Book Review: “The Senkaku Paradox — Risking Great Power War Over Small Stakes” by Michael E. O’Hanlon

Brookings Institution Press

Washington, D.C. 2019

Post by Colonel Amy Ebitz

Michael O’Hanlon’s latest book is an analysis of the possibilities for large scale conflict and outlines the “how” and “why” the United States could become embroiled in war over small pieces of territory with little or no real value (such as the lower, uninhabited “Senkaku” (in Japan) or Diaoyu (in China) Islands. A pre-eminent expert in military strategy, Mike makes compelling arguments on how the United States and allies would engage in a full scale war to defend treaties and bilateral agreements if an incursion were to occur. Inspired in part by comments make by LtGen Wissler while he was the CG of III Marine Expeditionary Force, Mike analyses plausible scenarios for conflict with China over “small stakes” like the Islands.

In additon to China, the book delves into possible scenarios for conflict with Russia, and analysis the economic, technological, and diplomatic catalysts on the road to conflict. O’Hanlon states: “Even if they began as very limited battles that no one expected or wished to go nuclear, such conflicts could develop escalation dynamics that would be hard to control.” (p. 50)

Mike O’Hanlon has written several books on U.S. defense and global security; “The Senkaku Paradox” is a great additon. The book is backed by history, policy, and military facts on which the scenarios are built. An enhancement of the strategy discussion, the chapter on “Integrating Economics Into Warplans” puts emphasis on the “E” of DIME, and how it affects some of our abilities as a nation and a military. The appendices, which cover changes to military technology and “So Called Revolutions in Military Affairs add a weighed value to the book and shouldn’t be skipped.

“The Senkaku Paradox” is not a science fiction or stunning thriller, but a great way to get the strategic side of your brain thinking about future conflict scenarios. The analysis in the book are not just plausible but educational and a good tool for the warrior toolbag (or book bag).

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