When Are Sanctions Likely to Work?

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When are sanctions most likely to work?
1. Introduction
Economic sanctions, defined as “economic measures directed to political objectives” (Barber, 1979, p. 367), are given a prominent place among the range of coercive diplomacy (George, Forceful persuasion: coercive diplomacy as an alternative to war, 1991, p. 5). They are praised as a good alternative to war because it seeks to persuade an opponent to cease his aggression rather than bludgeon him into stopping (George, Forceful persuasion: coercive diplomacy as an alternative to war, 1991, p. 5). There is, however, general consensus that economic sanctions rarely work. Nevertheless they are continued to be employed. This essay attempts to shed light on why sanctions are continued to be applied even though there is general consensus that they rarely work. Before doing so, this essay first explores how economic sanctions are defined in the literature and what it means for sanctions to be effective. The case of Iraq was chosen to help us analyse the effectiveness of sanctions. This essay argues that sanctions are continued to be applied, because they are successful in combination with other means of statecraft and when they are used to achieve minor goals in a broader political strategy. 2. Understanding Economic Sanctions

2.1 Definition of Economic Sanctions
Coercive diplomacy which aims at “persuading an opponent to stop and/ or undo an action he is already embarked upon” (George, 1991, p. 5) has often only relied to “military instruments as the only effective means for achieving ambitious foreign policy goals, as for example taking or defending territory, altering a state’s military behaviour and changing a state’s regime or internal political structure” (Pape, 1997, p. 91). Since the First World War, however, economic sanctions represent an important and more humane alternative to war. The term „sender“ is used to designate the country or international organisation that is the principal author of the sanctions episode. The term „target“ is used to designate the country that is the object of the episode. (Hufbauer, Schott, & Elliot, 1990, p. 35) 3

Pape (1997, p.90) defines economic sanctions as economic measures that “seek to lower the aggregate economic welfare of a target state by reducing international trade in order to coerce the target government to change its political behaviour. Sanctions can coerce either directly, by persuading the target government that the issues at stake are not worth the price, or indirectly, by inducing popular pressure to force the government to concede, or by inducing a popular revolt that overthrows the government, resulting in the establishment of a government that will make concessions“. Hufbauer et al. (1990, p. 2) as well as Wallensteen (1983, p. 90) define sanctions similarly.

The logic of employing economic sanctions is therefore as following: The resulting costs or the fear of such costs of the imposed sanctions cause the target states to moderate his behaviour in the direction demanded by the sender.

2.2 The effectiveness of sanctions
2.2.1 The definition of the effectiveness of sanctions
To estimate if economic sanctions are effective, the concept of power needs to be understood. Power is a “relational concept and includes all relationships in which someone gets someone else to do something that he or she would not otherwise do”. (Baldwin, 1985, p. 20) One of the main purposes why the concept of A’s power over B’s power is used, is the description of policy possibilities open to A. (Baldwin, 1985, p. 3) A state exercises its power when it imposes sanctions on another state due to a conflict of interest between them. As sanctions are a form of 'economic leverage' employed with the goal to extract 'political concessions', sanctions are successful when there is an explicit transfer of political assets from the target to the sender. (Drezner D. , 1999, p. 8) Successful sanctioning alters therefore the distribution of power...