Our Economic Warfare

Courtesy Reuters

ECONOMIC warfare has the same purpose as warfare in the field -- to beat our enemies. Since December 7, 1941, we have been openly at war. All our forces, military, economic and moral, are now engaged, without disguise and without qualification. But even before the attack on Pearl Harbor we were using economic weapons to weaken our potential enemies and to help our potential allies. In the two-year interval of non-belligerency, we set in motion various emergency devices to control our international economic relations: export control, the freezing of foreign funds, blacklisting, shipping control. At first we used these economic weapons defensively, hoping that with their aid we might ward off a fighting war. But as the Germans overcame the European democracies, one after another, and the Japanese pushed farther down into southwestern Asia, that hope gave place to the conviction that eventually we would have to fight the menace to our way of life with all the weapons at our command. Thus economic warfare was converted from a substitute for fighting into a preparation for armed conflict.

We are continually reminded that this war does not repeat the conflict of 1917-1918; and indeed the contrast is striking in the field of economic warfare. Before April 6, 1917, when Congress declared war, we had taken practically no measures of economic preparedness, and at least a full year was required to bring into effective action the weapons of economic attack. But on December 8, 1941, our foreign trade and financial relations were already controlled by administrative agencies set up months in advance. Every foreign business transaction had already been placed under a system of licensing, designed to permit only such transactions as promoted national defense or were otherwise "in the national interest." In a gigantic Lease-Lend program, moreover, we had appropriated $13 billion for the aid of countries which were the object of aggression, actual or potential, and had already begun shipments of munitions, machinery and food for these purposes to over a dozen countries as widely separated as

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