Infinity Journal Volume 2, Issue 2, Spring 2012 - page 12

Volume 2, Issue 2, Spring 2012
Infinity Journal
Page 10
In November of 2011,President Obama announced his intent
“to make our presence and mission in the Asia Pacific a top
priority.”[i] As the United States executes this “pivot to Asia,”
it must develop a military strategy for the potential, if highly
improbable, conflict with China.[ii] To date, it has not. Based
on emerging Chinese military capabilities, its existing nuclear
arsenal, declining U.S. defense budgets and the inherent
advantage of the offense in the cyber domain, Offshore
Control provides a strategy for conflict termination on terms
acceptable to the United States and its allies.
While military strategy is sometimes seen only as guidance
for success in a conflict, its role as a deterrent and alliance
builder prior to the conflict is also critical. Deterrence is
particularly important against an enemy with thermonuclear
capability. Thus, any U.S. strategy for fighting China must
achieve three things. It must assure U.S. allies that they can
count on the United States. It must deter Chinese aggression
by convincing China that it cannot defeat the U.S. strategy.
And if it comes to war, it must win while minimizing the
probability of escalation to nuclear exchange. Two other
factors complicate the formulation of a strategy. First,
looming budget cuts require that it significantly reduce the
cost of maintaining U.S. influence and presence in the region.
Second, there is no “good” strategy for a conflict between
the United States and China.Any conflict will result in massive
damage to the global economy.With no favorable outcome
possible, the strategist is forced to look for the least bad
Outline for a Strategy
There are a number of useful models to guide strategists.
I use Eliot Cohen’s. He noted a strategy should include
critical assumptions, coherent ends-ways-means, priorities,
sequencing and a theory of victory. Each element is
essential but the planner must always start with assumptions.
[iii] Without listing, examining and challenging those
assumptions, it is not possible to either develop or evaluate
a strategy.The next step — insuring coherence in ends-ways-
means — disciplines the strategist to truly examine whether
the available means can be applied in ways that achieve
the strategic ends. If ends, ways and means are not aligned,
it is not a strategy. Priorities are also required since one has
never got sufficient means to achieve all goals at the same
time and, of course, sequencing flows from priorities. Last on
Cohen’s list, a strategy must have a theory of victory – a “how
does this end?” It must express how the strategy achieves a
war termination on favorable terms. Finally, the strategy must
be both credible and feasible in its geo-political context.
Offshore Control interdicts China’s seaborne trade while
partnering with willing nations to protect those nations’
territorial integrity. Rather than seeking a decisive victory
against the Chinese, Offshore Control seeks to use a war of
economic attrition with very limited damage to Mainland
China’s infrastructure to bring a stalemate and cessation of
conflict.War termination will be through economic exhaustion
rather than kinetic destruction.
As stated above, a strategy should start by listing key
assumptions so that the reader is aware of how the writer
framed the problem. I have listed three key assumptions
T.X. Hammes
Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS)
Washington D.C.
Dr.T.X.Hammes is a Senior Research Fellowat theCenter for
Strategic Research at National Defense University’s Institute
for National Strategic Studies. He may be contacted at
views expressed are his own
and do not reflect the official policy or position of the
National Defense University, the Department of Defense,
or the U.S. government.
To cite this Article:
Hammes,T.X.,“Offshore Control: A Proposed Strategy,”
Infinity Journal
,Volume 2, Issue No. 2, Spring 2012, pages
Offshore Control: A Proposed Strategy
While military strategy is sometimes
seen only as guidance for success in
a conflict, its role as a deterrent and
alliance builder prior to the
conflict is also critical.
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