Indirect economic attrition

In his short story “The Upside Down Evolution” (c.1985 in Polish, 1986 in English), science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem claims to have read a military history of the world written in the twenty-first century, and used what he learned in his novels:

In 1967, I wrote a science fiction novel entitled His Master’s Voice (published in English in 1983 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich). On page 125 of that edition, third line from the top, are the words “the ruling doctrine was … ‘indirect economic attrition’,” and then the doctrine is expressed in the aphorism, “The thin starve before the fat lose weight.”

The doctrine expressed publicly in the United States in 1980 — thirteen years after the original [Polish] version of His Master’s Voice — was put a little differently. (In the West German press they used the slogan “den Gegner totrüsten” — “arm the enemy to death.”)

The policy of indirect economic attrition has changed significantly with the fall of the Communist Bloc; nevertheless, it remains an effective foreign policy, one which will, no doubt, be followed by either major presidential candidate.