The Power to Coerce: Countering Adversaries without Going to War

The Power to Coerce: Countering Adversaries without Going to War

The Power to Coerce: Countering Adversaries without Going to War

The Power to Coerce: Countering Adversaries without Going to War

Synopsis

Mounting costs, risks, and public misgivings of waging war are raising the importance of U.S. power to coerce (P2C). Meanwhile, globalization of trade, investment, finance, information, and energy give the United States promising coercive options, especially against adversaries that depend on access to such markets and systems. The Power to Coerce: Countering Adversaries Without Going to War documents the most interesting of U.S. P2C options: financial sanctions, support for nonviolent political opposition to hostile regimes, and offensive cyber operations. Cutting off access to the global interbanking system can visit severe and radiating economic pain and be calibrated according to the target's response. Support for prodemocracy opposition can be very threatening and offer strong leverage, but this option can be high risk and calls for judicious use. Offensive cyber operations are also a high-return, high-risk option. Skillfully targeted, they can disturb the functioning and confidence of states and markets and thus have coercive value. However, the risks and costs of collateral damage, retaliation, and escalation are considerable, especially if the target country is itself a cyber-war power. Given its own vulnerabilities, the United States might wish to raise, not lower, the threshold for cyber war. The state against which coercion is most difficult and risky is China, which also happens to pose the strongest challenge to U.S. military options in a vital region. Russia, Iran, and other states less robust than China are more-inviting targets for coercive power. The United States should hone its ability to monitor financial assets and flows and to isolate recalcitrant states and banks that do business with them. The U.S. State Department and intelligence community should refine their methods to support nonviolent democratic opponents in hostile and repressive states and assess the risks and benefits of using those methods. More generally, the U.S. government should prepare for the use of P2C as it does for military warfare, including assessment of options, requirements and capabilities, conducting war games to refine these capabilities, and planning with allies. Just as authorities, responsibilities, and command chains are delineated for hard power, so should they be for P2C.

Excerpt

The United States may find it increasingly hard, costly, and risky to use military force to counter the many and sundry threats to international security that will appear in the years to come. While there may be no alternative to military force in some circumstances, U.S. policymakers need better nonmilitary options from which to choose. Such measures as skillful diplomacy, effective economic aid, and spreading American ideas and ideals are well and good, but they cannot be relied on to deter, much less defeat, determined aggressors. With the limits of both hard military power and soft power in mind, we set out to explore the space in between: nonmilitary ways of coercing, deterring, weakening, and punishing those that threaten peace, security, and U.S. interests. This examination was part of a project for the Army Quadrennial Defense Review Office called Hard Security. This report presents alternate approaches to securing U.S. interests that complement hard security and potentially make it more effective.

In addition to defining and categorizing coercive power, this report examines how to exploit certain advantages the United States has over potential adversaries in the realm of nonmilitary options. We assess those instruments of coercion that appear to have particular promise and offer practical suggestions to hone and use them. The report examines options other than hard power for achieving U.S. goals and objectives and protecting U.S. interests.

This research was sponsored by the U.S. Army Quadrennial Defense Review Office and conducted within the RAND Arroyo Center’s Strategy, Doctrine, and Resources Program. RAND Arroyo . . .

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