The Offense-Defense Balance, Interdependence, and War

Recommended citation: Peter Liberman, “The Offense-Defense Balance, Interdependence, and War,” Security Studies, Vol. 9, No. 1/2 (Autumn 1999–Winter 2000): 59–91. Reprinted in Power and the Purse: The Political Economy of National Security, eds. Jean-Marc F. Blanchard, Edward D. Mansfield, and Norrin M. Ripsman (Portland, OR and London: Frank Cass, 2000), 59–91.

Abstract: Expectations of protracted attrition wars, more than expectations of peacetime protectionism, heighten incentives for trade-dependent states to seize economically valuable territories. Since conventional defense dominance lengthens wars, it is not as peace-causing as standard formulations of offense-defense theory suggests. Offense-defense theory and economic interdependence theories of conflict thus should be qualified to take account of the conditions leading to autarky-seeking. Militarism and recent experience with long attrition wars exaggerate the perception of these conditions, with analogous effects. Recent historical research on German and Japanese grand strategies prior to both world wars provides support for these hypotheses.