Winner of the Andrew F. Krepinevich Writing Award
Selected for the Irregular Warfare Initiative’s Inaugural Reading List (2022)
In today’s complex international environment, how do the United States, China, and Russia manage the return of great power competition as well as the persistent threat of violent non-state actors? This book explores "shaping": the use of military power to construct a more favorable environment by influencing the characteristics of other militaries, altering the relationships between them, or managing the behavior of allies. As opposed to traditional strategies of warfighting or coercion, shaping relies less on threats, demonstrations, and uses of violence and more on attraction, persuasion, and legitimacy. Because shaping relies more on soft power than on hard power, this approach contradicts the conventional wisdom of the purpose militaries serve.
Kyle J. Wolfley explores the emergence of shaping in classical strategy and its increased frequency following the end of the Cold War when threats and allies became more ambiguous. He illustrates the four logics of shaping—attraction, socialization, delegation, and assurance—through five case studies of recent major military exercise programs led by the United States, China, India, the United Kingdom, and Russia. Moreover, the author reveals through sentiment analysis and statistics of over one thousand multinational exercises from 1980 to 2016 how major powers reacted to a complex international environment by expanding the number and scope of shaping exercises. Illuminating an understudied but surprisingly common tool of military statecraft, this book offers a fresh understanding of military power in today's competitive international system.
Kyle J. Wolfley is assistant professor of international affairs in the department of social sciences at West Point and a US Army strategist. He holds a PhD in government from Cornell University and is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
1. Introduction: Shaping and the Broadening of Military Statecraft
2. The Ways and Sources of Military Statecraft
3. The Evolution and Challenges of Shaping
4. Attraction: Shaping to Change International Alignment
5. Socialization: Shaping to Transform Norms, Roles, and Practices
6. Delegation: Shaping to Pass the Burden
7. Assurance: Shaping to Reduce an Ally’s Insecurity and Manage its Behavior
8. Conclusion: The Significance and Future of Shaping
Appendix: Measuring Military Statecraft
Wolfley analyzes military statecraft—the dynamic relationship between military power and foreign policy—by focusing on one particular component, "shaping," wherein nations employ militaries to pursue foreign policy goals. In short, Wolfley highlights the myriad ways that armed forces exert influence abroad. He covers four logics of shaping—attraction, socialization, delegation, and assurance—through a series of compelling case studies. The author supports his lucid narrative with meticulous notes, leveraging a broad array of sources. He also compiles a useful appendix that delves deeply into his research design. In the end, Military Statecraft and the Rise of Shaping in World Politics reminds readers that the boundaries between hard and soft power are malleable. Wolfley convincingly shows how and why assets traditionally considered hard power can be employed in ways that achieve the goals of soft power. Wolfley’s writing is clear, his argumentation is persuasive, and his conclusions are important. Readers interested in the armed forces and foreign policy, and the interplay between them, will greatly benefit from this valuable work. Highly recommended. Undergraduates through faculty and general readers.
Militaries do more than fight wars. Military Statecraft and the Rise of Shaping in World Politics offers a rigorous way to understand and assess how great powers—such as the United States, India, China, and Russia—use their militaries in foreign policy in ways that do not involve coercion. The rich case studies and empirical analysis do much to understand the understudied role of militaries and foreign policy.
In today's complex security environment, this book offers an important and timely contribution to the literature on military power, strategy, and alliance politics. Through accessible case studies and statistics, Kyle Wolfley reveals why and how great powers leverage shaping to compete below the threshold of threats and violence.
As policymakers and military officers grapple with today's international challenges, I would strongly recommend Military Statecraft and the Rise of Shaping in World Politics. Great power rivalry is much more than wielding hard power: it also involves influencing allies, attracting partners, and gaining access as Kyle Wolfley reveals in his book. The character and use of military power is changing; this book is a strong effort toward understanding future interstate competition.