Comparing Uses of the Strategic Defense (Fabian Strategy) by General Washington (1776-78) and Russian Generals (1904-05)

4 Pages Posted: 5 Jan 2015

See all articles by Samuel William Bettwy

Samuel William Bettwy

Thomas Jefferson School of Law; USD School of Law

Date Written: December 1, 2014


History has shown that the strategic defense is effective under the right conditions. When effective, historians credit it with the descriptor “Fabian.” Historians therefore include General Washington among generals who have employed the Fabian strategy, alongside French General Bertrand du Guesclin and the illustrious American Sam Houston. They do not include General Kuropatkin or General Stessel. Among many arguable factors, General Washington was successful mostly because he was fighting a war of survival from his homeland. Because of this, his troops were highly motivated, intelligence and communications were good, and there were places of sanctuary. Given these basic ingredients, it also helped that Washington was a capable field commander and that his troops were light and mobile. On the other hand, the Russian generals in Manchuria were fighting an unpopular, distant war. They were therefore fighting a limited war, and they lacked good intelligence, counsel and sanctuary. Even if they had enjoyed these basic elements of strategic defense, General Kuropatkin was not an especially capable field commander, and his forces were not adequately mobile to conduct hit-and-run tactics. The use of entrenchments was a clever expedient, but since the art and science had not yet been developed, they were not well positioned and employed. In sum, the delaying strategy of the Russians was not effective at preserving Russian forces in Manchuria until reinforcements from western Russia could arrive.

Keywords: Military Strategy, Fabian Strategy

JEL Classification: H56, N41, N43

Suggested Citation

Bettwy, Samuel William, Comparing Uses of the Strategic Defense (Fabian Strategy) by General Washington (1776-78) and Russian Generals (1904-05) (December 1, 2014). Available at SSRN: or

Samuel William Bettwy (Contact Author)

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