The Military Lens: doctrinal difference and deterrence failure in Sino-American relations

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Cornell University Press, Nov 4, 2010 - Political Science
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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.


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"The Military Lens makes a strong contribution to the theoretical literature on deterrence and political use of force as well as to an understanding of the historical case studies: the Korean War, the Taiwan issue in the 1950s, and the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. Christopher P. Twomey’s concept of the ‘military lens’ and of doctrinal difference theory—military doctrine as a direct source of miscalculation and deterrence failure—is original and useful."—Robert S. Ross, Boston College, author of The Indochina Tangle
"Christopher P. Twomey's book fills a yawning gap in the literature about international conflict. He not only provides a much needed account of the role that miscommunication and misperception play in the escalation of crises and the outbreak of wars but also clarifies the central importance of military doctrines in shaping the outcomes that result when states rely on threats to pursue their international interests. Twomey draws on evidence from precisely the sorts of major historical cases that one wants such work to address, and suggests the relevance of his theory and the lessons of history for the crucial contemporary case of strategic interaction between the US and China."—Avery Goldstein, David M. Knott Professor of Global Politics and International Relations, University of Pennsylvania
"Twomey extends the misperception theories of Robert Jervis into military doctrine. He adds to Jervis's misperception theory the factor of 'doctrinal differences,' which can be so far apart that signals and warnings, both diplomatic and military, are not taken seriously, leading to 'deterrence failure' and escalation. . . . Twomey's framework could be applied to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the China Seas more generally. Summing up: Highly recommended."—Choice (July 2011)
"Twomey skilfully applies existing theories to develop a framework to analyse military relations between China and the United States. ... By doing this, the book's theory extends beyond China studies and makes a general contribution to military security studies." -- Quansheng Zhao in The China Quarterly
"This book is a useful and thought-provoking piece of work for policymakers and scholars alike, replete with solid analysis of numerous historical doctrinal variances during conflicts and building from the support of widely ranging literary sources in the field." -- Christopher Whyte in Millennium



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