Air Sea Battle: A Case Study in Structural Inattention and Subterranean Forces

Armed Forces & Society, 2014

24 Pages Posted: 17 Sep 2014

See all articles by Amitai Etzioni

Amitai Etzioni

The George Washington University

Date Written: September 15, 2014


In response to China’s military modernization and growing anti-access/area denial capabilities, the US military has adopted an “Air Sea Battle” (ASB) concept entailing extensive strikes on the Chinese mainland. ASB has been embraced at the Pentagon and increasingly affects procurement decisions. Critics argue that ASB creates grave escalation risks and may incite an expensive arms race. Less discussed, but also of serious concern, is that ASB was adopted with little to no civilian oversight, in a case of “structural inattention.” This failure of civil-military relations derives from institutional factors such as the nature and composition of the White House staff, as well as from the administration’s pragmatic rather than strategic approach to China. It has also been facilitated by “subterranean factors” including the interests of influential military contractors and the military’s own inclination toward conventional warfare.

Suggested Citation

Etzioni, Amitai, Air Sea Battle: A Case Study in Structural Inattention and Subterranean Forces (September 15, 2014). Armed Forces & Society, 2014. Available at SSRN:

Amitai Etzioni (Contact Author)

The George Washington University ( email )

2100 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Suite 4058
Washington, DC 20037
United States

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