Command of the Commons

In an influential 2003 article, political scientist Barry Posen invoked the phrase “command of the commons” to explain the foundations of American military hegemony. The concept borrows from an economics literature that treats the “commons” as a rival but nonexcludable good. In the context of the international system, however, the domains of air, sea, and space are less rivalrous because many actors can use them without depletion, but these domains are more prone to exclusion through deliberate denial of access.

Defining the commons as “areas that belong to no one state and that provide access to much of the globe,” Posen argues that through a preponderance of economic and military capabilities, mastery of the commons affords a military a unique ability to freely access and ...

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