Sanctions are an important topic in the world today, especially with U.S. relations in Iraq. Sanctions put pressure on countries to change something they are doing wrong such as nuclear arms or human rights violations. Sanctions may sound like a great tool to use, but many things need to be changed with sanctions. Sanctions are important to every person in this country because they can affect our jobs and can lead to war with other countries. In this paper I will give an overview on issues dealing with sanctions and what needs to be done.
According to Dictionary.com the term sanction means, a penalty, specified or in the form or moral pressure, that acts to ensure compliance or conformity. To this day no country has imposed more sanctions than the United Stares. During the last one hundred years the U.S. has imposed sanctions more than 110 times. The idea of sanctions was sparked by Woodrow Wilson when he said, “A nation boycotted is a nation that is in sight of surrender, apply this economic, peaceful, silent, deadly remedy and there will be no need for force.”” (Hufbauer Page 79)
Economic Sanctions entail the denial of customary export, import or financial relations with a target country. The country issuing the sanction hopes to get the violating country to change the countries laws or policies. Some examples of this would be when the United States blocked World Bank loans from India/Pakistan because they had nuclear weapons. In order to get the sanctions dropped, Indian and Pakistan would have to show that they are nuclear-free.
Politics play a critical role in issuing sanctions against countries. If we don’t like what a country is doing or want them to do something we can issue a sanction against that country. The government decides whether or not a country should be sanctioned and decides whether or not to stop a sanction.
The United States government currently has 26 sanctions covering target countries and this accounts for half the world’s population. Today when tensions arise, sanctions become the favorite tool for American diplomacy. We are currently seeing this in Iraq and other countries.
The United States has learned a couple of ideas over the years from issuing sanctions. The first idea is that sanctions seldom achieve the desired change in the conduct of foreign countries. This basically states that Woodrow Wilson was wrong because he said countries are usually in sight of surrender. Hufbauer’s book stated that one in five sanctions actually work in some form. Some of the most recent successes were in Columbia and South Africa. The sanctions imposed weren’t the only factor for why these countries were a success but it did play a role. Another important idea is that Democratic countries, where the elite cares a lot about what the rest of the world thinks are far more affected by sanctions than authoritarian countries. One consequence of this is that the financial sanction imposed may topple a democratic government and let authoritative figures move in.
The second idea we have learned is that it is nave to think of sanctions as a substitute for force when dealing with authoritarian powers. I say this because sanctions in authoritarian countries have never really worked and the only thing that has really worked is military force such as in Iraq, Panama and Haiti. One thing that needs to be changed is that United State Presidents see sanctions as isolated measures and not part of a plan that emphasizes the use of diplomatic protests then shifting to economic sanctions and if this still hasn’t worked military intervention would be used. The result of keeping sanctions separate and disconnected is that a lot of countries look at us as bluffing and if they can withstand sanctions they don’t have to fear a surprise attack.
The third lesson we have learned is that economic sanctions can inflict pain on innocent people while at the same time not weaken the leaders of these countries. The hardest hit are the young, poor, sick and old while the main targets (Leaders and Governments) are left unharmed and sometimes strengthened. Even though this is quite difficult to change, we need to change this idea and target the leaders of these countries and leave out the people. This idea can be seen in current events as the United States is targeting Sadamm Hussein instead of the people of Iraq.
The last lesson we have learned is that sanctions applied hard and fast are more likely to succeed than sanctions applied soft and slow. If the U.S. doesn’t wait around, the chance of this sanction working is a lot more effective because the sanctioned country has little time to think of how they could get around the sanction and find new trading partners. One dilemma is that the United States usually has to get support form the UN Security Council and other countries (Allies) and this may take a lot of time. In brief, Diplomacy is slow. Other countries such as Canada, Japan and Western Europe may not have a problem with the sanctioned country or they may have trade relations they don’t want to disrupt. We can see this today in the way we are trying to get support from other countries to go to war with Iraq. Another dilemma the U.S. encounters is that we like to take a little time to let the target country reconsider. In this, we cannot go fast and hard.
So why not use sanctions? Well, there are a couple problems with sanctions. The main reason is that they lead to a loss in exports and this rolls over to American jobs. Sanctions also drive down the standard of living in the country the sanction is issued against and many people will become poorer and they will face tougher living situations. The last reason why not to use sanctions is it sometimes irritates U.S. Allies.
In Conclusion, the United States Government has to remember a couple ideas when it issues sanctions. The biggest idea is that the U.S. should rarely use sanctions when it cannot get support from its friends. Another idea is that we should target leaders or governments instead of its people. The last step that needs to be considered is that we need to make sanctions a prelude to military force and not a substitute for it. When we have all these steps in place, we will most likely see a higher success rate in the sanctions we issue and violating countries will know that we mean business.
Hufbauer, Gary C., Schott, Jeffrey. Elliot, Kimberly. Sanctions: Happy USA. International Economics and International Economic Policy. Phillip King. San Francisco State University. McGraw Hill, 2000 Pages 79-86
Dictionary.com Home Page. 15 Oct 2002. Sanctions. www.dictionary.com
Middle East. Home Page 15 Oct 2002
Map Report. Home Page 14 Oct 2002
CNN. Home Page. 13 Oct 2002 http://www.cnn.com