Sanctions are economic measures intended to either pressure or punish bad actors—whether individuals, groups, or countries—that violate international norms or threaten national interests. Sanctions offer governments a way to pressure or punish others with little cost or risk to themselves. However, they can cause collateral damage and are rarely successful in changing their target’s behavior. In this hypothetical scenario, the United States needs to decide how best to apply sanctions to influence a crisis abroad.
Tools of Foreign Policy
Economic statecraft describes the various economic tools countries use—such as lending, foreign assistance, sanctions, and trade agreements—to advance their foreign policy priorities. In this hypothetical scenario, the United States needs to decide whether to help a country in crisis and, if so, how to best employ a specific tool of economic statecraft: foreign aid.
Countries use trade to generate economic growth, which provides the resources societies need to function. However, governments can also leverage trade as a direct foreign policy tool to advance other national interests. In this hypothetical scenario, the United States needs to decide how to respond when a rivalry between growing trade partners threatens regional stability.
Armed force encompasses any use or threat of violence to influence a situation. It is a powerful tool of foreign policy, but one that carries immense costs and risks. In this hypothetical scenario, the United States needs to decide whether armed force is the best tool to influence the trajectory of a crisis and, if so, how to deploy its military to achieve its objectives while minimizing risks.
Deterrence means discouraging unwanted behavior through the threat of significant punishment. Sometimes the threat of severe consequences is enough to discourage or deter a threat without requiring governments to act. However, to be effective, deterrence requires that a country make credible threats and be capable of carrying them out. In this hypothetical scenario, the United States needs to decide how best to use deterrence to block threats against itself and its allies.
Arms control agreements are a specialized subset of diplomacy that limit developing, testing, producing, deploying, or using certain types of weapons. They can prevent costly and destabilizing arms races. In this hypothetical scenario, the United States needs to decide how to use arms control to reduce the threat posed by one relatively new category of arms: anti-satellite weapons (ASATs).
The world lacks a global police force capable of stopping violence in its tracks. However, it does have UN peacekeepers, who can help wind down conflicts and prevent them from recurring. Peacekeeping missions face limitations depending on a conflict’s scale and scope. In this hypothetical scenario, the United States needs to determine whether it should support a peacekeeping mission in a country riddled with ethnic conflict.
Covert action entails taking secret measures aimed at influencing political, economic, or military conditions abroad, all while concealing the U.S. role in those measures. This can include political or economic actions, propaganda campaigns, or funding and training paramilitary groups. Covert action allows a country to address national security concerns where other tools would be too risky but, if discovered, it can risk retaliation or public controversy. In this hypothetical scenario, the United States needs to decide if and how it should use covert action to address a national security threat.
Soft power is a country’s ability to influence others through example and the normal actions of a society. In practice, this process entails countries projecting their values, ideals, and culture across borders to foster goodwill and strengthen partnerships. This can build admiration and respect that makes working with other countries easier. In this hypothetical scenario, the United States needs to decide whether and how it can enhance its standing in the world to help pursue its interests.