The revived interest in great power politics comes with an important, if oft unstated, corollary: the problem of small wars is now of secondary importance. But the U.S. must be vigilant against focusing solely on a conventional, symmetric future conflict and would be wise to acknowledge the coexistence of multiple categories of dangerous actors.
A strategic overcorrection has put China at the center of virtually every U.S. national security conversation and consideration. That positioning is at once distracting the United States from appropriately responding to growing trans-regional geopolitical volatility while also failing to achieve outcomes in U.S. China policy.
Geopolitical competition is increasingly playing out in the gray zone—the space beyond diplomacy and short of conventional war. The nature of this competition is forcing the United States to confront the liabilities of its strengths. This report assesses current U.S. government actions to deter, campaign through, and respond to competitors’ gray zone tactics.