Clutching at Straws

And the cycle continues, with the United States using sanctions to try and contain Iran. It’s actually interesting that the Security Council caved, given that passing UNSCR 1737 which dealt with first UN sanctions against Iran were passed after considerable debate.

Back when I was more idealistic, I was all for economic sanctions. I mean, what better way to penalize belligerant leaders without turning to war? But now, I’m not so sure.

The problem with economic sanctions quite simply seems to be that it is effective only within a narrow set of parameters. Unless these sanctions affect a decent percentage of the GDP, it doesn’t act as a deterrent against the kind of behaviour the sanctions were trying to protest (in this case, Iran’s nuclear program). Also, there is the small problem of rate of turnover. Usually it takes years for sanctions to work. Which might be fine when trying to collapse a dictatorship but probably not prudent when trying to avoid an international nuclear security incident.

To think that these sanctions are going to have the desired impact is folly, especially when considering that many high-ticket items in the economy are excluded. As David Rothkopf puts it:

But there are actually scores of proposed elements that were one after one cut out of the program ranging from ‘petroleum products’ to ‘anything that might negatively impact trade or relationships with China or Russia.

Furthermore, sanctions seem to end up hurting the general populace and not the leadership it is meant to target (see Iraq). But I guess the feeling that for many world leaders the perception that they are doing something to counter their worst fears is often more important than whether or not they are actually fixing the problem.

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