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German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Donald Trump at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dec. 1, 2018 (Photo by Ralf Hirschberger for dpa via AP Images).

Why Trump’s ‘Maximum Pressure’ Campaigns Are Failing

Friday, March 15, 2019

One thing the Cold War taught the United States was how important it is, whenever possible, to address security threats without using force. American leaders knew that almost any military action risked confrontation with the Soviet Union and potential escalation to nuclear war. So armed conflicts had to be kept limited, and the two superpowers instead sought to use nonmilitary means to deal with adversaries.

The United States learned during the Cold War to rely on economic and political power, reserving military action for deterrence and for addressing serious threats that could not be handled any other way. American leaders also recognized that both economic and political power were most effective when coordinated with as many other countries as possible. The United States could organize and lead pressure campaigns, like the one against Cuba, but they only worked through collective effort. The more intense the campaign—the more it relied on what came to be called “maximum pressure”—the more important the multinational cooperation. It was always a team sport. ...

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