ECONOMIC SANCTIONS: AN HISTORICAL AND CONCEPTUAL ANALYSIS

Created: 10/1/1982

OCR scan of the original document, errors are possible

ECONOMIC SANCTIONS: AN HISTORICAL AND CONCEPTUAL ANALYSIS

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Summary

A detailed analysis ofpplications of economic sanctions yields mixed results regarding their effectiveness as instruments of foreign policy. In none of the cases did the Imposition of economic sanctionsountry to reverse the actions that triggered the sanctions. There arc two main reasons for this failure.

o Most economies have sufficient flexibility to mitigate the economic impact of sanctions by circumventing them or by making internal economic adjustments.

o Even when the sanctions have substantial economic impact, countries havetrong and lasting commitment to maintaining their present course of conduct. The imposition of sanctions, in many cases, has stiffened their resolve.

The case studies reveal that miscalculation, mis understanding, or failure to take all of their complex elements into account have caused sanctions to fail, sometimes with serious economic and political consequences for their sponsor. I

We found, nonetheless, that sanctions can serve several useful purposes:

o They make the target country pay an economic price,igh one, for its policies.

O They contribute to its international isolation.

o They may strengthen the hand of opposition groupsthe sanctioned country.

o For the country imposing sanctions, theyolicy alternative short of military action, satisfy important political constituencies, and buy time and room for diplomatic initiatives and other approaches to the problem. I

Whether or not sanctions can be considered effective depends on the objectives against which their impact is measured. The unstated objectives often differ from those that are stated publicly. In general, sanctions are likely to be more effective when Judged against objectives of economic punishment or public disapproval rather than against the goal of changing the conduct of an offending country.

Our analysis confirms the complexity of using sanctions as an instrument of foreign policy. Key findings in this regard include:

o There are distinct tradeoffs between unilateral and multilateral sanctions.ingle country maytrong commitment to levying sanctions, it is less likely to control the range of goods needed toignificant economic impact on the target.roup of sponsors has the potential ability to economically punish the target country, this power is rarely used because of disagreements on sanction objectiveside range of commitments to the sanctions effort.

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o Sanctions often yield unanticipated political and economic results; in some cases the sanctions have caused countries to shift alliances or their economic and political orientations.

o Sanctions acquire political significance .even when economic effects are minimal. Easing the sanctions without some evidence of concessions by the offending country may give an impression ofny event, it probably will be takenignalolicy

The potential effectiveness of sanctions can be gauged by the close analysisfactors. Most important among these

o The volume and importance of goods that the sponsor country can withhold from the offending nation.

o The impact of the sanctions on the target country's domestic politics and international position.

o The ability of the sanctioned country to adjust economically to the loss of commerce.

o The commitment of the target country to the policies that triggered the sanctions.

o The degree of cooperation the sponsor country can get from other nations; reaching agreement on objectives is often difficult end in such cases the political cost of getting cooperation from allies can be high.

o The economic cost of the sanctions to the sponsor country.

o The ability of the sponsor country to maintain the sanctionsong enough time to have an impact on the offending nation.

We also found, however, that even the most careful planning process is unlikely to take full account of all the political and economic dynamics associated with the use of economic sanctions.1 1

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