Invisible Blockades and Strategic Coercion

War on the Rocks – When the U.S. seeks to counter aggression, state-sponsored terrorism, or other threats without conducting a full-scale war, the use of naval mining for strategic ends could help it to achieve its aims, as an alternative or complement to aerial bombing. In addition to economic and diplomatic measures, which may not be sufficient, demonstratively mining a nation’s ports can apply pressure both directly and via third parties. Without casualties, and while managing potential escalatory risks, the U.S. can coerce another nation to modify its behavior. The naval mining of North Vietnam was the archetype of such a campaign, one which achieved its limited aims of freeing Americans and enabling withdrawal. Given a modicum of investment in U.S. mining capabilities, overt naval mining could be used to coerce adversarial states by constraining them with an invisible blockade.