Opposing Combat Philosophies
Well, all force and no style, just like usual, huh? Sophia:
You seemed to be handling the unnecessary acrobatics
quite well on your own.
In the long history of European military practice, it is almost a truism that the chief military worry of a Western army for the past 2500 years was another Western army.
In fact primitive tactics are superior...
Lawrence H. Keeley, War before Civilization.
Some folks think that offense is the best defense; if you kill the other guy, defense is irrelevant. On the other hand, if you plan to fight tomorrow, or the day after that, you'd better have some contingency plans in place to protect your attackers, heal the wounded, and prepare for a possible retreat. Which do you go with?
When you've got two or more groups with two or more ways of winning the battle, you've got Opposing Combat Philosophies. One general prefers to obliterate the enemy with long range bombardment, while the other prefers to send in the infantry to really silence the other side. Or, in a fantasy setting, the choice between magic, which is astoundingly powerful but takes decades to perfect, or melee combat, which is easier and faster to master. These differing philosophies can be found between the heroes and the villians, or between opposing factions on the same side.
See also Ace Pilot
, which includes a section on various piloting styles, as well as Force And Finesse
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- In the world of Lyrical Nanoha, Midchildian tactics generally focus on defensive barriers and long range Beam Spam, while the Belkan Knights first introduced in Season 2 prefer to get up close and personal with the enemy to overwhelm them with superior strength and aggresion. The heroes eventually incorporate both approaches.
- Similar to many fantasy works, the evil Marmo hordes of Record of Lodoss War are focused entirely on offense, with most goblins and werewolves going into battle with nothing but a dagger, scythe, or similar villian weapon. On the other hand, the Holy Knights of Valis routinely carry shields into battle, and Parn's party alone has 3 people capable of healing: Deedlit the High Elf, Slayn the Wizard, and Etoh the Cleric.
- In Claymore, as illustrated by the page quote, Noel uses her agility and She-Fu, while her rival Sophia prefers a brute force approach.
- A broader division is between Defensive Warriors who have superior regeneration abilities and Offensive Warriors who can develop devastating special attacks like Jean's Drill Sword or Flora's Windcutter. In universe it has been theorised that the mentality of the Warrior in question is what determines their type; those who win by surviving against all odds vs those who simply cut the enemy down to ensure victory.
- Negi is asked to decide between combat philosophies at least twice so far: first between being a standard battle-mage who relies on his partners to run interference, giving him time to chant devastating attack spells, or a Magical Swordsman, who enters the fray directly. He chooses the latter, like his father before him. Later, he has to choose between The Power of Friendship, again like his father, or The Dark Side as taught by his Master. He goes with the dark side.
- During the One Year War, The Federation utilizes general-purpose technology, while Zeon's units tend to be specialized for the terrain they are deployed in.
- During the Golden Age arc of Berserk the nations of Midland and Chuder/Tudor had different armies. Chuder seemed to favor brawny Mighty Glacier units that were themed after huge animals, Black Rams, Whale Corps, Holy Purple Rhino Knights. While Midland preferred lightning fast units, most successfully the Band of the Hawk, and had white everything. White Dragons, White Tigers ect.
- Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple has this in two forms. The first is between fighting styles. "Dou"-type martial artists fuel their skills using aggressive emotions like rage, while "Sei"-types usually stay calm and collected. Despite what that may sound like, Dou-types no more or less likely to be evil than a Sei-type is to be good.
- Later on, another set of opposing philosophies appear in the forms of Katsujin-ken and Satsujin-ken. The former, as practiced by Kenichi and his masters, is to fight without taking life if at all possible. The latter are of the belief that martial arts are meant to be used for killing one's opponents. Unlike the above, this does tend to mark the line between Good and Evil in the series.
- Later on it turns out a third path exist. The way of Gedou. Unlike Satsujinken fighters who believe the most authentic meaning of martial arts is to kill opponents to prove martial superiority, those who walk the path of Gedou seem to just fight and fight for the pure sake of it, until they themselves are destroyed.
- In Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, Draco Malfoy of the Dragon Army, at least in the beginning, uses the command philosophy of command push (all orders come from the top, and subordinates are trained to carry out orders efficiently without questioning them, but this structure tends to be inflexible if the commander is out of touch with the situation). In contrast, Harry James Potter-Evan-Verres of the Chaos Legion uses some elements of recon pull (subordinates are allowed to use initiative to do what they think is right for their situation, and the commander acts as coordinator who concentrates on the big picture).
- In the Drizzt novels, Entreri believes in fighting without emotion, while Drizzt thinks his passion improves his fighting. Entreri gets way too into proving he's right, going to enormous trouble to set up a death match between them after several fights in which outside factors interfered with the result, and completely loses control of his anger during the fight. Drizzt meanwhile, is mostly just annoyed that he won't let it go, and after beating him points out that this fight didn't prove which of their styles was better either.
- An ongoing political struggle in the early Honor Harrington books pits Honor, a student of the traditional tactical school of thought, up against the Juene Ecole, an out-of-touch group associated with many Strawman Political characters, which thinks that they can use small warships equipped with various super weapons to change the way battles are fought. As the books go on, however, and some new developments in missile design and ship powerplants mature, Honor ends up allying herself with them, using their ideas to complement the traditional tactical school of thought, rather than trying to replace it entirely.
- On a larger scale, the conflict between the Star Kingdom of Manticore and the People's Republic of Haven pits Manticore's smaller fleet of technologically advanced ships (with rigorously trained volunteer crews) against Haven's much larger fleet of more outdated ships. Haven also has quite a bit more territory to protect (and control, due to civil unrest), and a much more limited logistical capability, which limits their ability to use their greater numbers to project force as effectively as Manticore can. Later books take this Up to Eleven with the Grand Alliance of Manticore and Haven going up against the monolithic but obsolescent forces of the Solarian League.
- In Belisarius Series, each political power has its own combat philosophy. The Persians are armored horsemen supported by horse archers meant for wide plains. The Romans have this too but they rely more on technology. The Axumites emphasize naval boarding parties and so have little room for tactics and stress close-combat ferocity. The Rajputs are a little like the Persians but spend more time in broken terrain. They are great cavalrymen and swordsmen and definitely Born in the Saddle. The Marathas stress Hit And Run tactics. The Kushans tend to be a Jack of All Trades, though they seem to spend more time on foot then on horseback. The Malwa tactics are primitive and based more on the need to keep their people under their thumb then to fight their enemies; they rely chiefly on reserves and dakka; when they need actual military prowess it is usually the Rajputs and the Kushans that provide it.
- A variation in The Lost Fleet series. By the time Captain John "Black Jack" Geary is awoken from his 100-year Human Popsicle state, the Forever War the start of which he witnessed has made both sides virtually identical. Both fleets are full of Glory Seekers who put more emphasis on fast, unarmored ships due to the fact that they can close with the enemy faster instead of the Mighty Glacier battleships, which they consider to be postings for cowards. The prevailing tactical doctrine is that each ship commander's "fighting spirit" will determine victory or defeat with fleet tactics being largely nonexistent. Geary strives to return to the "old ways" of fighting battles that relies less on individual honor and more on fighting smart. Formations are key. However, many of the ship's commanders prefer their way of fighting and are reluctant to adopt Geary's methods. Pretty soon, he realizes that his changes result in the fleet being severely undersupplied, as the computer systems in charge of supply prioritization are designed with a different combat philosophy in mind. Basically, under Geary, ships maneuver a lot more (i.e. more fuel cells needed) and more ships survive (i.e. more repair parts needed). The system is reprogrammed after this, but lack of fuel cells is a major concern until the fleet returns.
- Boxers can be very broadly divided into 3 types: out-fighters, swarmers, and brawlers. Out-fighters are long range punchers who use distancing and strategy to control the fight. Swarmers are short range fighters who prefer to get into point-blank range and unload with torrents of body blows and uppercuts. Finally, brawlers are power punchers who rely on sheer physical strength to devastate their opponents, often at the expense of speed and skill.
- The Warhammer 40,000 Universe is large enough to accomodate a dozen or more tactical styles, but the most obviously opposed systems are between the Tau Empire, which prefers Wave Motion Gun style attacks from astronomical distances, and the Orcs who specialize in getting within 100 meters and opening a can of More Dakka.
- Same goes for its counterpart Warhammer Fantasy ranging from armies with solid blocks and no ranged attacks except magic (Chaos) to armies consisting nearly exclusively out of skirmishers (Woodelves).
- But next to that there is also a very philosophical divide between the fluff-players, who build their armies to reflect the setting and emphasize the quirks of their specific army, perhaps with certain self-imposed limitations, and the so-called "power gamers" who only focus on maximizing the win chances of their army without much care for the setting. Can also been found in Warhammer40000. Differs from normal Munchkins that it is a actual philosophical question how to prioritize winning in the battle.
- In BattleTech, the factional combat philosophies weren't that sharply distinct when it was simply the Great Houses fighting. When the Clans came, though, their philosophy favored individual actions and the glory of single combat with their foes, so whole units would break down to a dozen one on one battles...where the Inner Sphere forces tended to be Combat Pragmatist and would do 'dishonorable' things like having an entire company of 'Mechs focus their fire.
- In Traveller Intersteller Wars, the Terrans focus on maneuver and the Vilani on their numbers and logictic capability. However the Vilani underestimate the Terran threat and the Terrans are able to gain resources by conquest and economic hegemony over vast areas of the Vilani Empire until they have an even match.
- In Final Fantasy XIII, there is something of an unspoken difference in combat styles between the two warring factions. Fighters originating from Cocoon, such as Sazh, Hope, and the female PSICOM operatives, focus on buffing allies first, then going into battle. On the other hand, fighters from Gran Pulse, namely Fang and Vanille, have natural Saboteur capabilities for weakening enemies before applying the killing blow. The reasons why you would need to weaken opponents first become apparent once you visit the lowerworld and have to deal with brutally powerful behemoths, wyverns, and city-sized Adamantoises.
- Gallente ships in EVE Online are designed around their close-in high risk, high damage fighting philosophy. Their old enemies, the Caldari design their ships around long range, low-risk sniper tactics.
- Real Time Strategy games with a clear avoidance of Cosmetically Identical Sides (and possibly, Separate, But Identical) have a general tendency to pit two or more sides with radically different methods of winning (and losing) against each other, owing much to a theoretically ideal Faction Calculus. Of course, this mentality is used in the name of the Rule of Fun with plenty of variation to spare.
- Exemplified well by Starcraft, where the Protoss field extremely expensive, but extremely capable units, the Zerg named one of the most famous RTS Tropes of all time, and the Terrans fall flexibly in-between.
- Command & Conquer games makes it obvious that differing war doctrines is its bread and butter for rich gameplay. The Allied Nations, Scrin and USA employ precision weapons and strong air power, China, GDI and Soviet Union use lots of tanks, while GLA, Japan, Nod and Yuri utilise gimmicks, speed and versatility.
- Homeworld and its sequels use opposing combat philosophies to varying degrees.
- Homeworld would certainly be this way, assuming that you put Kushan (or Taiidan) on one side, the Turanic Raiders on a another and the Kadeshi on yet another. The first is a complete military fleet whose composition resembles that of a modern navy, the second is a bandit race that is reminiscent of today's guerillas and the third is what a religious, isolationist cult of fully-armed but fragile men would look like. On a player faction scale, the Kushan and Taiidan only vary through special units: the Kushan choose offensive invisibility cloaks and attack drones while the Taiidan choose defensive antibullet deflector shields and defense lasers.
- In Homeworld 2 the Hiigaran race tends to field smaller numbers of individually more capable, flexible and expensive spaceships, and almost all of their ships have some sort of weapon mounted, even on auxiliary ships that really are not meant for direct combat. Their larger ships are even capable of handling almost every combat role by themselves, at least in small engagements. Their opponents the Vagyr, on the other hand, have larger groups of cheap ships which are each specifically meant for one narrow task, relying on outnumbering the enemy and using combinations of different ship and squadron types to meet specific tactical needs.
- Homeworld: Cataclysm has the most variety between the two playable factions. On one hand, the Hiigaran Kiith Somtaaw use generous firepower, Suicide Attack holographic projectors and small Attack Drones while the Beast resort to Invisibility Cloaks and much, much low-quality Mega Manning from its sources (which in multiplayer, is only the Somtaaw). The unplayable factions largely takes their doctrines from the original Homeworld's.
- Ground Control features the highly-advanced Order of the New Dawn squaring off against the Crayven Corporation. The Order is utilizing brand-new tech, uncluding Energy Weapons and Hover Tanks, while Crayven utilizes tried-and-true treaded tanks and ballistic weapons. The Order's hoverdynes are good for outmaneuvering the enemy to bring their better firepower to bear on the lightly-armored sides and rear, while Crayven's terradynes have much thicker armor that can take a punch and primarily prefer static defense. Both sides also have different specialized infantry. Crayven has the SWAT-like Jaeger squads armed with long-range rifles deadly against enemy infantry but virtually useless against enemy armor. However, their good eyesight allows them to act as spotters for Crayven artillery if they climb a hill, and their low profile means the enemy is hard-pressed to find and kill them. The Order, instead, uses an Amazon Brigade of Templars that fire anti-tank weapons. The Order also has an unarmed hover-platform that launches Attack Drones that hone in on enemy armor and explode on impact. For obvious reasons, they are useless against hoverdynes.
- The Dark Crusade stand-alone Expansion Pack introduces the Phoenix Mercenaries that use modified Crayven tech and rely primarily on guerilla warfare.
- Ground Control II: Operation Exodus goes with the same model. The Northern Star Alliance mostly uses the same Crayven tech, although each unit now has a secondary feature (e.g. their most powerful tank can become a literal fortress by extending its side armor forward to protect other units near it). The Terran Empire uses the advanced Order-derived tech coupled with Walking Tanks. Then come the Virons whose vehicles (called centruroids) are their version of Imperial hoverdynes, but nearly all their units are capable of merging to become a different type of unit. Imperial tactics are mostly of the We Have Reserves variety, as NSA forces are usually outnumbered but still manages to overcome the Imperials with better training and tactics.
- In Xyber 9 New Dawn, Renard focuses more on ground based combat, Tatania's forces attack from the air. Also, he's more likely to just dump infantry on an area than she is.
- The Various Bending Styles on Avatar: The Last Airbender, each have their own philosophies; first, the Airbending style is all about "being the leaf" relying on circular movements, lots of dodging, and using non-lethal techniques in general. In Contrast Earthbending is all about standing your ground "Being the Rock", hitting hard and using the terrain (Literally) to your advantage. Then there is Firebending, which is all about Overwhelming their opponents with Raw Power. while the waterbending style focuses on flow of movement and redirecting the attacks of the enemy. The Avatar being the Kung-Fu Jesus Master Of All elements has to master them all, but they have the most trouble learning the element that is most opposite their personality (which is generally aligned to the element of the nation they were born into, the first element they learn to control).
- Traditionally, the more agile United States Marine Corps were sent in as shock troops to annihilate enemy forces, while the more powerful but sluggish United States Army would then hold the captured territory. However, recent operations have blurred this division of labor.
- Particularly special forces in the U.S. Army have blurred the line. However, this is a result of a changing tactical environment (think World War 2 compared to Iraq War 2). The Marines are still the premiere "hit hard, cripple the enemy" forces, but the Army is catching up, though they generally use "hit hard, destroy the enemy" tactics instead. The Marines are also backed up by the Navy, which has both fighter-bombers and medium range tactical missiles, which is a rather large advantage. The Army, on the other hand, has much more artillery.
- Those philosophies have been discarded as the U.S. military has opted for integrated "joint-force" operations in almost every engagement, utilizing the strengths of all branches, together. This, of course, was due to the resulting Interservice Rivalry getting to such a point that it was jeopardizing major operations.
- There was a real and well documented case of Opposing Combat Philosophies within the U.S. Air Force during the late '40s and early '50s between Gen Curtis LeMay, who wanted manned nuclear bombers and lots of them, and his detractors who included President Kennedy, Secretary of Defense McNamara, U.S. Army Gen. Maxwell Taylor and many, many others.
- This mirrored an earlier case of OCP between WWI and WWII where Billy Mitchell, desperate to secure money for his nascent Army Air Force, basically went to war with the U.S. Navy, intending to cannibalize their funding. He put on many highly-publicized tests to try and demonstrate that bombers made the Navy's battleships obsolete.
- During the Cold War, the U.S. and Soviet navies had very different doctrines on defeating each other in the event of war, and this affected everything from their tactics to their ship designs. U.S. ships were designed with better survivability, fewer but more reliable weapons, more comfort (the term being relative here) to support longer times at sea, and their fleets were centered around their aircraft carriers and depended heavily on air power, which they would also use to support troops inland. The Soviets, on the other hand, built more ships than the U.S. with more but less reliable weapons, and shorter endurance. They couldn't match the U.S.'s surface and air superiority so they concentrated on building better submarines and anti-ship cruise missiles which could strike from afar. They figured that the major fighting in a hypothetical World War III would be in Europe and so they wouldn't have to outright defeat the U.S. Navy, just deny it the ability to effectively resupply its forces in Europe.
- It's not that the Soviets expected their navy to lose; they had good reasons for choosing to specialize as they did. Submarines during the Cold War and after it are not what they were in WWII. The nuclear variety is capable of silently stalking beneath the waves for months at a time, virtually undetectable, and very well armed. Should have the Warsaw Pact navies engaged NATO's, chances are that all of the surface fleets would have been reduced to radioactive scrap metal by nuclear weapons, with submarines actually having the best chances of survival. Even in non-nuclear combat, many experts during the period came to the conclusion that NATO's surface fairing fleets would not last long when faced with wolf packs of Soviet submarines (though NATO still had its own subs, just less of them).
- Soviet air superiority doctrine was centered around one-pass-kills (fly at high speed past your target as you kill it) to significantly decrease interception time (the MiG 31, for example, is one of the fastest planes ever built, but can't turn worth a damn because it didn't need to). U.S. air superiority doctrine eventually evolved to more measured approaches and extremely long range missile shots while avoiding dogfighting.
- The Soviets included a considerable amount of air defense weapons from army level down to battalion, while U.S. Army AirLand Battle doctrine operated under the assumption that the Air Force would be able to keep the skies clear of enemy aircraft and therefore had less resources devoted to air defense. On that note, Soviet air superiority was based upon surprise air attacks on airfields, and tanks on the enemy's airbase, rather than straight PVO-type interception. For the Soviet Navy, the submarine and anti-ship missile-centric fleet was out of choice and their view of cost-effectiveness, not inability. For endurance, the Soviets looked at readiness in a different way, which is exemplified that Soviet sailors identified themselves with fleets rather than ships.
- Another part of this is in their Tank design, Soviet Philosophy was Attack! Attack! Attack!, counterattacking instead of defending, and thus their tanks were designed to Emphasize the "Lightning" part of Lightning Bruiser, while the Americans had a more defensive philosophy, where their tanks would "Hull down" on hills and generally hold the line against the enemy, were more "Bruiser" based.
- Come to think of it, this is basically the competing philosophy between major land powers (USSR in this case) and major sea powers (USA) which repeats itself through history. Earlier examples included England (sea) v. France (land), England (sea) v. Germany (land), going all the way back to Rome (land) vs. Carthage (sea) and Athens (sea) V. Sparta (land).
- Location played a lot into it: the United States would be separated from WWIII by oceans and so control of the water would have been critical to keeping up the fight. The Soviets didn't need to cross the ocean, and would have to pass by several potentially hostile countries to access the open seas (something for which submarines would have been quite useful for). Accordingly, controlling the seas was unimportant to the Soviets, compared to locating and destroying U.S. fleets and convoys heading for Europe.
- Up until relatively recently, nearly all of the above was also applicable to China, albeit with a greatly reduced focus on seapower as for a long time their most pressing military threat came from their land border with Russia. How much of that is still true, only time will tell.
- The German Army's mastery of maneuver warfare (swift, coordinated, simultaneous assault with infantry, artillery, and air power) was its greatest advantage at the start of World War II. The allied forces, prepared only for the attrition warfare tactics of World War I, were left beaten, bloody, and desperate to catch up during the opening years of the war.
- The Crusades has examples of this. The Europeans prefer heavily armored knights, while the Arabs and Turks prefer lightly armored but still heavily armed horsemen. In terrains with not much room to maneuver the knights are deadly, but in open terrain, especially at the desert, the light horsemen can wreak more damage.
- Until quite recently there was a remarkable variability in this due to terrain, economics, ideology and what not. This may have gotten less so in modern times; most countries seem to try to imitate European style. Except for guerrillas which are the other main combat philosophy of the modern world.
- The strategies each side of the American Civil War employed during most of the war. The Confederate strategy relied on a series of decisive victories in pitched battle that would quickly force the Union to the negotiating table once they lost their stomach for war. The Union strategy (mostly) involved attrition and the control of key locations, knowing it would be able to outlast the Confederacy in any prolonged conflict due to their industrial superiority and population advantage. The dual Union victories at Gettsyburg and Vicksburg during July of 1863 illustrate the success of one strategy (the Union gained complete control of the Mississippi River, further tightening the noose around the Confederacy) and the failure of another (Lee banking on a decisive victory on Union soil and being utterly foiled, resulting in a decisive tactical and strategic defeat the Confederacy could not recover from.)
- This appeared on the Union side for much of the war, represented in the persons of General George McClellan and General Ulysses S. Grant. McClellan, Father to His Men through and through, was always cautious, losing several battles and even more opportunities because he had overestimated the strength of the Confederate forces. Grant, on the other hand, was willing to press the North's advantages for all they were worth, including the advantage of manpower, in order to bring a faster victory. The result was the sacking of McClellan and (eventually) the appointment of Grant in his place as commanding general of the Army.
- This came to the fore during the Second Punic War on the Roman side. With Hannibal smashing one Roman army after another in Italy, Quintus Fabius Maximus came to lead a new Roman army to oppose the Carthaginians. Fabius used his army to shadow and harrass Hannibal, refusing the open battle Hannibal desired and all the while reducing Carthaginian morale, numbers, and supplies. However, this strategy was time consuming and the Romans wanted to smash Hannibal once and for all, so he instead placed the aggressive Gaius Terentius Varro in charge. He gave Hannibal an open battle, outnumbering him nearly 2-1....and had his army annihilated at the Battle of Cannae. In the end, Fabius was proven correct, since he knew that Hannibal would never have the manpower or resources to ever try and capture Rome, and knew Hannibal grossly underestimated Roman resolve.
- On the strategic level, Rome's ultimate success against Carthage (and its rise to power in general) was due to the fact that they approached warfare on an all-or-nothing basis rather than merely as "a continuation of politics by other means," which was the default for conflicts between settled societies of the time. Where the Carthaginians were convinced that destroying Roman armies in the field would bring them humbly to the peace table (which is part of why Hannibal never actually marched on Rome itself), the Romans instead believed that they were involved in a do-or-die struggle for survival. When they gained the upper hand, the Romans took the initiative to dismantle Carthage's empire almost entirely (and ultimately destroy the city itself).
- The opposing ground forces during the Cold War in Germany. NATO's philosophy was to have individually highly capable, but expensive chess pieces whose loss could be crippling. The Soviet/Warsaw Pact, on the other hand by comparison, was deliberately limiting the capability, initiative and equipment of each individual chess piece, and instead investing a large percentage of its effort in raising a breed of grand masters who could play chess well, understanding and accepting the natural limitations of each piece. In other words, a rank of bishops and rooks against three or four ranks of pawns.
- Martial Arts is often divided into "Hard" and "Soft" categories; usually accepted as using force directly or redirecting an opponent's force.
- In World War II Germany relied on its virtuousity in maneuver warfare to clock off a string of victories in local campaigns. Britain relied on its Navy, the resources of The British Empire, and hundreds of years of experience in global wars; as well as deception and their patronage of La Résistance to buy time until allies arrived and wear down German strength. America relied on industrial capacity. Its most notable tactical strength was its massive and superbly-manned air power. Russia relied on numbers and on the wilderness as stereotype paints. It also was able to field first-class armor toward the end of the war. Japan relied on the individual skill of its personnel as well as their " warrior spirit". Finland with nothing else to rely on, depended on the roughness of their country and its people.
- Sir Arthur Harris, head of RAF Bomber Command during WW II opposed anyone who didn't hewn to his strategy of bombing German cities. He believed the quickest way to end the war was to specifically target cities and civilian populations, over an invasion of Europe.