November 09, 2023

New CNAS Report: “Rolling the Iron Dice: The Increasing Chance of Conflict Protraction”

Washington, November 9, 2023 — Today, the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) released a new report, Rolling the Iron Dice: The Increasing Chance of Conflict Protraction, by author Andrew Metrick. 

Two years of war in Ukraine has clearly refuted the belief that protracted war between states is a remnant of the past. As the threat of war between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) over Taiwan looms, the report offers a new pathway towards preparing for the potential of a protracted war between the superpowers. By analyzing the doctrinal developments of both countries and assessing the specifics of a Taiwan scenario, the author finds four distinct characteristics that would propel a potential war towards protraction. The author demonstrates that despite protraction being seemingly inevitable, it is not adequately accounted for, and preparations are lacking.   

The author writes, “The potential for a conflict between the United States and China to devolve into a protracted war is disquieting. Most contemporary discussion, planning, and doctrine is mute on how conflicts protract, or what the United States should do if it finds itself in such a prolonged conflict. Ignoring this threat makes it no less real.” 

The report concludes with recommendations for reshaping U.S. concepts and planning to understand, and hopefully avoid, a protracted war with the PRC.  


Rolling the Iron Dice

Executive Summary The prospect of a Sino-American war looms on the horizon. No scenario for such a conflict has garnered more interest than the potential invasion of Taiwan b...

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  • Andrew Metrick

    Fellow, Defense Program

    Andrew Metrick is a Fellow with Defense Program at CNAS. His research focuses on the linkages between strategic objectives and operational plans with a specific interest in un...