Sanctions–the Feel-Good Solution

Sanctions are the diplomatically imposed presidential equivalent to eight year-olds shouting at recess;

Did not!
Did too!!
Did not!!!

Sanctions are the diplomatically imposed presidential equivalent to eight year-olds shouting at recess;

Did not!
Did too!!
Did not!!!

Seems they serve the same purpose of keeping us from coming to blows, but there ends the comparison. Sanctions are an American coercion of choice when it comes to being angry short of war. We have Anti-Terrorism Sanctions, Counter Narcotics Trafficking Sanctions, Non-proliferation Sanctions and even Diamond Trading Sanctions.
One can’t discuss sanctions without coming up against the common
earliest description of sanctions and how effective they were nearly 25
centuries ago;

In 432 B.C., officials in
Athens denied traders from the state of Megara access to Athens’ harbor
and its marketplace. That first recorded use of economic sanctions
didn’t work, and instead helped precipitate the Peloponnesian War, a
horrific and lengthy conflict that brought an end to the fledgling
Greek democracy. Goodbye Greek democracy for a couple thousand years.

But we’re smarter now. Sanctions are a cheap way for America to have
its way, but the results of those sanctions can be disastrous in terms
of civilian populations. Punishing Saddam Hussein resulted in Saddam
profiting hugely by illegal kickbacks and Iraqis selling their
furniture to buy food. North Korean sanctions do nothing to hurt Kim
Jong II, they just starve a few hundred thousand additional of his
people and give him good excuses for his national failure.

It’s not supposed to be this way and yet we have literally given up on international diplomacy in favor of useless sanctions.

Sanctions share a root with sanctimonious–excessively
or hypocritically pious, holier-than-thou and self-righteous. It’s no
surprise that they are visited upon the weaker by the stronger. They
provide a form of diplomatic extortion when nations are too lazy, self
involved or politically weary to do the work of finding win-win solutions.
They feel good at the same time that they harden positions and
poison the well of future negotiation. John Mueller, a political
scientist at the University of Rochester, argues that

not like blowing up a building, where you can count corpses, but it’s
much worse,” said Mueller, referring to estimates that tens of
thousands of Iraqi children have died from malnutrition-related
diseases because of a lack of food and medicine. “Numerically, the
deaths in Iraq are worse than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.”

Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined and not a witness in sight. According to Michael Paulson, a Seattle Intelligencer reporter;

1997 study by the Institute for International Economics found that
since 1970, unilateral U.S. sanctions had achieved foreign policy goals
only 13 percent of the time. The study also concluded that sanctions
are costing the United States $15 billion to $19 billion annually in
potential exports.

Sanctions have not led to democratic
changes in Cuba, Iraq or Iran, and the unambiguous threat of sanctions
did not deter India and Pakistan from testing nuclear weapons last year.

There have been successes. At least we think there have been. It’s
impossible to know if the 28 years of not talking to Libyan strongman
Moammar Gadhafi that finally produced two suspects in the 1988 bombing of Pam Am Flight 103, could have been more quickly and honorably achieved by quiet conversation.
As one might expect, the best records are kept by those who have the most at stake;

National Association of Manufacturers claims that 42 percent of the
world’s population lives in countries sanctioned by the United States.
According to the Congressional Research Service, by the end of 1997
there were 191 different sanctions being imposed by the United States.

Senator Dick Lugar, who doesn’t much value sanctions as a diplomatic tool, says;

a sanction on a country always seems to be an inexpensive way to
address the problem. Unfortunately, almost none of these sanctions have
brought about change and I think they have led to a sizable loss of
foreign trade.”

He’s got a point, but it may not be the only or even most important
point. Sanctions are not paid by tyrannical regimes, but by their
citizenry. Far more damaging to America is the fact that those two billion, six hundred forty-six million
people, who are made even more wretched by our sanction-inspired
poverty, form a collective global memory. Regimes under sanction lose
no opportunity to blame the United States for any and all their societal failings.
And who is to argue? Who is to support our position? The have-nots of
the world see bread shortages, scarce cooking oil, skyrocketing fuel
costs, shortages of medicine and education for their families and thank
the United States. They are not for a moment left to forget.
Thus we find ourselves on the threshold of—what else?—sanctions
against Iran for following the same footprints in the sand of
unsanctioned Pakistan and India. Iran insists its program is focused on
electric generation. India and Pakistan made no such claims. They each
developed offensive nuclear weaponry in violation of non-proliferation
treaties and have been at war with one another periodically for the
better part of 60 years.
In comparison, Iran and Israel have yet to commit their first hostile
act between countries. Iran is certainly no friend of Israel but,
regardless of the wild-eyed hysteria of Louis Rene Beres, Iran
understands that the United States has a mutual defense pact with
Israel and would be wiped off the face of the earth by initiating a
first-strike. Case for yet another ‘preemptive’ war closed, except in
the dark recesses of Dick Cheney’s office, where they’re hatchin’ plans
and diagrams.
Last Sunday, the Washington Post ran an editorial titled Next Step on Iran–The Western campaign to stop Iran’s nuclear program still isn’t working. Their conclusion, after rattling every saber and pressing every panic button, is that

that put real pressure on the Iranian economy, combined with a
continuing offer of expanded trade and security guarantees when the
nuclear program is suspended, might still crack Iran’s hard-line
posture. In the absence of such action, the options of surrender or war
will only gain ground.

WaPo, as bankrupt of ideas as the Bush administration, sees alternatives in the light of surrender or war, which is pretty dim light.
28 years ago in Iran, a bunch of militant college students (quite
probably including Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) took over our
embassy and held hostage the Americans residing there for 444 days.
The United States was so shocked and so additionally embarrassed at our
American-supported Shah being kicked out of his dictatorship, that it
stiffed every Iranian effort towards diplomatic normalization for the
next twenty-eight years. And WaPo calls that an Iranian hard-line posture.
We are a great and powerful and tragically naïve nation. The true
and effective uses of overwhelming power are to apply the sensibility
to sit down with those who oppose and find common ground. There is always common ground. It merely requires those confident enough and patient enough to search for the common ground.
That search doesn’t begin on the deck of a threatening aircraft carrier, Dick.
Media comment;

1 thought on “Sanctions–the Feel-Good Solution

  1. Thanks, Jim! I appreciate the detailed information.
    As Ron Paul said, "Make no mistake about it: Economic sanctions are acts of aggression. Sanctions increase poverty and misery among the very poorest inhabitants of targeted nations, and they breed tremendous resentment against those imposing them. But they rarely hurt the political and economic elites responsible for angering American leaders in the first place."

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