This article argued that the optimal way to deter warfare was economic sanctions, a policy that was used far less at the time of its 1917 publication than today.
“Germany might not have gone to war if she could have conceived that the world would rise to defend the signatures on a scrap of paper. But neither Germany, nor even Bolshevist Russia, could fail to see that the world would infallibly and instantly defend and avenge interests so peculiar to each of them, and yet so common to all, as the security for the world’s commerce.”
Alas, the actual track record for economic sanctions as a deterrent to warfare has been decidedly mixed. As Center for the National Interest Executive Director Paul J. Saunders argued in a 2013 op-ed:
“Washington has not tried to compel another major power with sanctions since 1940-41, when America imposed them on Imperial Japan, culminating in an oil embargo and the seizure of Japanese assets in July 1941. At that time, the United States sought to deter Japan from seizing Southeast Asia and demanded that Tokyo withdraw from Indochina and China. Japan in turn concluded that American sanctions made the occupation of Southeast Asia essential, as well as the devastation of the United States Navy.”
In 2017, sanctions have been instituted earlier this year on Russia, North Korea, and Iran. All three are considered among the nations that America could most likely go to war with given current geopolitical conditions, especially if you count “cyberwar” as modern-day warfare.
The bill passed the Senate 98-2. It was signed into law over President Trump’s stated objections that the legislation “improperly encroaches on Executive power, disadvantages American companies, and hurts the interests of our European allies.” Only time will tell if the sanctions will be enough to prevent war.
Trade Pact of Nations as Bar to Future Wars: No Government Could Afford to Forfeit Privileges in World Clearing House or to Imperil Gold Hoard Belonging Jointly to All Countries
From Sunday, December 9, 1917
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