Indiana Law Journal

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2015

Publication Citation

90 Indiana Law Journal 293 (2015)


This Article makes three points. First, it draws attention to a profound shift toward “dollar unilateralism” by the U.S. government as it advances core national security goals. Relying on the special status of the U.S. dollar, the government has enlisted foreign banks to isolate targeted entities and track illicit financial flows. Second, drawing on examples such as Iran’s nuclear program, the Article identifies three formal and informal legal tactics the government has used to implement dollar unilateralism: financial sticks, high-profile blacklists, and direct diplomacy. Finally, the Article discusses the efficacy of dollar unilateralism and its implications for U.S. accountability. Dollar unilateralism challenges a conventional view about the inevitability of multilateral cooperation, and is a compelling strategy under three conditions. It also, however, presents new gaps in U.S. political accountability.