Sanctioning Yourself in the Foot, by Ted Snider

Like so many political gestures, sanctions generally make the situation worse. From Ted Snider at antiwar.com:

“Sanctions,” Iran’s new president, Ebrahim Raisi, told the UN General Assembly, “are the US’s new way of war with the nations of the world.” At least nineteen countries are currently besieged by the economic warfare of US sanctions.

As when they wage military war, the US is willing to accept the high civilian cost of sanctions. In their book Why Civil Resistance Works, Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan cite studies showing that sanctions “often harm the civilian population more than the targeted regimes.” Being interviewed about US sanctions on Iraq, Madeleine Albright, then US ambassador to the UN was asked, “We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that is more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” Albright infamously replied, “I think that is a very hard choice, but the price, we think, the price is worth it.” More recently, US sanctions on Venezuela have killed an estimated 40,000 people.

And like military war, sanctions often don’t work. Years of sanctions have not brought about the desired effects of regime change or bringing nations under US leadership in Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, Iran, Syria or Russia. Though sanctions may historically have contributed to some successes, Chenoweth and Stephan argue that “there is no general pattern indicating that they are necessary for successful campaign outcomes.”

Though sanctions do not produce the desired effects, they do, ironically, produce four undesired effects.

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