15. Economic Sanctions

Comprehensive or even targeted economic sanctions or embargoes are generally too blunt an instrument and too passive in nature to be relied upon as an effective long term (greater than 5 years) policy of discouraging or rectifying the various ‘inappropriate’ policies that may be implemented by dictators or other governments that are particularly unresponsive to their own domestic public pressures. The long-term affects of broad economic sanctions are felt most severely by the general population and have far less of an impact than desired on their real targets – government leadership. Economic sanctions in general are most useful when placed upon countries whose governments are responsive to public pressures.

The first step in addressing any conflict (whether it be a dictatorship or true democracy) will, often correctly, be the imposition of certain economic sanctions. Simultaneously, however, when we are dealing with dictatorships or other such relatively insensitive forms of government, preparations and firm plans should be made for further, more intense actions (namely, internationally supervised military intervention) designed to permanently resolve the situation and enforce compliance with international rules. All the while, hope should be held that economic sanctions would have the desired effects and that these further military plans would not be needed. Economic sanctions should be targeted towards the specific goods and services that directly support the dictatorship or enemy government. Sanctions targeted towards dual-use goods could also be implemented if deemed necessary, but since this is a category of goods that also most often penalizes the general population more than it hurts the government, international policy makers should insure that plans are being made for a rapid resolution of the crisis so that such sanctions, especially for dual use items, need not be implemented for a long-term basis.


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