They’ve always been ineffective. What’s different now is that they’re threatening to undermine American strength.
By Doug Bandow | 20 September 2018
THE AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE — Washington is filled with talk of American exceptionalism. Policymakers insist that the U.S. has a unique mission in the world: to represent the aspirations of all mankind. This hubris has become the foundation of American foreign policy, especially when it comes to economic sanctions.
Sanctions proponents routinely extol the supposed benefits of their policies, without ever providing much evidence. Studies have found that sanctions are most likely to work when restrictions are international, applied to a limited number of products, and intended to achieve modest goals. Even then, governments rarely sacrifice fundamental interests in response to economic pressure. Rather, they respond like Washington would in a similar situation, resisting concessions even more fiercely.
Frustration with failure has encouraged U.S. officials to double down. So now Washington routinely punishes other nations’ individuals and companies. Last year, the Treasury Department added roughly 1,000 people and organizations to the Specially Designated Nationals List. American policymakers currently use the dominant U.S. role in the global financial system as a weapon even against friendly states, denying them access to the American market. Third parties face multi-billion dollar fines for dealing with those on Washington’s naughty list.
Even large, prosperous nations are vulnerable to American pressure. Thus, U.S. threats are typically enough to isolate any small country. For instance, for years the Sudanese government was forced to operate on a cash basis overseas, flying currency into the U.S. for its embassies. The Trump administration’s reimposition of sanctions on Iran opened the door for a rush of companies fleeing Tehran. […]