Military Statecraft and the Rise of Shaping in World Politics

Military Statecraft and the Rise of Shaping in World Politics

Kyle J. Wolfley


  • Description
  • Author
  • Info
  • Reviews


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 over one thousand multinational exercises from 1980 to 2016 reveal 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:
Kyle J. Wolfley is Assistant Professor of international affairs at West Point and an active duty Army strategist.