In War, the Economic Weapon Is No Silver Bullet


In War, the Economic Weapon Is No Silver Bullet

April 18, 2022

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Some books are timely because their authors felt a need to address a specific issue at a specific moment. Other books are timely because history just so happened to make the subject matter relevant. Nicholas Mulder’s The Economic Weapon: The Rise of Sanctions as a Tool of Modern War falls into the latter category.

Mulder sets to illuminate the early history of sanctions—known then as “The Economic Weapon,” as the press dubbed them—starting from the first blockades of World War I. From there, he expounds on sanctions’ evolution to the interwar years; their further development during the brief period where the League of Nations thought it figured them out (as seen with the sanctions on Italy during the invasion of Ethiopia and the Japanese interventions in China); and ultimately, their reinvention during World War II, where the “positive economic weapon” had its time in the sun. Through all this, Mulder shows how the “positive economic weapon” would be the preferable option when deploying economic tools for the purposes of warcraft, despite being tragically left on the wayside due to the ease with which sanctions can be implemented—in comparison to the considerable logistics effort that spinning up positive aid programs (such as the Lend-Lease program) requires. It is an enlightening tome, with lessons for experts and policymakers on the application of sanctions in contemporary conflicts.

Click here to read the full article from The National Interest.

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