire German force with an intercepting fist from the south by letting their spearheads advance.
There are many other examples from the second World War where an intercepting fist could have been used. When Douglas MacArthur's forces in the Philippines pulled back into the Bataan peninsula in 1942, they were able to repel repeated enemy attacks. However, they began to run out of food after several months while the Japanese attacked repeatedly with heavy losses. Although they outnumbered the Japanese attackers, the rough terrain and total Japanese naval and air superiority made offensive operations impossible. Rather than surrender from a lack of food, the Americans could have allowed the Japanese to breakthrough into a trap and used counterattacks encircled them. While the chances of success are debatable, it was a better idea than surrendering to a Japanese Army that killed most prisoners.
Likewise, the Korean war stalemate during 1952 and 1953 provided many chances where an intercepting fist would have been effective. Allied forces turned back many Chinese offensives with heavy firepower and blocking movements leading to a stalemate. If the Allies had used a SunTzu tactic and lured the Chinese into a false sense of accomplishment by withdrawing in the face of an attack, much of the Chinese Army could have been trapped and strangled. As 12 of 13 North Vietnamese divisions advanced on Saigon in 1975, the US military contemplated an intercepting fist. A Marine Corps division could have landed just north of the DMZ, and pressed westward to cut off supplies. This was rejected for political reasons, but may have stalled the North Vietnamese offensive way down South.
The intercepting fist is the ideal strategy for America's concept of rapid deployment forces. Early arriving forces are light and lack supplies needed for prolonged defensive engagements. Tossing them in front of enemy spearheads is foolish. Even mighty American airborne forces considered themselves mere "speed bumps" if Iraqi armored divisions had pushed south from Kuwait in 1990. Counterattack is a better strategy in such cases as the further enemy forces rapidly advance, the more vulnerable they become. Of course politics comes into play as enemy objectives may be deemed essential to defend. In such cases, light "guard battalions" equipped and trained for rearguard actions are best. Nevertheless, offensive oriented Generals must learn that an intercepting fist is often the best tactic.
Carlton Meyer editorG2mil@Gmail.com
G2mil editorials may be freely distributed without permission
Ed: I will be overseas until March 26, 2005 and will not respond to e-mails until my return.
Spring 2005 Articles
Letters - comments from G2mil readers
Chess is Key - to professional military training
Thoughts on Seabasing - good and bad
Small Commercial Trucks are needed - modern jeeps
Military Films - G2mil's list of the best
Remove the HMMWV from Iraq - guntrucks and M113s are better
The Coming Wars - what the Pentagon can now do in secret
Closed Base Reuse Success Stories (pdf) - how BRAC is often good
Readiness of the US Army Reserve - a leaked internal document
What Generals Don't Know - US Army lessons learned in IraqWars and their Aftermath - Fred Reed
The Pentagon Channel - the US military now has its own "news" network
Mortgaging the Future of Our Armed Forces - Bush to increase military spending
How Iran Will Fight Back - with big rockets and missiles
Iraq in Pictures - gruesome war photos not shown by the US media
Defense Update - a military news website
West has Bloodied Hands - Anglo-Americans slaughtered Iraqis too
US Combat Airmen - drafted for Iraq duty
US Fury over EU Weapons for China - embargo to be lifted soon
A Time for Leaving - withdraw from Iraq
No Peace in Palestine - Sharon rejects peace
Previous G2mil - Winter 2004 issue
Past Editorials - by Carlton Meyer
2005 Base Closures - likely closures
Library Tour - visit G2mil's library
Library Entrance - members only
All material in G2mil Copyright 2005 G2mil, patents pending on some items. Links to www.G2mil.com are encouraged.