The best defense is a good offense

The best defense is a good offense

"The best defense is a good offense" is an adage that has been applied to many fields of endeavor, including games and military combat.


Mao Zedong opined that "the only real defense is active defense," meaning defense for the purpose of counter-attacking and taking the offensive. [] Often success rests on destroying the enemy's ability to attack. In reference to fighting terrorists, Matthew Levitt opines, "It’s important to pre-emptively strike at those who intend to do us harm." [] The principle is echoed in the writings of Machiavelli and Sun Tzu. []


In some board games, such as "Risk", one's ability to build up armies depends on aggressively attacking so as to acquire territory. Players who fail to do so, and concentrate instead on holding the line against enemy attack, will likely end up in a weak position. Indepthinfo argues that this adage does not always apply: "When the battle rages between two players one should put every ounce of power in the offense, but when several players are involved, the political element changes this dynamic." [] In chess, one's ability to prevent enemy attacks often depends on maintaining the initiative – i.e., making a series of threats that the opponent must use his turns to parry, rather than launching his own attacks; thus, common tips used in conjunction with this adage are that the best way to upset your opponent’s plans is to become menacing and that the best way to stop an enemy threat to your own king is to attack his.

In sports such as soccer and basketball [] , the adage is used to note that success can hinge on an effective offense that keeps the ball on the other team's side of the field, thus not only creating scoring opportunities but preventing the opposing team from scoring.


The adage has also been applied in the intellectual property realm, in reference to patent trolls. []


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  • the best defense is a good offense — The usual US version of attack is the best form of defence. Also as a good offense is the best defense. 1989 Washington Times 13 Sept. C9 The reigning corporate strategy these days is that the best defense is a good offense. 1992 MIEDER Dict. of… …   Proverbs new dictionary

  • the best defense is a good offense — the best way to defend oneself is to be active; the best way to keep the other side from winning is to be aggressive; attack is the best form of defense …   English contemporary dictionary

  • attack is the best form of defence — The idea of the pre emptive strike expressed in a form approaching this appears to be American in origin; Cf. 1775 W. H. DRAYTON in R. W. Gibbes Documentary Hist. American Revolution (1855) I.174 It is a maxim, that it is better to attack than to …   Proverbs new dictionary

  • good — see if you can’t be good, be careful a good beginning makes a good ending there’s many a good cock come out of a tattered bag no good deed goes unpunished he is a good dog who goes to church the good die young …   Proverbs new dictionary

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  • offense — see attack is the best form of defence the best defense is a good offense …   Proverbs new dictionary

  • defense — see attack is the best form of defence the best defense is a good offense …   Proverbs new dictionary

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