Conventional wisdom states that the United States tries to wield a big economic stick when its clout is greatest. So as the country's relative economic power diminishes, and globalization enmeshes its multinational companies in the sovereign authority of other states, the use of economic sanctions should diminish too -- especially the most ambitious extraterritorial kind. As Rodman's book points out, however, it has not worked out that way. Many objective measures of relative American power have gone down as its companies get entangled with the interests of other important countries. But sanctions are more alluring than ever to American politicians, especially in Congress.
The key variables lie more in domestic politics than in economic data. And despite globalization, these congressional decrees have had substantial impact on the target countries, partly because many companies and countries prefer not to exert their powers of defiance. As Rodman shows, when America's relative economic influence was supposedly so great in the early Cold War, U.S. officials felt more constrained by their sense of duty to allies and allied institutions. Now, for better or worse, it is harder for U.S. leaders to discern the common good.