Landpower and Coercion

  • Colonel Kevin P. Wolfla

The evolving discussion of Strategic Landpower has tended to build on lessons learned through more than a decade of prolonged stability operations, which crowds out analysis of other common uses of landpower, particularly coercion. Coercive strategies will play an increasingly important role in securing national interests as the U.S. rebalances to the Asia-Pacific, where landpower proved vital to successful U.S. coercion during the Cold War and continues to serve as a deterrent there. Airpower and seapower may have more strategic agility than landpower, but coercion theory would suggest their agility makes them a weaker signal, both to adversaries and allies, of commitment and a willingness to escalate or de-escalate as necessary. As U.S. land forces remain stationed in and operating throughout the Asia-Pacific region, strategists and planners should do more than rhetorically state the deterrent value of force posture, presence, and security cooperation activities, and examine the most effective ways to leverage landpower for both compellence and deterrence.