Small Wars Journal


Tue, 04/09/2024 - 10:06am




“Compound challenges demand nothing less than compound, collective-action approaches, to ‘solve’.”

~ Dr. Isaiah “Ike” Wilson III


EPILOGUE.  “The Dawn of the 3D+C Era: Resolving ‘The Battle of the Straits’.”


The "Battle of the Straits" catalyzes a new era in international relations as the great powers realize that a prolonged conflict would lead to mutual economic destruction and global destabilization. It prompts a comprehensive reassessment of foreign policy and the introduction of the "3D+C Integrated Statecraft Solutions" approach—an amalgamation of Diplomacy, Development, Defense, and Commerce to address the complex challenges posed by compound maritime insecurity.


What if:

As the conflict unfolds, a coalition of medium and smaller powers, alarmed by the escalation, initiate back-channel communications to propose the 3D+C framework. They invite all influential nations to an international summit to avert what seems like an inevitable slide into a trans-regional war.



A United Nations-sponsored summit leads to a multilateral agreement known as the Straits Compact. This accord not only emphasizes the importance of freedom of navigation according to international law but also establishes a joint task force chaired by non-aligned nations to oversee the security of global chokepoints.


  • Under Diplomacy: Great powers agree on a mutual reduction of military presences in chokepoints and pledge non-interference in the territorial waters of littoral states.



The summit agrees to an international fund to support infrastructure and economic development in and around the chokepoint regions. It recognizes that bolstering local economies and infrastructure can reduce fragility and undermine the appeal of conflict.


  • Under Development: China, the USA, and Russia jointly finance large-scale development projects with host nations, focusing on resilient port infrastructure, renewable energy grids, and interconnections between maritime and overland transport networks to diversify trade routes.



Joint drills and shared surveillance responsibilities among littoral and extra-regional powers improve trust and collaboration in maritime security.


  • Under Defense: An international maritime security protocol is established, including coordinated patrols and intelligence-sharing to mitigate threats from non-state actors and avert misunderstandings that could lead to conflict.



Trade agreements are renegotiated to ensure that the maritime trade is fair, inclusive, and sustainable. New shipping insurances and protections are put in place to safeguard against chokepoint blockades and insecurity.


  • Under Commerce: The Commerce element leads to innovative global shipping routes, increased use of the Northern Sea Route as the ice caps diminish and new Arctic economic policies that take into account indigenous territories and environmental protections.


‘Tell Me How This Ends’: In this potential future, the application of the "3D+C Integrated Statecraft Solutions" yields a coordinated global response to "The Battle of the Straits," forging a path toward a peaceful and collaborative New Maritime Order.


The Dawn of Stability:

Forged on the tenets of the 3D+C approach, the Straits Compact gains traction. A surge in diplomatic engagements softens hostilities, paving the way for sustainable development projects that boost local economies. Defense cooperation results in the creation of Maritime Peace Zones, enforced by a UN-sanctioned international maritime security force. Meanwhile, commerce flourishes under new equitable trade agreements and diversified routes, diminishing the singular importance of any one chokepoint.


The Great Powers Accord:

Realizing that no one stands to gain from a crippled global economy, the US, China, and Russia commit to a peaceful resolution. Trade negotiation ensures a mutual advantage and market stability, significantly reducing the risk of naval blockades leading to war.



Global Economic Renaissance:

The collective development investment aids chokepoint countries in building robust economies with diversified export bases, which lessens the individual burden on single trade routes. Development funds boost not just infrastructure but also education, healthcare, and governance reform, contributing to stability and diminishing the appeal of extremist narratives.


Defense as a Global Public Good:

Defense strategies shift from competition to common security. Transparency initiatives and mechanisms for crisis management, such as hotlines and joint maritime operations centers, prevent misunderstandings that could lead to conflict escalation. Defense resources are realigned to neutralize threats such as piracy, smuggling, and cyber-attacks on global shipping infrastructure.


Reimagined Commerce:

Commercial innovations arise from necessity. New maritime insurance models spread risk and foster investment in safer, cleaner shipping technologies. Ports are modernized across the globe, facilitating quicker, more efficient cargo handling and offering resilience against disruption.


Global Networks Solidify:

As a result of the 3D+C approach, regional blocs engage in new cooperative arrangements. For instance, ASEAN, the European Union, the African Union, and others develop joint security and trade agreements to manage regional chokepoints like the Malacca Strait, Mediterranean, and the Cape of Good Hope.



After years of negotiations and coordinated actions under the 3D+C framework, the geopolitical 'Battle of the Straits' transitions into a period of peace and shared prosperity. Conflict-laden chokepoints transform into symbols of international collaboration. Global shipping and trade experience a renaissance of efficiency and security, fueling economic growth and reducing the risk of conflicts. The successful application of the 3D+C approach demonstrates how integrated, multi-domain strategies can resolve complex international issues. 


In the end, the once imminent "Battle of the Straits" culminates not in a physical confrontation but in a diplomatic victory. The 3D+C framework underlines the world's interdependence and the idea that global challenges require global solutions. Countries learn that investing in diplomacy, development, and defense cooperation, underpinned by equitable commerce, paves the way for a future where international waterways are no longer flashpoints but conduits of collective security and economic collaboration.


The world witnesses an unprecedented era of "Cooperative Securitization," where states recognize that ensuring the security of maritime channels is a shared responsibility with collective benefits. Global institutions are empowered, new forms of economic collaboration flourish, and the international community becomes more resilient against the drivers of conflict, reducing the prevalence of maritime insecurity-driven conflicts.  Over time, the "Battle of the Straits" becomes not a story of war but a turning point that galvanized global cohesion. It heralds a shift in statecraft that acknowledges the interconnectedness of challenges and the power of cooperative solutions to build a resilient, prosperous world order.

About the Author(s)


Isaiah (Ike) Wilson III earned his PhD in Government (Intl Relations and American Politics) from Cornell University and is a professor of practice with the School of Politics & Global Affairs at Arizona State University (ASU). He is president emeritus of the Joint Special Operations University (JSOU), a partner with Gainful Solutions Ventures Inc., and president and CEO of Wilson W.i.S.E. Consulting LLC, which provides advisory services on strategy and operational planning, technology & teaming integration, transitions (change) leadership coaching and organizational re-design and innovation.  A decorated combat veteran with combat tours in the Balkans, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and direct strategic and operational planning and advisory service to six (6) 4-Star Commanders, three Secretaries of Defense, numerous ambassadorial chiefs of mission, and the presidents of three foreign country partner nations, Wilson’s civil-military career has spanned troop-leading, staff-planning, strategic advisory and teaching assignments. He has published extensively on organizational politics, civil-military relations, national security (defense) policy, and grand strategy. His book, Thinking beyond War: Civil-Military Relations and Why America Fails to Win the Peace, along with his service on the 2003 Operation Iraqi Freedom Study Group, helped to increase public attention to the problems and errors in U.S. post-war planning for the Iraq War and sparked governmental movement toward policy reforms. He founded the West Point Grand Strategy Program and has executive directed, taught, and conducted research at several top-tier and top-ranked colleges and universities, including Yale, Columbia, West Point, and the National War College. He is a Lifemember of the Council on Foreign Relations and a Senior Future Security Initiative Fellow with New America. (Bio Sketch:  LinkedIn) (Website: