The Tremendous Power of Economic Weapons

Overwhelming military force is obviously very persuasive in the tension that arises between nation and nation; yet, one cannot overlook the essential nature of economic power and the tools of economic warfare in determining the balance of world affairs.  In many cases of open warfare, the tools of blockade and embargo have been used to cut off needed resources and supply lines, thereby starving the armies of the armaments, ordinance and other supplies they needed to prosecute the war.  During the second world war, the victorious allies added to this a punishing bombing campaign directed, not at the armies themselves, but at the factories and transportation and raw material resource locations.

In times of peace, that is to say, in the absence of active hostilities with military might, the tools of economic warfare are also used, in modern times perhaps more than previously, and the trade embargo, the banking embargo, punitive tariffs, currency manipulation, intellectual property theft, disruption of the communication systems such as the internet, hacking of sensitive data, or using the internet to deliver computer viruses or malware, and in some cases a strict blockade have been used to try to bring recalcitrant nations to the point where they will agree to do as the predominant power(s) wish.  All of these are elements of an ever-increasing power of economic warfare.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “It is clear that these weapons need not be employed for commercial purposes or motives only, they may be grasped at to defend or to attack any national interest, to enforce any claim of justice or injustice between nation and nation.  It has been shown into how tremendous a weapon commercial pressure can be turned when it is used as an aid to war.  If Germany was crushed in the end (n.b. 1st World War), the real means of victory was the blockade, the cutting off of money, resources and food and the ruin of industry and commerce.  For the military debacle was not directly due to military weakness, but primarily to the diminution and failure of resources, to exhaustion, semi-starvation and the moral depression of an intolerable position cut off from all hope of replenishment and recovery.  This lesson also may have in the future considerable application in a time of “peace”.

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 25, War and the Need of Economic Unity, pp. 221-222

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