A delaying action is a military "maneuver in which a defensive force delays the advance of a superior enemy force by withdrawing while inflicting the maximum destruction possible without engaging in decisive combat."
It is employed to avoid being beaten by a superior hostile force and/or to gain time or to improve the situation with reference to:
- Request and obtain additional friendly forces in order to better defend against an attacker
- Conducti military intelligence to batter assess the situation
- Obtain cover
- Maneuver the enemy into a position in which he may be more effectively attacked. Delaying actions can involve drawing an enemy deeper into a territory and then employing scorched earth policies (burning crops, killing livestock, destroying supplies/buildings) in order to weaken the attacker as the opponents supply lines are stretched thinner and thinner. The Russians employed this strategy against Napoleon Bonaparte during a winter attack on Russia.
Delaying actions combined with guerrilla warfare (hit-and-run tactics, ambushes, sabotage, etc.) can wear down an enemy's resolve to keep on fighting a war.