Contact Us   |    Join   |    Donate


Admiral Holland has been a frequent contributor to THE SUBMARINE REVIEW.

This book is an absolute must for policy theorists, highly useful for planners and programmers and a fundamental resource for those interested in current strategy.

Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD), the current idiom for concepts related to efforts to prevent intrusion or interference into littoral arenas, denotes defenses against power projection by the United States. Avoiding the cant found in current academic dissertations on A2/AD, Captain Tangredi reduces his arguments to simile based on walls that must be breached in order to conduct further operations. This simplification clears some of the debris presently cluttering the literature on this subject.

Like Mahan, Tangredi operates on the principle that, “History is our only true source of experimentation and knowledge of warfare.” Using guidelines developed in early chapters he assesses three cases of successful anti-access campaigns: the Spanish Annada, the Dardanelles Campaign of World War I and the Battle of Britain. Then he contrasts three defeats of anti-access: Germany’s Fortress Europe, Japan’s Island Rings, and the Falklands Campaign. These chapters are delightful observations of well known activities; filled with cogent observations of the often over-looked. He observes for example that the English Channel not the RAF was the major factor in Hitler’s defeat in the Battle of Britain.

Captain Tangredi reviews the current doctrinal tablet, DOD’s Joint Operational Access Concept (JOAC), with no enthusiasm. He finds fault with its narrow focus on military operations, failure to consider diplomatic, economic and time constraints or internal political problems of both attacker and defender and its elastic terminology. But most of all he condemns the necessity to make everything Joint when the primary medium and seat of conflict is maritime. Tangredi’s discussion of the sources of this conventional ignorance provides a firm foundation for understanding his further critiques as he dissects Anti-Access/ Area Denial strategies.

Understanding the predominance of the maritime domain as the conflict space in fashioning or countering any anti-access strategy requires one push aside current conventions and return to the view that the maritime domain includes the air and space above the oceans and the littorals as well as the water itself. Not surprisingly he states flatly that the ability to use the sea is therefore the first requirement that an interregional attacking force must possess and conversely the ability to deny an attacker’s use of the maritime domain is the dominant factor in the success of any A2/AD campaign. In short, to intervene or influence militarily anywhere outside North America, the United States must rely first on its Navy. Conversely, any potential competitor or enemy must prepare to defend against that Navy.

Tangredi’s careful dissection of the sources and history of AA/ AD leads to a detailed examination of the mechanics that would be mind-numbing for all but the most dedicated policy students except for his frequent comments that shine like jewels. His discussion of deterrence is exceptionally good in depth and logic. “To achieve creditability and deterrence, the strategically superior power must be seen as making some investments in systems specifically designed for countering anti-access,” he says. Buy submarines, satellites, communications and stealth.

Perhaps his most original and insightful elements deal with the limits of deterrence. Considering conditions necessary to create an atmosphere of deterrence on both the offensive and defensive sides of a wall, Tangredi cites the failure of deterrence when tempting targets allow skeptics to convince themselves that defeat by a superior power can be avoided (Pearl Harbor), when narrowness of mind translates into inability to recognize the obvious (Hitler), or the temptation of one side to view a war of choice when the opponent views it as a war of commitment (Falklands). These views of conventional deterrence-as separate from those associated with nuclear weapons-off er insights on miscalculations when one side views their objectives as limited while the opponent’s resolution is unbounded.

After building the analytical pattern in his historical descriptions, the author proceeds to analyze four future cases: East Asia (China), Southwest Asia (Iran), Northeast Asia (North Korea) and Central Asia (Russia). In these discussions, the effect of the internal politics in each of these situations, the likely causes of armed conflict, and the relative stability of present and future deterrent actions are presented in some detail. For this reviewer, the most interesting is his novel description of North Korea’s cognitive anti-access and the sense of immunity so engendered that could prove to be the most significant cause of a miscalculated full scale conflict.

Finally, Tangredi works on “Breaking Great Walls”, counter-anti-access strategy. Again using history as a guide and considering changes in military technology as evolutionary, he views failures to be wavering of commitments, usually concerns for events external to the military operation itself. Throughout his historical examples and discursive forays Tangredi is careful to include diplomacy, economics, and other international activities with military activities overt or covert as outside factors influencing events. In his opening example he points out that logistics limitations and political disruption in his empire defeated Xerxes, the Athenian victory at Salamis just bought the time for those other factors to work.

The bottom line: The maritime domain, including the air and space above the sea is the entryway in any counter anti-access campaign. This is a fact of geography not some desire of addled navalists Tangredi makes the case that successful maritime operations are a prerequisite for joint operations-not an add-on, or another domain, not just one of a number of equal claims on resources.

Naval Submarine League

© 2022 Naval Submarine League