Journal Articles

"Opportunistic Aggression in the Twenty-first Century" (with Hal Brands)

This essay develops a historically informed framework for thinking about opportunistic aggression in the 21st century. First, we define opportunistic aggression and describe its role in U.S. defense strategy. Second, we present a typology of opportunistic aggression, along with historical examples, to illustrate its frequency, significance, and the various forms that it can take. Third, we discuss the ways in which opportunistic aggression against the United States might occur in the contemporary era and some of the factors that might shape the choices of opportunistic adversaries. Fourth, we assess various strategies for averting opportunistic aggression. Finally, we offer some concluding thoughts.

"One War is Not Enough: Strategy and Force Planning for Great Power Competition" (with Hal Brands)

For more than a generation, the United States maintained a two-war standard to ensure that it could defeat a pair of regional adversaries simultaneously or in quick succession. Now, the Defense Department has adopted a one-war standard geared toward defeating a great-power rival. In other words, rather than planning to win multiple medium-sized wars, the Defense Department is preparing to win a single major war against a formidable competitor, one that can match (at least in some areas) American military might. This shift represents the most significant departure in American defense strategy since the end of the Cold War, and it has tremendous ramifications for a country that still has security commitments — and security challenges — around the globe.

"Signals of Strength: Capability Demonstrations and Perceptions of Military Power"

States often use demonstrations to improve perceptions of their military power. This topic has received limited attention in the literature, which typically assumes that states disguise or downplay their capabilities, advertise them only to enhance their prestige, or use demonstrations to communicate interests and resolve. Because military strength can be difficult to gauge, however, successful deterrence and assurance can require demonstrations to ensure that capabilities are viewed as credible. This article explains the logic of capability demonstrations, identifies the conditions under which they have the most utility, introduces a typology of demonstration mechanisms, and describes how emerging technology influences demonstrations.

"Rethinking Stability in South Asia: India, Pakistan, and the Competition for Escalation Dominance" (with Eric S. Edelman)

India and Pakistan are currently engaged in a competition for escalation dominance. While New Delhi is preparing for a limited conventional campaign against Pakistan, Islamabad is pursuing limited nuclear options to deter India. Together, these trends could increase the likelihood of nuclear conflict. India, for example, might conclude that it can launch an invasion without provoking a nuclear reprisal, while Pakistan might believe that it can employ nuclear weapons without triggering a nuclear exchange. Even if war can be avoided, these trends could eventually compel India to develop its own limited nuclear options in an effort to enhance deterrence and gain coercive leverage over Pakistan.

“Contested Primacy in the Western Pacific: China’s Rise and the Future of U.S. Power Projection"

Despite their disagreements, proponents of deep engagement and offshore balancing share an optimistic but unrealistic assessment of U.S. military power. In particular, both sides in the debate over U.S. grand strategy underestimate the potential consequences of China’s military modernization. China’s antiaccess/area denial strategy and conventional precision-strike capabilities are already undermining the United States’ ability to prevent local conflicts, protect longtime allies, and preserve freedom of the commons in East Asia. Whether the United States intends to uphold the status quo when threats emerge or adopt a wait-and-see approach to regional conflicts, it will need to adapt its military for power projection operations in much less permissive environments than it has become accustomed to during the unipolar era. This includes placing a greater emphasis on air and undersea platforms that can survive inside of denial zones, forward bases that are better able to withstand attacks, and networks that are less vulnerable to disruption

“Reconsidering a Naval Blockade of China: A Response to Mirski"

Sean Mirski’s assessment of a naval blockade is an important contribution to the debate over how the United States should respond to China’s growing military power. Nevertheless, it has three limitations. First, although distant and close-in blockades could be employed in tandem, analyzing them separately helps to explain when they might be used and how they could influence escalation. Second, while conventional countervalue and counterforce options could also be employed together, this would depend on the degree to which they overlapped and the order in which they were implemented. Third, a blockade could lead to unanticipated prewar, intra-war, and postwar challenges.

“Competitive Strategies against Continental Powers: The Geopolitics of Sino-Indian-American Relations"

States often use demonstrations to improve perceptions of their military power. This topic has received limited attention in the literature, which typically assumes that states disguise or downplay their capabilities, advertise them only to enhance their prestige, or use demonstrations to communicate interests and resolve. Because military strength can be difficult to gauge, however, successful deterrence and assurance can require demonstrations to ensure that capabilities are viewed as credible. This article explains the logic of capability demonstrations, identifies the conditions under which they have the most utility, introduces a typology of demonstration mechanisms, and describes how emerging technology influences demonstrations.

“Counterfeit Diplomacy and Mobilization in Democracies"

Security Studies

22/1 (2013)

How do policymakers in democratic nations mobilize support for hard-line strategies? Existing answers to this question emphasize the exaggeration of external threats. Yet this overlooks an important dilemma: because democratic citizens expect their leaders to explore peaceful solutions or less aggressive alternatives when foreign dangers are ambiguous, the same conditions that make threat inflation necessary also make it difficult to employ successfully. To mobilize support for hard-line measures when the public wants its leaders to demonstrate restraint, policymakers may therefore attempt to shift blame onto an adversary by using “counterfeit diplomacy.” Specifically, democratic leaders may adopt more cooperative or less coercive options than they believe are necessary, but which they anticipate will fail. This approach can be a risky one, however, because an opponent might accept a nation’s demands, accede to its conditions, or offer counterproposals in the hope of diffusing support for more confrontational measures

“Democratization, Instability, and War: Israel’s 2006 Conflicts with Hamas and Hezbollah" (with Stacie L. Pettyjohn)

Security Studies

19/3 (2010)

In 2006 Israel resumed military operations in the Gaza Strip and conducted a war in Lebanon following attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah, respectively.  Due to the elections that had recently taken place in both societies, these events seem to support the argument that democratizing nations are particularly war-prone.  Yet the dynamics this perspective identifies as dangerous were largely absent.  To address this puzzle, this paper offers three arguments.  First, democratization enhanced the power of groups openly hostile to Israel, increasing Israel’s perception of threat.  Second, democratization was threatening because it occurred within highly divided societies governed by weak state institutions that allowed radical groups to attain political power.  Finally, Israel’s response to the increased threat posed by these groups was ultimately counterproductive because it further eroded the capacity of the Palestinian and Lebanese governments, heightened polarization within both societies, and therefore exacerbated the same conditions that made democratization threatening to begin with.</

“Breaking Out of the Security Dilemma: Realism, Reassurance and the Problem of Uncertainty"

In the debate between offensive and defensive realism, a central issue is whether major powers can overcome the uncertainty that drives the security dilemma. Whereas offensive realists maintain that states cannot know others' motives and intentions, defensive realists argue that states can reveal their preferences by altering their military posture. Defensive realists have, how- ever, presented an incomplete account of the constraints and opportunities associated with military reassurance. To demonstrate its motives, a security- seeking state must take actions that will often increase its vulnerability to potential aggressors. Although offense-defense variables have been invoked to address the constraint of vulnerability, the conditions usually considered most favorable for reassurance—differentiation between offense and defense and an advantage for the latter—make it no easier to achieve. A defensive advantage makes reassurance difficult by encouraging all states to adopt defensive capa- bilities and by requiring large concessions to reveal benign motives. Only when offense and defense are differentiated and the balance between them is neutral can states reveal their motives without also endangering their security. These arguments are illustrated with three empirical examples: the Anglo- German naval race, Nikita Khrushchev's troop cuts, and Mikhail Gorbachev's arms limitation and arms control policies.

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