Offense-defense theory argues that the relative ease of offense and defense varies in international politics. When the offense has the advantage, military conquest becomes easier and war is more likely; the opposite is true when the defense has the advantage. The balance between offense and defense depends on geography, technology, and other factors. This theory, and the body of related theories, has generated much debate and research over the past twenty-five years.
This book presents a comprehensive overview of offense-defense theory. It includes contending views on the theory and some of the most recent attempts to refine and test it.
About the Editors
Michael E. Brown is Dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University.
Owen Coté is Associate Director of the MIT Security Studies Program and Editor of the journal International Security.
Sean M. Lynn-Jones is Editor of International Security, the International Security Program's quarterly journal. He is also series editor of the Belfer Center Studies in International Security, the Program's book series that is published by MIT Press.
Steven E. Miller is director of the International Security Program at the Belfer Center.
"Offense-defense theory and the debates it spawned were a major step forward in the field of international politics. They brought together the study of diplomatic and military history; military strategy, operations and technology; civil-military relations; and realist international relations theory. Whether or not one accepts the findings of the theory's key advocates, it changed fundamentally the intellectual foundations of the international relations field, and what it means to be a scholar of the causes of war. This collection includes key works by most of the three generations of scholars who have contributed to this important development."
—Barry R. Posen, Ford International Professor of Political Science, Security Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
"Why wars occur and how they can be prevented are perennial questions for analysts of national security affairs and students of international politics. Central to those questions are the concept of the offense-defense balance and the role that it plays in bringing on, or preventing, war. This volume brings together the best scholarship published over the last thirty years on these subjects."
—Robert J. Art, Christian A. Herter Professor of International Relations, Brandeis University, author of A Grand Strategy for America
"Offense, Defense, and War is sure to be an invaluable book for students of international politics. It contains virtually all of the key works on offense-defense theory, a truly important set of ideas about how states behave toward each other."
—John J. Mearsheimer, R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago