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Economic Sanctions as a Tool of Statecraft

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In recent years, economic sanctions have fast become the tool of choice in coercive diplomacy. This type of diplomacy has been used by the United Nations, coalitions, and individual states, especially the United States. Sanctions usually need to be complemented by military, diplomatic, and information tools to achieve their national objectives. Despite the increased use of economic sanctions, the necessary theory, guidelines, and training to support their use are lacking. This led to failed expectations in the initial sanctions on Iraq in 1990, when the coalition expected them to persuade Saddam Hussein to leave Kuwait. The United States unilateral sanctions on the USSR in 1980 following its invasion of Afghanistan also did not get the aggressors to leave. This essay provides a review of the key characteristics of economic sanctions, reasons for their increased use, and planning factors that are usually overlooked when nations contemplate their use. Economic sanctions are a tool to lower the aggregate economic welfare of a target state by reducing international trade to coerce the target government to change its political or military behavior. Economic sanctions include such trade instruments as blacklisting, exportimport licensing, tariffs, and travel limitations finance instruments such as reductions in aid and loans, payment withholding, account freezing, asset nationalizing, and asset impounding resource management instruments such as stockpiling, limited extraction, denial of technology transfer, and resource denial and unconventional instruments such as industrial espionage, bribery, disinformation, incitement of work stoppages, immigration control, disruption of lines of communication, computer subversion, currency subversion, smuggling, sabotage, extortion, and piracy. The author sets forth several suggestions for improving the success rate of economic sanctions.

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  • Economics and Cost Analysis
  • Government and Political Science

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