There is at least one instance where being encircled tactically is an advantage: any path between two points in the interior is shorter than the corresponding perimeter. Has this ever actually mattered? Has an army ever found encirclement preferable? No Chesty Puller please.

  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interior_lines gives some examples, and at the strategic level I would say the start of WWI for Germany would qualify (rapidly switching troops between the Western and Eastern fronts). VtC from lack of previous research. – SJuan76 Apr 5 '17 at 8:55
  • At the strategic level, the confederates in the US Civil War had an advantage because their rail lines were shorter, being roughly encircled by federal forces from the North and the West. It allowed them to quickly move forces between theaters in reaction to federal advances. – Gort the Robot Apr 5 '17 at 16:29
  • Frederick the Great utilized the advantages of interior lines consistently through both the War of Austrian Succession and Seven Years War. – Pieter Geerkens Apr 5 '17 at 20:53

Examples are medieval sieges, when a small defending force could stand against a large besieging army for long time, sometimes for several years.

In the modern (20 century) wars encirclement is always a disadvantage because modern armies need enormous amount of supplies to continue fighting. For this reason an encircled army cannot hold for long time.

EDIT. In this WWII Disney movie, Alexander de Seversky makes exactly this argument on the strategic level: Germany surrounded by the allies has advantage of short communication lines. But the ideas of this movie are highly controversial:


Especially minutes 40-45.

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    In a medieval siege I'd think fortifications account for more of an advantage than short internal lines... caught and encircled in the open, it's not a siege, it's a paddlin'. – DevSolar Apr 5 '17 at 12:43

Discarding city sieges, where encirclement is the idea, in the battlefield there are some examples.

Napoleon started the battle of Leipzig in the middle of the battlefield, and he never avoided the encirclement. He moved his forces to each flank depending of the battle development. Later on in Waterloo (Quatre Bras and Ligny), Napoleon started the battle attacking the middle of the enemy line in order to separate english and prussian forces, neglecting the risk of being encircled.

Caesar in Alesia didn't avoid encirclement, and he fortified himself in order to keep his position sieging the fortress of Alesia.

Alexander in Gaugamela fought an enemy so big that he was innevitable encircled, so he planned the battle expecting being encircled and then he attacked the weakened center of the persian line.

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  • At Waterloo: The french first attacked the allied left flank @la haie sainte – User999999 Apr 5 '17 at 13:20
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    I second the proposition of Alesia. Several times Ceasar was able to take advantage of the shorter "interior" lines to reposition his troops to best handle the Gallic attack. In fact the whole battle was won by Caesar's ability to quickly shift troops to problem areas quicker than the Gauls could exploit them. – ed.hank Apr 5 '17 at 13:27
  • @User999999. Thanks for the comment, I was actually talking of Quatre Bras and Ligny battles, the first movements before Waterloo and Wavre. – Santiago Apr 5 '17 at 14:08
  • Napoleon's use of interior lines worked very nicely at Marengo in 1800, as well as repeatedly during his 1996 Italian campaign. – Pieter Geerkens Apr 5 '17 at 20:54

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