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America Is Unleashing Its Economic Arsenal

Targeted measures are becoming a bigger part of US foreign policy.

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Illustration: Seba Cestaro for Bloomberg Businessweek

The US has the world’s strongest military and some of its most potent high-tech weapons, including stealth aircraft and precision rockets, but it’s increasingly leaning on targeted economic measures to achieve strategic goals. And the nation is no longer limiting its targets to relative minnows such as Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela.

“Most of the countries that were being targeted by US sanctions were almost by definition not really huge participants in the global economy,” says Daniel Drezner, a professor of international politics at Tufts University. “That has clearly shifted somewhat.”