Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 11/2012

Offshore Control: A Proposed Strategy for an Unlikely Conflict

T.X. Hammes

June 2012

Institute for National Strategic Studies


China’s antiaccess/area-denial capabilities resulted in the Pentagon writing an Air-Sea Battle concept as part of its Joint Operational Access Concept. Missing is a discussion of an appropriate strategy if the entirely undesirable Sino-American conflict occurs. Effective strategies include a coherent ends-ways-means formulation. Current budget issues place definite limits on U.S. means. China’s nuclear arsenal restricts the choice of ways. Thus, to be achievable, the ends must be modest. This paper proposes Offshore Control as a military strategy. It recognizes that any conflict with China will be measured in years, not weeks or months. Offshore Control aligns U.S. strategic requirements with the resources available; takes advantage of Pacific geography to provide strategic, operational, and tactical advantages for U.S. forces; and provides a way for the conflict to end that is consistent with previous Communist Chinese behavior. By reducing reliance on space and cyber domains, Offshore Control is designed to slow a crisis down and reduce escalatory pressure in a crisis and potential ensuing conflict.