Why sanctions are stupid, Vol. MMMMDLXVIII

Here’s an article describing how Iran has been evading economic sanctions put in place because of their nuclear program.

Let’s also remember that decades of sanctions against Cuba has yet to lead to regime change there but has likely set back their economy  great deal (and kept me from getting top-notch cigars). Likewise, decades of sanctions against North Korea has kept them poor, but they are still controlled by the same oppressive and belligerent government. Nearly a decade of sanctions against Iraq helped starve the country and its children but did nothing to get Saddam out of his comfortable palaces. And finally, four years of blockading Gaza has, if anything, strengthened the radical Hamas group which controls the strip.


  1. Ian

    But is the goal of sanctions regime change? We did it to Iraq, and it rendered them weak and powerless to fight us when the second Iraq War began. Certainly it is terrible for the people of the affected nations, but it is an effective method of keeping a country down. I think sanctions are more meant to keep a nation hobbled until regime change occurs, not necessarily force the change.

  2. Chris

    In all those cases I listed I think it’s safe to say the goal was/is partly, not solely, regime change.

    You wrote “sanctions are more meant to keep a nation hobbled until regime change occurs, not necessarily force the change,” but that’s not true. Sanctions are usually targeted specifically at changing policy. For Iran it’s about stopping their nuclear program. North Korea faces sanctions for the same reason among others. For Cuba it is actually meant to force them to abandon Castro’s brand of Communism. For Iraq it was about curbing their military growth and forcing them to pay reparations to Kuwait. For Gaza, the official reason for the blockade is to stop attacks from Hamas.

    In any case, the sanctions have failed to produce the desired outcome, and in fact have been counter productive by further empowering the current regimes and bolstering hatred for the Western countries that have imposed sanctions.

  3. Ian

    Yeah I agree. You were the one who kept citing regime change in the original post. I was more responding to that idea I guess. The bolstering hatred thing is a weak argument, honestly. No in the government outside of maybe Kucinich is going to be swayed by that. The western countries you speak of are trying to look out for themselves, and they aren’t interested in the business of letting people with opposing ideals get too powerful.

    Anyways, if standard diplomacy clearly isn’t getting us what we want, and we don’t want to go to war, and sanctions are now bad, what do you propose we do?