“Rethinking Stability in South Asia: India, Pakistan, and the Competition for Escalation Dominance,” Journal of Strategic Studies, Vol. 38, Nos. 1-2 (February 2015). Coauthored with Eric S. Edelman. Despite persistent tensions, recurring crises, and one minor war, South Asia has arguably been less volatile than many observers anticipated when India and Pakistan became nuclear-armed powers. Yet India and Pakistan are currently engaged in a competition for escalation dominance, one that could undermine the fragile equilibrium that exists on the subcontinent. Specifically, New Delhi is preparing for a limited conventional campaign against Pakistan, while Islamabad is pursuing limited nuclear options to deter India. Together, these trends could increase the likelihood of nuclear conflict, and perhaps compel India to develop its own limited nuclear options.
“Contested Primacy in the Western Pacific: China’s Rise and the Future of U.S. Power Projection,” International Security, Vol. 38, No. 4 (Spring 2014). 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.
“Reconsidering a Naval Blockade of China: A Response to Mirski,” Journal of Strategic Studies, Vol. 36, No. 4 (August 2013). 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,” Journal of Strategic Studies, Vol. 36, No. 1 (February 2013). This article makes three arguments about the Sino-American competition, the Sino-Indian rivalry, and the U.S.-India partnership. First, the competition between the United States and China is fundamentally a competition between a maritime power and a continental power, and past maritime-continental rivalries suggest that China will pose a greater challenge to American interests as it confronts fewer threats on land, while the U.S. may require continental allies to counter-balance China’s rise. Second, the continental and maritime dimensions of the Sino-Indian rivalry have very different implications for the United States. Whereas a Sino-Indian continental security dilemma could benefit the U.S. by compelling China to invest in capabilities that do not threaten it, a Sino-Indian maritime security dilemma could have the opposite effect. Third, Washington should consider India as a prospective continental ally rather than a potential maritime partner.
“Counterfeit Diplomacy and Mobilization in Democracies,” Security Studies, Vol. 22, No. 1 (January 2013). How do policymakers in democratic nations mobilize support for hard-line strategies? Existing theories maintain that leaders exaggerate external threats to increase support for their favored policies. Yet this overlooks an important puzzle: 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 attempt to shift blame onto an adversary by using “counterfeit diplomacy.” Specifically, they may adopt more cooperative or less coercive policies 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 aggressive policies.
“Developing a Strategy for a Long-Term Sino-American Competition,” in Thomas G. Mahnken, ed., Competitive Strategies for the 21st Century: Theory, History, and Practice (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2012). Coauthored with James P. Thomas. A sound competitive strategy should have three characteristics. First, it should adopt a long-term perspective rather than focusing exclusively on near-term contingencies. Second, it should build on the enduring strengths of the United States, mitigate its vulnerabilities, and exploit a competitor’s enduring weaknesses. Third, it should shape an opponent’s behavior by adopting measures that channel its attention, effort, and resources toward actions and investments that are least threatening. Based on these criteria, this chapter outlines a long- term, peacetime competitive strategy that would enable the United States to maintain or improve its current position relative to the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
“The Dangers of a Nuclear Iran: The Limits of Containment,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 90, No. 1 (January/February 2011). Coauthored with Eric S. Edelman and Andrew F. Krepinevich. What to do about Iran’s nuclear program is one of the most vexing foreign policy challenges confronting the Obama administration. This debate is increasingly characterized by growing pessimism about the international community’s ability to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, as well as guarded optimism that the consequences a nuclear-armed Iran are manageable. Yet the latter view is far too sanguine. Above all, it rests on the questionable assumptions that possessing nuclear weapons induces caution and restraint, that other nations in the Middle East would balance against Iran rather than bandwagon with it, that a nuclear-armed Iran would respect new redlines even though a conventionally armed Iran has failed to comply with similar warnings, and that further proliferation in the region could be avoided. Followed by the correspondence “The War over Containing Iran: Can a Nuclear Iran be Stopped?” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 90, No. 2 (March/April 2011).
“Democratization, Instability, and War: Israel’s 2006 Conflicts with Hamas and Hezbollah,” Security Studies, Vol. 19, No. 3 (August 2010). Coauthored with Stacie L. Pettyjohn. 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 further eroded the capacity of the Palestinian and Lebanese governments, heightened polarization within both societies, and exacerbated the same conditions that made democratization threatening to begin with.
“Breaking out of the Security Dilemma: Realism, Reassurance, and the Problem of Uncertainty,” International Security, Vol. 31, No. 2 (Fall 2006). In the debate between offensive and defensive realism, a key issue is whether states 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, however, present an incomplete account of military reassurance. To demonstrate its motives, a security-seeking state must take actions that will increase its vulnerability to potential aggressors. Although offense-defense variables have been invoked to address this constraint, the conditions considered most favorable for reassurance—differentiation between offense and defense and an advantage for the latter—make it no easier to achieve. Only when offense and defense are distinct and the balance between them is neutral can states reveal their motives without endangering their security. Followed by the correspondence “Uncertainty and Reassurance in International Politics,” International Security, Vol. 32, No. 1 (Summer 2007).