"War by Other Means" by Robert Blackwill

Explore the strategic use of economic tools in geopolitics with "War by Other Means," a deep dive into how nations leverage economics for power.


The Procure 4 Marketing Team

5/30/20243 min read

a map of the world with economic symbols
a map of the world with economic symbols

In the intriguing and timely book, "War by Other Means: Geoeconomics and Statecraft," authors Robert Blackwill and Jennifer Harris challenge the traditional views of international power dynamics and propose a comprehensive look at how countries use economic instruments to achieve geopolitical ends. This in-depth analysis delves into the concept of geoeconomics, where economic tools such as sanctions, trade agreements, and investment policies are leveraged to exert influence and secure national interests.

Understanding Geoeconomics

Blackwill and Harris define geoeconomics as the use of economic tools to accomplish geopolitical objectives. This perspective shifts away from the conventional reliance on military power, emphasizing that economic strategies can often be more effective and less destructive. The book argues that while the United States has historically excelled in military strategy, it has frequently overlooked the potential of economic tactics, which have been effectively utilized by other nations, notably China and Russia.

Global Case Studies

One of the book’s strengths is its wide array of international case studies, which illustrate the varied methods countries employ to wield economic power. The authors explore how China uses its economic clout to expand its influence across Asia and beyond through initiatives like the Belt and Road Initiative. They also examine Russia’s use of energy resources as a geopolitical tool to influence European countries. These examples are juxtaposed with analysis of the United States, which, according to the authors, has often been reactive rather than proactive in its geoeconomic strategies.

U.S. Geoeconomic Policy

"War by Other Means" offers a critical view of recent U.S. administrations, suggesting that America’s leaders have not fully embraced or understood the potential of economic instruments in foreign policy. The authors argue that this oversight has led to missed opportunities and a diminished global stance, particularly in contrast to nations like China, which have been adept at integrating economic strategy with their broader foreign policy goals.

Policy Recommendations

Blackwill and Harris do not merely critique; they also offer robust policy recommendations for enhancing the United States’ geoeconomic strategy. They advocate for a more coordinated approach that integrates the various branches of government and harnesses the full spectrum of America’s economic tools. This includes strengthening ties with international financial institutions, enhancing trade relationships, and employing sanctions and incentives more judiciously to support geopolitical objectives.

Relevance and Timeliness

The book is particularly relevant in today’s globalized world, where economic interdependencies and complexities can make traditional military engagement costly and less effective. The authors make a compelling case for why major powers need to prioritize geoeconomics within their broader strategy to maintain global influence and achieve national security objectives.

Critical Analysis and Writing Style

Blackwill and Harris write with authority and clarity, successfully making complex concepts accessible and engaging. Their backgrounds in diplomacy and international economic policy lend credibility and depth to their arguments. However, some critics might argue that the book leans heavily towards the perspective of realpolitik, prioritizing national advantage over global cooperation or ethical considerations in economic policies.

Impact and Audience

"War by Other Means" is an essential read for policymakers, scholars, and anyone interested in understanding the future of international relations. It is also highly relevant for business leaders and investors who need to navigate the geopolitical implications of international economic trends. The book’s analysis helps demystify actions taken by global powers and offers insights into potential future strategies in international markets.


"War by Other Means" by Robert Blackwill and Jennifer Harris is a compelling and enlightening exploration of how economic power shapes global politics. It serves as a crucial reminder that in the chess game of international relations, economic tools are often the most effective and strategic moves available. By highlighting the successes and failures of different countries’ approaches to geoeconomics, the book not only provides a clear framework for understanding current events but also offers guidance for future strategies.

This work is a significant contribution to the field of international relations, offering a novel perspective on the ongoing shifts in global power. It urges the United States and other nations to recognize the potency of economic strategies and to rethink their approach to foreign policy and statecraft in an interconnected world.