The key difference is that sanctions and traditional methods are (generally) open and aboveboard - you know who is doing what to who, as it is announced widely beforehand and very visible in operation.
The only time sanctions are "open and aboveboard" is when the nation is dramatically at odds with the rest of the world - like North Korea and Sudan. But there is plenty of cloak-and-dagger economic warfare between countries, even between allies. For example, a key reason why America still has as many military bases as it does in Japan despite the lack of a legitimate threat of invasion from any country is because the ruling LDP politicians fear that if they force the US off of Japanese soil, America will force Japan to open up its domestic market to real international competition. This would force rapid, bloody economic change (see: South Korea a few years ago), which would surely cost the LDP, which has controlled the country almost every year since the end of WWII. (The only year it was defeated nationally was in 1993, when an eight-party coalition briefly took power before collapsing in on itself, as eight-party coalitions often do.) In that case, the threat of economic warfare forces Japan to acquiesce to the United States' foreign policy will, at the expense of its own people.
(Which isn't to say I'm against globalization in Japan, incidentally. I wish we could see a real fight between the US and Japan on this issue, since it has a good chance of resulting in both a globalized Japanese economy (inevitable and necessary, as they approach a point of almost zero growth) and a reduced American military presence in the Far East. That's two victories in my book.)
And let's not even get into the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, which are more ripe with espionage than Lebanon.