Infinity Journal Volume 2, Issue 2, Spring 2012 - page 16

Volume 2, Issue 2, Spring 2012
Infinity Journal
Page 14
the U.S. submarines which can use their tactical advantages
to operate inside the first island chain. If Chinese anti-
submarine warfare improves significantly, these assets can
move back to the entrances to the South and East China
Allows for the rebuilding of the global trade system during
the conflict
Sustainability is essential in a long war. The U.S. strategic
geographic advantage and the maritime nature of global
trade means the rest of the world’s economy can rebuild
around the U.S. blockade perimeter. In contrast, China has
little prospect of rebuilding via a new Silk Road. Further
if China attempts to blockade allied or neutral nations,
the United States has a major geographic advantage in
conducting convoy operations to sustain those nations.
Figure 3 - Global Maritime Trade Routes
Previous conflicts between nuclear powers
Usually strategists have a depth of previous conflicts that
can illuminate how antagonists may respond in a conflict.
Fortunately, there have only been two conflicts between
nuclear armed states, i.e. the 1969 Sino-Soviet Border Conflict
and the 1999 Pakistan-India Kargil Conflict. In each case,
the leadership on both sides responded to the original crisis
cautiously. Military moves were announced and essentially
In addition to these two active conflicts, we have decades
of history showing how the United States, USSR, China,
Pakistan and India have dealt with crises between/amongst
themselves. The Cuban Missile Crisis highlights the pattern
of cautious and relatively transparent actions taken when
nuclear-armed powers found themselves in a growing crisis.
Leaders on both sides avoided sudden escalatory moves or
offensive actions that could be misinterpreted as a major
attack. In all cases, there was clearly no great benefit to a first
strike. Unfortunately, Air-Sea Battle’s dependence on cyber
and space will provide a major payoff for the nation that
strikes first in these domains. In contrast, Offshore Control’s
resilience dramatically reduces the value of a first strike and
allows decision makers to be deliberate and transparent.
Critical continuing research
Two critical areas need much deeper research to understand
their impact on a conflict between the U.S. and China. First,
the fiscal situation that will result from such a conflict must be
examined and second, the longer term economic impact
must be understood. Both areas lie well outside the expertise
of this author.
One of the central criteria of any strategy for a potential
conflict with China is the reality of China’s nuclear arsenal.
It cannot be wished away. Thus, the strategist must examine
the degree to which the strategy fuels escalation in a pre-war
crisis or in a war. Further, the strategy must be affordable in
peacetime and executable in wartime, even if China strikes
first. It should shape the operational/tactical fight to provide
geographic and temporal advantages to U.S. forces. And
finally, it must provide a possible theory of victory.
By reducing reliance on space and cyber and maintaining
transparency in peace, crisis and war, Offshore Control
reduces escalatory pressure and better aligns U.S. strategic
requirements with available resources. Further, Offshore
Control reduces peacetime demands on allies while offering
reassurance by demonstrating its feasibility. It also makes use
of the strategic geography to reverse cost impositions and
place U.S. and allied forces in favorable tactical positions.
Finally, it provides a way for the conflict to end without forcing
either side to seek a decisive victory.
[i] Remarks by President Obama to the Australian Parliament, Parliament House, Canberra, Australia, 17 Nov 2011,
[ii] This author finds it difficult to envision a scenario that would result in a major war with China,but history is full of nations blundering into unwise wars. Therefore,
it is essential for the United States to prepare for even this unlikely event.
[iii] For a discussion on why assumption are critical, see “Assumptions: A Fatal Oversight,” Infinity,Volume 1, Issue 1.
[iv] Michelle Wiese Bockman,“Oil Tanker Glut Means Number Valued as Scrap Jumps Fivefold to 101 in Year,”
tanker-glut-means-number-valued-as-scrap-jumps-fivefold-to-101-in-year.html, accessed Feb 162012.
[v] “Tanker Information,” Pacific Energy Partners, L.P.,
, accessed Feb 162012.
[vi] “Global merchant shipping fleet continues to grow,”
shipping%20fleet%20continues%20to%20grow, accessed Feb 162012.
[vii] U.S. Department of Defense, Joint Operational Access Concept,Version 1.0, 17 January 2012, p. 4
Offshore Control: A Proposed Strategy
T.X. Hammes
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