Cover: Denial Is the Worst Except for All the Others

Denial Is the Worst Except for All the Others

Getting the U.S. Theory of Victory Right for a War with China

Published in: War on the Rocks website (2024)

Posted on rand.org Jun 14, 2024

by Jacob L. Heim, Zachary Burdette, Nathan Beauchamp-Mustafaga

This article outlines several potential theories of victory for a U.S.-Chinese war over Taiwan, focusing on denial and military cost imposition because they are the most viable and influential. We argue that a denial theory of victory is the best way to strike the balance between the desire to maximize the chances of U.S. success and the imperative to manage escalation. The U.S.-led coalition should avoid theories of victory that rely on military cost imposition, especially because of the difficulties of finding a "sweet spot" of targets that are valuable enough to influence Beijing's decision-making but not so valuable that attacking them causes unacceptable escalation. This is a dilemma we call the "Goldilocks challenge."

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