American defense leaders have adapted over the years to shifts in technology and conflict — for example, accepting space and cyber as principal warfighting domains and integrating them into planning and thinking about deterrence and escalation. But national security policymakers are overdue to incorporate economic instruments, such as sanctions and trade controls, into planning for conflicts and crises.
From Russia and North Korea to Iran and Venezuela, U.S. presidents and lawmakers have long employed varying levels of economic pressure to alter the policies of foreign governments. Some of these tools – for instance, severing links between a country and the international financial system – can impose greater costs than some uses of military force. Yet policymakers have given too little thought to how different types of economic pressure intersect with different forms of military coercion.
One way to do better would be to develop a whole-of-government framework for conflict escalation, as we recommend in a new Center for a New American Security report. The National Security Council should coordinate an interagency effort to formalize this framework, working with independent experts and international allies, and then adopt it in the planning process. Equally important, U.S. government officials should publicly discuss the finalized framework so that partners and competitors do not misunderstand what it means when the United States uses powerful economic tools.
Read the full article in Defense One.
More from CNAS
ReportsStrengthening the Economic Arsenal
Foreword By David S. Cohen Sanctions occupy a strange place in U.S. national security. For many years, they were derided as mostly ineffective. The received wisdom was that sa...
By Elizabeth Rosenberg & Jordan Tama
CommentaryTrump Has Made Sanctions a Path to Strikes
U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to kill the Iranian general Qassem Suleimani, the architect of Iran’s political and military influence in the Middle East, and the Irani...
By Elizabeth Rosenberg & Neil Bhatiya
CommentaryWatch Out for Iranian Info Wars Funded By Crypto
With tensions rising between Washington and Tehran in the wake of the U.S. killing of Iranian general Qasim Soleimani earlier this month, U.S. officials should expect more Ira...
By Yaya J. Fanusie
VideoIran attacks U.S. troops in Iraq base
Neil Bhatiya joins Bloomberg's Daybreak Asia by phone to discuss the latest developments in heightened tensions between the United States and Iran. Watch the full conversatio...
By Neil Bhatiya