An Irresistible Weapon
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Friday, May 9th, 2022
Dear Chris,

The only Boycott I ever knew was Geoffrey Boycott, England’s obstinate batsman. The original Boycott was Capt. Charles Boycott, an English land agent in Ireland, where the Irish farmers refused to work or provide the good Captain any services. They were ‘Boycotting’ him in order to alter his behaviour and decades later his name became a verb - ‘to embargo and ostracise’.

During WWI the British, French, and later Americans readily implemented trade embargoes and financial sanctions on the Central Powers, who now could not buy material or food, as the City of London controlled not only the payment systems but also the shipping insurance. Any financial or trading house in the City was sanctioned if the payment looked suspicious; the Central Powers had lost access to the world of globalised credit for settlement and financial activity.

The use economic weapons were a critical part of the War Strategy of the Allied powers, the most powerful player being Lord Cecil Robert, the Minister of Blockade. This mindset of using economic levers would become embedded in the next few decades as a ‘Liberal’ weapon of compliance. These law-based measures were wielded by desk-bound bureaucrats not as a weapon of war but one of keeping the peace that would force abhorrent actors to accept the stated global norms or expect ‘regime change’.

Wilsonian internationalists adored this weapon, as it allowed America to retain its sovereignty but force others to come into line and thus the ‘sanctionist’ was born. This policy worked well on small countries like Greece or Yugoslavia, who needed access to capital and markets, but when applied to big countries in the 1930’s like Germany and Japan it actually solidified the nationalistic arguments for self-reliance. The ‘sanctionists’ became unwitting benefactors of such nationalist regimes, who saw the sanctions for what they actually were…acts of war.

Sadly today, this lesson from the inter-war years has been lost on the modern day sanctionists in Washington, Brussels and London. Russia is a big country and it will fall back on self-reliance and nationalism because, reading between the lines, what is being proposed is regime change. Our pompous or deluded leaders expect us to believe that confiscating a nation’s currency reserves, applying trade embargoes, providing monetary, military and intelligence aid are not acts of war. Only in international law circles would the semantics of these current actions ever be able to be debated. The Russian leadership and/or any other sane player should and has concluded that we are indeed at war.

The WWII radio announcement of Chamberlain may be instructive: “unless Germany is prepared to withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would exist between us. I have to tell you no such undertaking has been received and consequently this country is at war with Germany.” Change a few words and we are in the present. Our leaders need to honestly prepare us for the Boycott path they have embarked us upon - physical War and its consequences. Mustafa
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