Underground Empire: How America Weaponized the World Economy

Holt. Sept. 2023. 288p. ISBN 9781250840554. $28.99. POL SCI
The coauthors of Of Privacy and Power, Farrell (international affairs, Johns Hopkins Univ.) and Newman (foreign service and government, Georgetown Univ.), coined the phrase “weaponized interdependence” before writing this book. Here they show how the United States wields unprecedented geopolitical power by barring its opponents from vital global networks of informational and financial exchange, which form part of the U.S. “underground empire.” Nearly unilaterally, the United States can bar places (such as Iran) and businesses (such as Chinese telecom giant Huawei) from trading in U.S. dollars, using most banks or payment systems, buying raw materials, or selling on open markets, with ruinous effects. This book notes that the American empire emerged haphazardly as a result of technological innovations and rapid globalization in the wake of the Cold War. Lacking guardrails, strategic vision, or a multilateral approach, weaponization of global economic interdependence—through the means of escalating sanctions and export controls—risks rupturing the international order and destabilizing U.S. influence. The authors urge the U.S. to wield “the tools of empire” to tackle global problems, such as tax evasion, corruption, and climate change.
VERDICT This groundbreaking survey is essential reading for policymakers, students, and practitioners of international politics, business, and economics.
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