Accession Number:



Food as a Component of National Defense Strategy

Descriptive Note:

Journal article

Corporate Author:


Personal Author(s):

Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



Economic warfare statutes in the United States date to 1917. Since World War II, these statutes have increasingly given the President broad authority to restrict U.S. exports to prevent economic shortages, to protect national security, and to support U.S. foreign policy objectives. The apparent success of the 1973 OPEC oil embargo in producing changes in U.S. policy in the Middle East and the potential of further embargoes or extravagant price hikes by producers of oil and other nonreplenishable raw resources, such as bauxite or chromium, have renewed public interest in the possible use of food as an instrument of foreign policy. Such use might take the form of establishment of strategic food reserves and a selective export policy which would use agricultural exports as both a carrot and a stick in the achievement of U.S. national interests. The logical conclusion which follows at this juncture is that any decision to employ economic warfare as a strategic weapon must be based on our export capabilities in agricultural commodities, which until recently have combined with foreign military sales to produce a trade surplus in the U.S. balance of payments. Given the apparent success of economic warfare by other nations, the question that then remains is whether food and agricultural exports can in fact become a useful addition to the range of strategic alternatives available to U.S. policy makers for the achievement of diplomatic and political objectives. Careful analysis will, I contend, lead us to ultimately reject the concept of food as a strategic weapon. Let us first, however, examine the major arguments which have been propounded in favor of using food in this way. This will be followed by an examination of the major arguments against using agricultural exports as a lever to achieve foreign policy objectives.

Subject Categories:

  • Economics and Cost Analysis
  • Government and Political Science
  • Food, Food Service and Nutrition

Distribution Statement: