The Limits of U.S. Financial Warfare

The Treasury Department has run up an impressive list of tactical victories against rogue regimes, terrorists and criminals. But what is the strategy?

Issue: September-October 2013

Juan C. Zarate, Treasury’s War: The Unleashing of a New Era of Financial Warfare (New York: PublicAffairs, 2013), 512 pp., $29.99.

AMERICA’S FOUNDING FATHERS believed little else would matter if the government they were forming did not reliably protect the new republic from foreign and domestic threats while also ensuring the liberty and growing prosperity of those it was to govern and defend. If that were not the Republic’s main and institutionalized organizing principle, the Founders believed, their effort to give it life would fail. The keys to success in ensuring national survival, liberty and prosperity were: stay out of debt; steer clear of foreign entanglements, alliances and wars that did not concern the United States; and avoid situations—whether products of ill-considered policies, fatuous and feckless idealism, or leaders’ inattention—that would lead to unnecessary wars and foreign military adventures, debt and eroded liberty. James Madison warned in the 1790s:

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