Military vs. Economic Persuasion

The US and its leaders are in a unique position to influence world events. They have the ability to use either economic or military persuasion. The question is which one should be used in specific circumstances. It’s often a life and death decision.

Donald Trump favors economic sanctions over military force for the most part. In fact he’s actively trying to decrease the presence of our military around the world and take our soldiers out of harm’s way. It was a campaign promise he made in 2016.

Currently he’s wielding sanctions against the largest and most powerful opponents of America, Russia and China. Since outright military aggression is not an option against the aforementioned countries, because it could possibly lead to a nuclear showdown, the president is wise to eschew the use of any violent strategy.

Ronald Reagan brilliantly out maneuvered the Soviet Union in the late 20th century. He artfully combined economic pressure and military threats that ultimately resulted in the bankruptcy of the Soviets. The communist regime could not compete with the US’s ability to build both nuclear and conventional arsenals at a break neck speed. By attempting to match our weapons development, the Soviet Union crumbled financially.

Today the US must contend with a megalomaniac-governed empire that dreams of the days when it had much more influence throughout the world.

Because military confrontation is out of the question, Trump has exerted economic sanctions against Russia and attacked the powerful class of oligarchs, the country’s business leaders, many of its largest companies and most importantly its banking system. Slowly, the US is once again bankrupting Russia. The result is shortages of food and other basic needs and curtailed government services as Russian leaders spend more and more on armaments and foolish military expeditions into remote parts of the world, such as Syria.

China is a similar story except its economy is much stronger. Trump reacted to Chinese misbehavior with extraordinary economic sanctions that have stopped China in its tracks and markedly reduced its industrial growth.

China sells over $350 billion of goods to the US annually, while the US sells about $100 billion to China. Tit for tat tariffs have hurt China far worse than tariffs on US goods. The leadership of China will be in jeopardy if the sanctions are not rescinded soon. This is why Trump is making progress in his negotiations with China to end unfair trade practices and the theft of US technologies.

Unemployment lines in China will begin to grow if the US sanctions do not end. Xi is under pressure to make the turmoil end in the short term. The expectation that China will “eat the US’s lunch” economically is misleading and untrue, especially because our economy is so much larger than China’s.

Sanctions have also been effective against North Korea and its nuclear aspirations. Kim cannot continue to spend so much of his country’s cash flow on nuclear and conventional weapons. He will ultimately accede to US demands or face regime change.

Similarly the aggression of Iran will end as sanctions are tightened. Iran will have to accept much tougher restrictions on its nuclear arsenal or face regime issues that will follow food shortages and civil unrest.

The shrewd use of economic sanctions rather than military engagement is wise. However some dysfunctional regimes throughout the world only understand military might. The US should be prepared to use its power exclusively when all other avenues have been exhausted.

America must act decisively in situations that threaten US security and our allies. Additionally, crimes against humanity, genocide and actions by nations that result in famine and displacement of groups of people, need to be dealt with apace.

Trump’s perspective on the strategy to use military and economic force has been effective to this point.

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