Defeat in detail

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Defeat in detail is a military phrase referring to the tactic of bringing a large portion of one's own force to bear on small enemy units in sequence, rather than engaging the bulk of the enemy force all at once. This exposes one's own units to a small risk, yet allows for the eventual destruction of an entire enemy force.

One definition states:“Defeat in detail is a doctrinal military term that means to defeat an enemy by destroying small portions of its armies instead of engaging its entire strength” (Erickson, 2003).

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In military strategy and tactics, a recurring theme is that units are strengthened by proximity to supporting units. Nearby units can fire on an attacker's flank, lend indirect fire support such as artillery, or maneuver to counterattack. Defeat in detail is the tactic of exploiting failures of an enemy force to coordinate and support the various smaller units which make up the force. An overwhelming attack on one defending sub-unit minimizes casualties on the attacking side, and can be repeated a number of times against the defending subunits until all are eliminated.

An attacker can successfully "defeat in detail" by exploiting a) absolute weaknesses or comparative disadvantages in the deployment or structure of defending troops and/or b) advantages, such as maneuvering speed, that the defender cannot match. Chief among examples of a) is the case of asymmetric support structure, in which unit A can support B but unit B cannot...
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