Just because a plan does not work as intended does not mean it was unsuccessful. The Union blockade of the Confederacy during the Civil War certainly counts as an example. By one estimate, Confederate steamers successfully penetrated the Union blockade into North and South Carolina ports over 90 percent of the time, a rate that raises serious doubts about the blockade’s effectiveness. Yet despite the seeming porousness of the Union Navy’s efforts, the effects of the blockade were still devastating to the Southern economy. The relevant question, then, is “Why?”
The root challenge is that blockades are really economics problems nested within a warfare problem. For planners, the issue starts with getting the economics right, and then applying military pressure in a way that achieves the desired outcome. This begins by acknowledging that not every economy is even susceptible to blockade. For a blockade to work, the target economy must depend on imports or exports, the blockading power must have the means to effect the blockade, and neutral/nonaligned powers must lack the desire or ability to bypass the blockade.
1. Bern Anderson, By Sea and by River: The Naval History of the Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1962).
2. Lance E. Davis and Stanley L. Engerman, Naval Blockades in Peace and War: An Economic History since 1750 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006).
3. Robert William Fogel and Stanley L. Engerman, Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Slavery (Boston: Little, Brown, 1974).
4. Mark Guglielmo, “The Contribution of Economists to Military Intelligence During World War II,” The Journal of Economic History 68, no. 1 (March 2008): 109–150.
5. Bruce W. Hetherington and Peter J. Kower, “Technological Diffusion and the Union Blockade,” Explorations in Economic History 48, no. 2 (2011) 310–24.
6. Bruce W. Hetherington and Peter J. Kower, “A Reexamination of Lebergott’s Paradox About Blockade Running During the American Civil War,” The Journal of Economic History 69, no. 2 (June 2009): 528–532.
7. R. Douglas Hurt, American Agriculture: A Brief History, rev. ed. (West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 2002).
8. Stanley Lebergott, “Through the Blockade: The Profitability and Extent of Cotton Smuggling, 1861–1865,” The Journal of Economic History 41, no. 4 (December 1981): 867–888.
9. James M. McPherson, War on the Waters: the Union and Confederate Navies, 1861–1865 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012).
10. W. N. Medlicott, The Economic Blockade, vol. 1 (London: His Majesty's Stationary Office, 1952).
11. Mancur Olson, “The Economics of Target Selection for the Combined Bomber Offensive,” Royal United Services Institution Journal 107, no. 628 (1962): 308–14.
12. Andrew F. Smith, Starving the South: How the North Won the Civil War (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2011).
13. William N. Still Jr., “A Naval Sieve: The Union Blockade in the Civil War,” Naval War College Review 36, no. 3 (May–June 1983) 38–45.
14. David G. Surdam, Northern Naval Superiority and the Economics of the American Civil War (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2001).
15. Craig L. Symonds, The Civil War at Sea (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2009).
16. Mark Thornton and Robert B. Ekelund Jr., Tariffs, Blockades, and Inflation: The Economics of the Civil War (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 2004).
17. Stephen R. Wise, Lifeline of the Confederacy: Blockade Running during the Civil War (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1988).