The Military Lens

The Military Lens: Doctrinal Difference and Deterrence Failure in Sino-American Relations

CHRISTOPHER P. TWOMEY
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7591/j.ctt7z770
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  • Book Info
    The Military Lens
    Book Description:

    In The Military Lens, Christopher P. Twomey shows how differing military doctrines have led to misperceptions between the United States and China over foreign policy-and the potential dangers these might pose in future relations. Because of their different strategic situations, histories, and military cultures, nations may have radically disparate definitions of effective military doctrine, strategy, and capabilities. Twomey argues that when such doctrines-or "theories of victory"-differ across states, misperceptions about a rival's capabilities and intentions and false optimism about one's own are more likely to occur. In turn, these can impede international diplomacy and statecraft by making it more difficult to communicate and agree on assessments of the balance of power.

    When states engage in strategic coercion-either to deter or to compel action-such problems can lead to escalation and war. Twomey assesses a wide array of sources in both the United States and China on military doctrine, strategic culture, misperception, and deterrence theory to build case studies of attempts at strategic coercion during Sino-American conflicts in Korea and the Taiwan Strait in the early years of the Cold War, as well as an examination of similar issues in the Arab-Israeli conflict. After demonstrating how these factors have contributed to past conflicts, Twomey amply documents the persistence of hazardous miscommunication in contemporary Sino-American relations. His unique analytic perspective on military capability suggests that policymakers need to carefully consider the military doctrine of the nations they are trying to influence.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6003-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. IX-XII)
  4. PART I. THE DANGERS OF DOCTRINAL DIFFERENCE

    • 1 THE MILITARY LANGUAGE OF DIPLOMACY
      (pp. 3-17)

      THE DEATHS OF MILLIONS in the Korean War might have been avoided if China and the United States had read each other’s military signals correctly. Similarly, the Arab-Israeli War of 1973 might have been averted if the antagonists had evaluated threats and the overall balance more accurately; if so, the Middle East might look very different now. Overoptimism in France, Germany, and the United States during World War II all stemmed from the same misunderstanding of the military balance. Today, across the Taiwan Strait the same dangers are growing. Practitioners and scholars alike emphasize that misperception pervasively affects international relations....

    • 2 DOCTRINAL DIFFERENCES AND MISPERCEPTION
      (pp. 18-48)

      DOCTRINAL-DIFFERENCE THEORY states that when nations have different doctrines and hold different beliefs about what kinds of military strategies and capabilities may be effective, diplomacy and signaling will be more difficult, and this can cause escalation or conflict. In this chapter, the two stages of this process are expressed as a pair of hypotheses: first, the doctrinal-difference misperception (DDM) hypothesis, suggests how the differences in beliefs lead to misperception; the second, doctrinal-difference escalation (DDE) hypothesis, explains how this may, in turn, cause miscommunication and crisis outcomes such as escalation or even violent conflict. Their logic is sketched out in the...

  5. PART II. CHINESE AND AMERICAN PUZZLES

    • 3 COMPARING THEORIES OF VICTORY: FACING OFF OVER KOREA
      (pp. 51-86)

      THE CENTRAL PAIR OF CASES in this book examines crucial turning points in the Korean War: the U.S. decision to cross the 38th parallel into North Korea (chapter 4) and Mao Zedong’s decision to cross the Yalu River to meet the American forces (chapter 5). Both cases involve a similar assessment of the two sides’ military capabilities. For simplicity, therefore, this chapter examines the independent variable that applies to both chapter 4 and chapter 5: the differences between the two sides’ theories of victory on land. (The third case, Mao’s decision not to attack Taiwan in that same year, involves...

    • 4 THE UNITED STATES CROSSES THE 38TH PARALLEL
      (pp. 87-133)

      AFTER THE NORTH KOREAN attack across the 38th parallel of June 25, 1950, the United States rushed to aid the collapsing South Korean forces. Through the summer of 1950, the ground war went poorly for the South Korean and U.S. forces, which were pushed back in a long retreat to the Pusan Perimeter. After that line solidified in early August, however, the Inchon landings of September 15 were a success, forcing the United States to consider more directly whether to cross the 38th parallel, how to do so, and what the strategic goals would be once it did so. The...

    • 5 CHINA CROSSES THE YALU
      (pp. 134-168)

      ONCE THE UNITED STATES CROSSED the 38th parallel, the next key escalation in the war was the Chinese decision to move south across the Yalu River into North Korea, countering the American military might that moved rapidly northward. The evidence available during the early Cold War appeared to support the argument that war might have been avoided even after the United States crossed the 38th parallel, if only MacArthur had kept his forces from approaching the Yalu River.¹ Evidence available since then, however, makes it increasingly clear that, once the United States crossed the existing border between North and South...

    • 6 CHINA POSTPONES THE INVASION OF TAIWAN
      (pp. 169-196)

      IN 1950, THE UNITED STATES DETERRED CHINA from invading Taiwan as China sought to conclude its civil war. Doctrinal-difference theory predicts that when two adversaries practice similar doctrines, deterrence is facilitated because signals are more likely to be clearly understood and assessments of the balance of power are more likely to be consistent. Both of these elements are seen in the U.S.-Chinese confrontation over the Taiwan Strait in 1950. There, a primarily symbolic deterrent threat was sufficiently clear to both sides to forestall Beijing’s plans.

      In April 1949, Communist forces crossed the Yangtze River, the critical strategic geography in continental...

  6. PART III. EXTENDING THE STORY

    • 7 THE EMERGENCE OF DOCTRINAL DIFFERENCES IN THE MIDDLE EAST, 1956 TO 1973
      (pp. 199-230)

      SINCE ITS FOUNDING IN 1948, Israel has always faced adversaries on its borders, at times implacable and numerous. However, the intensity of militarized conflict between Israel and its neighbors has varied. In this chapter, doctrinal-difference theory explains, in part, that variation: during one particularly violent period in Arab-Israeli relations in the early 1970s, differences between the key players’ theories of victory complicated assessments of the balance of power and interpretations of one another’s military signals.

      Doctrinal-difference theory can thus make an important contribution to explaining the outbreak of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. It does less to explain other conflicts; in...

    • 8 IMPLICATIONS FOR THEORY AND DANGERS IN THE TAIWAN STRAIT TODAY
      (pp. 231-252)

      THIS STUDY SHOWS how adversaries’ doctrinal differences can cause misperception and the failure of attempts at coercion or deterrence, leading to conflict, escalation, and war. In case after case—China, Israel, Egypt, and the United States—we see a country looking at the world through its own military lens and failing to see how the differences between its own and its adversary’s military doctrine could impede communication and accurate signaling. In three of the cases, this contributed to deterrence failure and escalation of conflict. In the two cases where the doctrinal differences were smaller, by contrast, communication was easier, misperceptions...

  7. INDEX
    (pp. 253-260)