America Must Play the Geoeconomics Game

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Editor’s note: this article is adapted from a presentation that Amb. Robert D. Blackwill gave at the Naval War College’s Current Strategy Forum on June 15, 2016.

I am delighted to be back at the Naval War College. What I am about to say on the issue of geoeconomics is drawn from my recent book, War by Other Means: Geoeconomics and Statecraft, which I coauthored with Jennifer Harris of the Council on Foreign Relations, and which was published in April of this year by Harvard University Press.

What Is Geoeconomics?

Despite having the most powerful economy on earth, the United States too often in the past several decades has increasingly forgotten a tradition that stretches back to the founding of the nation—the systematic use of economic instruments to accomplish geopolitical objectives. America has hardly outgrown its need for military force, which will remain a central component of U.S. foreign policy. But this large-scale failure of collective strategic memory regarding geoeconomics denies Washington potent tools to accomplish its foreign policy objectives.

The term geoeconomics is in much use today, but almost always without a specific working definition. Some authors tend to focus on the use of geopolitical or military power for economic ends. Others tend to define geoeconomics more broadly, as “the entanglement of international economics, geopolitics and strategy,” a kind of catchall definition that obscures more than it clarifies.

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