American National Security under Attack

American National Security under Attack: Bridging the Largest Economic Blindspot
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Introduction

In today’s interconnected world, economic conflicts have emerged as critical determinants of a nation’s fate and American National Security. The United States finds itself navigating unfamiliar territory, with globalization amplifying the consequences of trade disruptions and money flows. As great-power tensions rise, the U.S. economic integration with countries like China has grown exponentially, leaving the nation both economically vulnerable and powerful. However, Washington’s decision-making infrastructure is ill-prepared for this era of leverage and vulnerability. This blog delves into the economic blindspot of American national security, highlighting the need for a comprehensive strategy to address the challenges posed by economic conflicts.

Economic Vulnerabilities in the Global Landscape

Over time, economic tactics to gain geopolitical advantage have become increasingly prevalent, but the level of global economic integration has surged. Today, global trade represents 57 percent of the world’s GDP, significantly higher than in previous great-power rivalries. The U.S. now faces a paradox – while being more economically vulnerable due to interdependence, it also holds significant economic power. This new reality demands a sophisticated understanding of economic security and a coordinated approach to decision-making.

Existing Tools and Their Limitations for American National Security

The United States possesses various tools to protect its economic security, such as trade policy, fiscal policy, export controls, and sanctions. While these tools can be potent, they were not explicitly designed for economic security during great-power tensions. For instance, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) plays a crucial role in safeguarding strategic technology companies but is reactive, relying on foreign-initiated transactions. In periods of high economic tension, this tool may not be sufficient.

Similarly, export controls can proactively supervise foreign access to sensitive components and technology, but their application has often been targeted. Sanctions, while effective in specific cases, lack the necessary infrastructure to navigate potential great-power economic conflicts. Washington lacks a standing body responsible for routinely assessing economic vulnerabilities and exploring the consequences of offensive economic actions.

The Need for Strategic Economic War-Gaming

A critical problem lies in the absence of a dedicated agency or group responsible for the regular assessment of U.S. economic vulnerabilities. Unlike military planners who rigorously develop war plans and scenarios, economic security strategists lack resources for comprehensive economic war-gaming. If tensions with countries like China escalate, the United States needs to anticipate potential consequences on markets, supply chains, and international relationships.

To address this gap, the government should establish dedicated offices within the Treasury and Commerce Departments focused on long-term economic security issues. These offices can conduct economic leverage and vulnerability assessments, identifying U.S. economic levers and potential vulnerabilities. Private-sector working groups should be engaged to enhance resilience, and a political appointee should head each office, reporting directly to the secretaries for better coordination.

The Role of the White House and Strategic Thinking

The White House should expand its international economic team to include a group focused on long-term economic security planning. This team would collaborate with the new offices in the Treasury and Commerce Departments, ensuring a holistic view of U.S. economic security. By developing a deeper understanding of economic security posture, the United States can reduce the risk of surprises, better prevent economic disruptions, and coordinate effectively with allies.

Conclusion

The US must adjust its national security strategy to align with the changing geopolitical landscape shaped by economic conflicts. The interdependence of economies offers prospects and difficulties, necessitating a nuanced approach to safeguard the nation’s interests. Recognizing and tackling the blind spots in economic matters will enable the United States to effectively safeguard the principles of free economies and free societies, considering the pivotal role of economic power in today’s global affairs.

Photo By: UNSPLASH

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