In This Review

The Strategy of Denial: American Defense in an Age of Great Power Conflict
The Strategy of Denial: American Defense in an Age of Great Power Conflict
By Elbridge A. Colby
Yale University Press, 2021, 384 pp

U.S.-Chinese relations have deteriorated to the point where official exchanges have become little more than destructive exercises in name-calling. Public hostility toward the other in both countries is higher than it has been for decades. China’s military moves in the South China Sea, its rapid qualitative and quantitative advances in weaponry, and its escalating invasions of Taiwanese airspace have made a U.S.-Chinese war over Taiwan alarmingly possible. In this climate, Colby’s step-by-step explication of a U.S. strategy that would deny China success in such a war is a welcome contribution. Washington can deny Beijing success, he argues, by recruiting an “anti-hegemonic coalition” in the region whose combined power would be sufficient to defeat China. Although detailed on some points, the proposed strategy rests on some major unexamined and highly questionable assumptions: that China is set on achieving regional hegemony in the short term and global predominance in the long term, that military preparations and eventual war are the best or only way for the United States to respond to China’s ambitions, that countries in the region that have made absolutely clear their determination not to choose between allegiance to China and allegiance to the United States would nonetheless be willing to join a coalition predicated on military confrontation with China, and that a major war over Taiwan would stay confined to Taiwan. These and other wobbly conjectures fatally undermine the argument.