Offshore balancing

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Offshore balancing is a strategic concept used in realist analysis in international relations. It describes a strategy in which a great power uses favored regional powers to check the rise of potentially-hostile powers.

Christopher Layne[1] attributes the introduction of the term "offshore balancing" to himself in his 1997 article.[2] Several experts on strategy, such as John Mearsheimer, Stephen Walt, Robert Pape, and Andrew Bacevich, have embraced the approach.

The "offshore balancing" arguably permits a great power to maintain its power without the costs of large military deployments around the world. It can be seen as the informal-empire analogue to federalism in formal ones (for instance the proposal for the Imperial Federation in the late British Empire) It was primarily used during the Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union.

According to political scientist John Mearsheimer, in his University of Chicago "American Grand Strategy" class, offshore balancing was the strategy used by the United States in the 1930s and also in the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War. Mearsheimer argues that when the United States gave Lend-Lease aid to Britain in the 1940s, the United States engaged in offshore balancing by being the arsenal of democracy, not the fighter for it.

That is consistent with offshore balancing because the US initially did not want to commit American lives to the European conflict. The United States supported the losing side (Iraq) in the Iran–Iraq War to prevent the development of a regional hegemon, which could ultimately threaten US influence. Furthermore, offshore balancing can seem like isolationism when a rough balance of power in international relations exists, which was the case in the 1930s.