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Robert D. Blackwill & Jennifer M. Harris


Subtitle: Geoeconomics and Statecraft - Belknap Press, Harvard Univ. Cambridge, 2016, 366 pgs, index, 90 pgs. of notes


Reviewer's comment:

This is a very important and useful study of many types of conflict other than war (armed military conflict) But it includes such types as 'cyberwar', 'financial or currency' war, 'trade war'. and diplomatic measures.
The topics include theory of geopolitics and specific examples of its application by China (chapters 4 and 5) and the United States (chapters 6 - 10).



The authors begin by noting that in recent decades the United States government apparently has forgotten the historical use by the U.S. of economic tools to accomplish its geopolitical objectives in favor of simple reliance on its overwhelming military power. They define geoeconomics as this application of non-military tools and then in separate chapters discuss several of these. They claim that. "This large-scale failure of collective strategic memory denies Washington potent tools to accomplish its foreign policy objectives". They continue by noting that while the U.S. has failed to employ these historic tools much of the remaining countries have increased their application of these.
In particular, they state that. "Russia, China, and others now routinely look to geoeconomic means, often as a first resort, and often to undermine American power and influence". The American failure to recognize this growing application of geoeconomic methods in the contemporary world, not only in its own failure to employ them but also in failure to recognize that these are central methods being used by adversaries has weakened American effectiveness, caused its allies great concern and emboldened its adversaries to expanded power objectives through their use. They provide several specific examples. These include both failures of the U.S. to employ such methods now although they were well understood and employed by the U. S. in the 19th century and even during the Eisenhower era and examples of their use by others. Specifically, they date the decline of U.S. application of geoenonomic tools to the Johnson and Nixon years. Conversely they cite examples of such applications to China, India, Arab states, Russia and others.
They comment, "The decline of geoeconomics in American foreign policy making in recent decades proves to be a complicated story, with lots of variables, subplots, and nuances".
And, "Thus embraced by neither most economists nor most foreign policy strategists, the use of economic and financial instruments as tools of statecraft has become an orphaned subject".
They believe (or hope) that the situation is changing for the better.
"This book aims to advance an understanding of how states are currently applying economic instruments to advance geopolitical ends - that is, geoeconomics - and what today's geoeconomic practices imply for how America in particular should think about and conduct its foreign affairs".
In this introduction, then , the authors explain what they will discuss in each chapter and why.


Chapter 1 - What is Geoeconomics?

In this chapter the authors define the terms and the issues. They decline to enter the usual academic discussion over the definition. Rather they define their subject in terms of a set of specific activities that are commonly used.
"Thus, we define the phenomenon as follows: the use of economic instruments to promote and defend national interests and to produce beneficial geopolitical results; and the effects of other nations' economic actions on a country's geopolitical goals... "We explore the relationship between geoeconomics, so defined, and geopolitics".
Further, they consider; "Finally, we explain the relationship between geoeconomics and the concepts of mercantilism, economic liberalism, and international economic policy".


Chapter 2 - Geonomics and the International System

In this chapter they ask and answer the question - why geoeconomics appears to have an expanding role in the foreign policies of many other nations. They cite exact examples from Russia, China and the Arab-oil states And these states are using geoeconomic tools integrated with over military tools. They want to discuss how this phenomena is affecting foreign polity generally.


Chapter 3 - Today's Leading Geoeconomic Instruments

In this chapter they focus on seven important geoeconomic tools used today: specifically, "trade policy, investment policy, economic sanctions, the cyber sphere, aid, monetary policy, and energy and commodity policies" -focusing on their geoeconomic aspects rather than only on economic aspects.


Chapter 4 - Geonomics and Chinese Foreign Policy

In this chapter the authors focus on China. "Beijing is often correctly described as the world's leading practitioner of geoeconomics, but it has also been perhaps the major factor in returning regional or global power projection back to an importantly economic (as opposed to political-military) exercise."


Chapter 5 - Geoeconomic Strength in Beijing and Beyond

In this chapter the authors pose and discuss two major issues - 'how can we recognize geoeconomic pressure at work when we see it?' And, ""Does it work?" To which they reply, "Yes".


Chapter 6 - U. S. Foreign Policy and Geonomics in Historical Context

The authors present a summary history of the use of geoeconomics by the American government. They consider it interesting that they find effective and fairly extensive American use of geoeonomics in which the active policy makers were forthright in their approval of their actions. But that later the purveyors of American history published a different appraisal. They consider the major change to have taken place during the Vietnam War and in a part about the Cold War. They consider the separation of what might be termed 'pure economics' from the integration of economic with political considerations in establishing foreign policy a potential weakness if the U.S. does not recognize that this integration is what foreign nations are doing.


Chapter 7 - America's Geoeconomic Potential

In this chapter the authors consider and evaluate the current use of geoeconomics by the American government. They believe the U.S. possesses much greater geoeconomic power than it is employing. But there is a reluctance to do so.


Chapter 8 - "The Geonomics of North America's Energy Revolution

Here the authors point out that the 'revolution' in oil-NG production in the U.S. provided not only a powerful economic benefit but also significant geoeconomic world power, should the U.S. choose to use it.


Chapter 9 - American Foreign Policy in an Age of Economic Power

In this chapter the authors outline their recommendations about how the U.S. might use its economic power in a geoeconomic role.


Chapter 10 - Geonomics, U. S. Grand Strategy, and American National Interests

The authors write that they conclude, "on precisely this question of where geoeconomics fits within the broader context of U. S. Grand strategy and American national interests.


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