cover image Underground Empire: How America Weaponized the World’s Economy

Underground Empire: How America Weaponized the World’s Economy

Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman. Holt, $28.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-250-84055-4

Control over information, money, and technology gives America overweening global influence, according to this penetrating exposé. Political scientists Farrell (The Uses and Abuses of Weaponized Trust) and Newman (Protectors of Privacy) reveal how the U.S. exploits the international infrastructures used to make cellphone calls or wire funds to bully foreign countries and private companies. These infrastructures include fiber-optic cables carrying the world’s internet traffic, most of which physically crosses U.S. territory and is available to the National Security Agency; the international bank payments system SWIFT, which divulges information about global economic transactions to the U.S.; and American sanctions regulations that deprive the nation’s adversaries of markets and technology, as in 2022 when the U.S. forced the Taiwanese semiconductor manufacturer TSMC to deny advanced chips to the Chinese telecom giant Huawei, thus forestalling a Chinese-built global empire of 5G internet networks. Writing in lucid, accessible prose, the authors trace the growth of America’s economic weapons and their modern deployments, which are sometimes subtle and devious and sometimes blunt and piratical. (In 2019, a State Department official threatened a sea captain piloting a tanker full of Iranian oil with personal sanctions if he didn’t change course.) The result is a fascinating and troubling look at the power plays enabled by a networked world. (Sept.)