International Relations Sanctions
by
Adrian Ang
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 August 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 02 March 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0030

Introduction

The study of sanctions is topical but also contentious and inconclusive in international relations. On the one hand, scholars are deeply divided on the utility of sanctions as foreign-policy instruments. There is an ongoing debate about the “success” or “effectiveness” of sanctions that has yielded a conventional wisdom that they are failed policy instruments. On the other hand, even as the effectiveness of sanctions remains mired in academic debate, its popularity as a policy instrument among policymakers has never been higher. Even among scholars who argue that sanctions can work, there is disagreement about the strategies for achieving success as well as when and why they succeed. The goals of this bibliography are to expose the reader to the debates surrounding the success or failure of sanctions; to explore the conditions under which sanctions might achieve success and the multiple reasons why states impose sanctions beyond mere compliance; to understand why policymakers continue to impose sanctions even if academics denigrate their failure; to explore the costs and consequences of sanctions; and to explore some of the methodological issues related to the study of economic sanctions.

General Overviews

Hufbauer, et al. 2007 is arguably the most well-known study on economic sanctions. Currently in its third edition, the book examines 204 sanctions episodes and analyzes the reasons behind the sanctions, the type of sanctions deployed and their duration, and an assessment of the effectiveness of sanctions. Jentleson 2000 is a chapter that outlines the principal conceptual and methodological issues that surround the study of economic sanctions and how they affect the development of theory and policy. Morgan, Krustev, and Bapat have developed the Threat and Imposition of Sanctions (TIES) Data Page, which collects data on sanctions that have been threatened as well as those that have been imposed.

  • Hufbauer, Gary Clyde, Jeffrey J. Schott, Kimberly Ann Elliott, and Barbara Oegg. Economic Sanctions Reconsidered. 3d ed. Washington, DC: Peterson Institute for International Economics, 2007.

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    Utilizing cases of sanctions episodes from World War I to 2000, the authors identify the factors that affect sanction outcomes.

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  • Jentleson, Bruce W. “Economic Sanctions and Post-Cold War Conflicts: Challenges for Theory and Policy.” In International Conflict Resolution after the Cold War. Edited by Paul C. Stern and Daniel Druckman, 123–177. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2000.

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    Identifies the key conceptual and methodological issues in the study of economic sanctions. Advocates using a coercive bargaining framework, where sanctions are viewed as tools to induce rather than impose compliance. Argues that in order for coercive bargaining to be successful, sanctions need to have economic impact as well as political credibility.

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  • Threat and Imposition of Sanctions (TIES) Data Page.

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    A database that includes sanctions that were threatened as well as those that were implemented. These data cover the period from 1971 to 2000 and are important to correct for any selection bias inherent in examining only cases where sanctions were actually imposed (see The Problem of Selection Bias in this bibliography).

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Sanctions Background

The concept of sanctions is not new. Throughout history, states and quasi-state entities have imposed sanctions in order to coerce a change of behavior in their adversaries. Thucydides recorded the earliest instance of economic sanctions when Athens under Pericles issued the Megarian decree, an economic embargo that denied Megara access to markets throughout the Athenian Empire. Farrall 2007 points out that in the medieval era states and quasi-state entities employed a wide range of nonmilitary coercive measures such as state-sanctioned kidnapping, seizure of property, and maritime blockade as part of their regular foreign policy. Occasionally, groups of states or quasi-state entities would cooperate to apply multilateral coercion. During the Crusades the papacy forbade Christian nations from selling war materiel to the Saracens, and in the 14th and 15th centuries the Hanseatic League engaged in collective trade boycotts against its enemies. According to Lawrence 1925, under the classic international law system, war states utilize a number of coercive measures short of war such as retorsion, reprisals, and the pacific blockade as part of their foreign policy. Under the classic international law system, such measures could theoretically be used to enforce international law and ensure the peaceful resolution of disputes. In practice, however, these measures often served as a means of self-help and were subject to abuse.

  • Farrall, Jeremy Matam. United Nations Sanctions and the Rule of Law. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

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    Points out that precedents for modern sanctions existed in ancient and medieval times as well as under the classic international law system.

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  • Lawrence, T. J. The Principles of International Law. 7th ed. London: Macmillan, 1925.

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    Points out that in the classic international law system, the sanctioning system was subject to abuse, especially by larger states. Small states were less likely to engage in, and more likely to be subject to, nonmilitary coercive measures than larger, more powerful states.

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The Role of Commerce and Peace

Students of international politics have long maintained that peace is a positive by-product of commerce. Political theorists like the Abbé de St. Pierre, Montesquieu, and Kant, and statesmen like Woodrow Wilson, argued that commerce brings about peaceful relations among nations. Hirschman 1997 points out that early versions of the argument that linked economic liberalism to less war can be found in the writings of David Hume, Sir James Steuart, the Baron de Montesquieu, and Adam Smith, and were based on the hope that commerce would quell the passion for conquest that was prevalent in the 17th and 18th centuries. For these thinkers, peace emerged from commerce in a natural process. Stein 1993 notes that Montesquieu believed that the ties among peoples engaged in commercial relationships were inherently pacific. Cain 1979 points out that Richard Cobden believed that a free trade system would make war obsolete as nations realized that the disruption of commercial relations as a result of war was against their enlightened self-interests. Angell 1972 argues that the economies of European countries had become so interdependent that war was unthinkable. Thus, not surprisingly, economic sanctions were perceived by the founders of the League of Nations to be a particularly effective tool to supplement other noncoercive means of settling international disputes.

  • Angell, Norman. The Great Illusion: A Study of the Relation of Military Power to National Advantage. New York: Garland, 1972.

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    Angell argued that economic interdependence in Europe had reached the point where war and conquest had become too costly as means for states to pursue their interests or increase their wealth. First published in 1909 (London: Heinemann).

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  • Cain, Peter. “Capitalism, War, and Internationalism in the Thought of Richard Cobden.” British Journal of International Studies 5 (1979): 229–247.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0260210500114834Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Cobden believed that free trade would help bring about a reduction in conflict by ending the privileged economic and political position of the aristocracy and by making countries economically interdependent.

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  • Hirschman, Albert O. The Passions and the Interests. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997.

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    Highlights the expectations entertained by classical liberal thinkers that the expansion of market economies would restrain the arbitrary and aggressive impulses of monarchs in both the domestic and international arenas. First published in 1977.

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  • Stein, Arthur R. “Governments, Economic Interdependence, and International Cooperation.” In Behavior, Society, and International Conflict. Vol. 3. Edited by Philip E. Tetlock, Charles Tilly, Robert Jervis, Paul C. Stern, and Jo L. Husbands. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

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    Argues that Montesquieu’s influence on sociological liberalism was the emphasis on the importance of the links among people that are necessary to sustain a commercial relationship. Montesquieu argued that communication leads to international cooperation as peoples increase their knowledge of others and their folkways.

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Sanctions under the League of Nations

The Covenant of the League of Nations sought to limit the right of states to engage in warfare by permitting states to resort to war only in response to acts of aggression that violated the covenant. Article 16 of the covenant suggested that any member state that engaged in warfare in violation of the covenant would automatically be subject to immediate economic sanctions, and also included the possibility of the League imposing military sanctions. Mitrany 1925 points out that allowing the member states to determine whether there had been a violation of the covenant would undermine the League’s sanctioning system as they could avoid any obligation to apply sanctions by simply determining that there had been no breach. Claude 1964 argues that the League’s collective security arrangements were subject to a constant process of strengthening and weakening as states attempted to enjoy the benefits of collective security without shouldering any of its burdens. According to Askari, et al. 2003, the League was associated with eight sanctions episodes: the Yugoslav invasion of Albania (1921), the Greek invasion of Bulgaria (1925), Japan’s invasion of China (1931–1932), the Chaco War between Bolivia and Paraguay (1932–1935), the Italian invasion of Abyssinia (1935–1936), the Spanish civil war (1936–1939), and drug trafficking in Turkey and Bulgaria (1933). The threat of sanctions was sufficient to prompt Yugoslavia to remove its troops from Bulgaria. The threat of economic pressure also succeeded in compelling Turkey to repress the illicit export of drugs and Bulgaria to suppress the production of heroin. Simons 1999 argues that the League’s ability to impose effective sanctions was limited when powerful states violated the covenant, as evident in the League being unable to deal effectively with Japan’s invasion and occupation of Manchuria, the Italian invasion of Abyssinia, and the internationalization of the Spanish civil war.

  • Askari, Hossein, John Forrer, Hildy Teegen, and Jiawen Yang. Economic Sanctions: Examining Their Philosophy and Efficacy. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2003.

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    Notes that the sanctions efforts of the League appeared to work only against small nations. The authors also note that consensus was established among the member states of the League in the successful cases and that the mere threat of sanctions was sufficient to make the target countries alter their offending policies.

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  • Claude, Inis L., Jr. Swords into Plowshares: The Problems and Progress of International Organization. 3d ed. New York: Random House, 1964.

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    Argues that the League suffered from being unable to impose adequate legal restrictions on potential aggressors and was unable to extract firm commitments for enforcement action from member states. This resulted in the League being unable either to take collective security or to leave it alone.

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  • Mitrany, D. The Problem of International Sanctions. London: Oxford University Press, 1925.

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    Author writes of the need for effective sanctions as part of a system of collective security, but fears that the League will founder due to member states being unable to agree on an adequate system of sanctions.

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  • Simons, Geoff. Imposing Economic Sanctions: Legal Remedy or Genocidal Tool? London: Pluto, 1999.

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    Argues that a combination of ambiguity in the language of the covenant, a limited and shifting membership, the conflicting interests of individual members, and onerous membership obligations undermined the League’s sanctions regime as an effective deterrent to war.

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Defining and Conceptualizing Economic Sanctions

Economic sanctions are instruments of statecraft, intended to coerce a change in the behavior of the targeted state or government. However, there is a lack of consensus regarding an accepted definition of economic sanctions in the extant literature. Baldwin 1985 eschews the term “economic sanctions” in favor of “economic statecraft,” which encompasses not just economic coercion for political purposes (a conventional understanding of sanctions) but also positive inducements like trade and economic bargaining. Baldwin’s focus is less on the means of economic coercion (hence the broad definition of economic statecraft) and more on its goal, namely, getting the sanctioned state to change its behavior. Hence, all the coercive means that fall under the rubric of economic statecraft are included only to the extent that they have relevance to changing the target’s behavior. Pape 1997 argues against an expansive definition of economic sanctions, contending that distinctions need to be made regarding the different uses of economic coercion. The author maintains that trade disputes are distinct from economic sanctions—that coercing a state to reduce import duties on wine is fundamentally different from coercing it to part with a piece of its territory. Thus, he defines sanctions less as general tools of statecraft than as a strategy of international economic pressure for political purposes. Nossal 1994 argues that Canada and Australia are not motivated to impose sanctions for instrumental reasons such as deterrence, compellence, subversion, or retribution, as suggested by conventional sanctions theory. Rather, the political leadership in Ottawa and Canberra is motivated to deploy sanctions for symbolic purposes, to assuage the conscience of policymakers and the public that something is being done about a breach of international norms. The author also finds that the incentives and constraints associated with coalition politics drive the two countries’ propensity to use sanctions. Suettinger 2000 maintains that China’s traditional hostility to the threat or deployment of unilateral sanctions is softened somewhat in the case of multilateral sanctions. Ross 1998 argues that China’s response to sanctions depends on whether the sanctions are aimed at altering China’s external behavior or inducing a change in its domestic policies. Given China’s historical experiences with foreign intervention, the author maintains that Beijing is determined not to be seen to give in to pressure that threatens Chinese sovereignty. Drury and Li 2006 finds that American threats of sanctions against China have proven ineffective and that Beijing is more likely to respond positively to “carrots” than to the “stick.” Konovalov, et al. 1995 argues that Russia is skeptical of sanctions as a possible tool for extending American influence and that its objections to the deployment of sanctions are based on calculations of realpolitik rather than legal or moral considerations.

  • Baldwin, David A. Economic Statecraft. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985.

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    Adopts the broad conception of “economic statecraft” to encompass economic policy instruments designed to influence the behavior of other international actors. Economic statecraft includes not only coercive economic sanctions but also other tools such as tariffs, import and export subsidies, and investment guarantees.

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  • Drury, A. Cooper, and Yitan Li. “U.S. Economic Sanction Threats Against China: Failing to Leverage Better Human Rights.” Foreign Policy Analysis 2 (2006): 307–324.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1743-8594.2006.00033.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Demonstrates that American threats to condition or revoke China’s most-favored-nation status were ineffective and counterproductive. Threats resulted in fewer accommodations from the Chinese government, but positive, cooperative actions were reciprocated.

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  • Konovalov, Alexander, Sergey Oznobistchev, and Dmitry G. Evstafiev. “A Review of Economic Sanctions: A Russian Perspective.” In Economic Sanctions: Panacea or Peacebuilding in a Post–Cold War World? Edited by David Cortright and George A. Lopez, 43–49. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1995.

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    Points out that Russian objections to the use of sanctions stem primarily from the fact that the conflicts in which sanctions are most likely to be deployed are also likely to involve situations that affect Russia’s national security interests.

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  • Nossal, Kim Richard. Rain Dancing: Sanctions in Canadian and Australian Foreign Policy. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994.

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    Argues that middle powers like Canada and Australia are motivated to use sanctions for symbolic reasons that encompass a mix of punitive calculations, coalition politics, domestic politics, and the preferences of individual policymakers.

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  • Pape, Robert A. “Why Economic Sanctions Do Not Work.” International Security 22 (1997): 90–136.

    DOI: 10.2307/2539368Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Pape advocates for a narrow definition of sanctions, distinct from trade wars and economic warfare. Sanctions are designed to lower the aggregate economic welfare of the targeted state so as to coerce it into altering its political behavior. Trade wars are designed to achieve more favorable terms of trade, while economic warfare’s purpose is to ultimately weaken the target’s military potential.

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  • Ross, Robert S. “China.” In Economic Sanctions and American Diplomacy. Edited by Richard N. Haass, 10–34. New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 1998.

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    Argues that there is a distinction in China’s reactions to American sanctions depending on whether the efforts are directed toward changing China’s external behavior or forcing changes to its domestic policies. Ross maintains that, given China’s sensitivity to historical foreign encroachment and intervention, its leaders are especially sensitive to actions that could be construed as interference in internal Chinese affairs.

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  • Suettinger, Robert L. “The United States and China: Tough Engagement.” In Honey and Vinegar: Incentives, Sanctions, and Foreign Policy. Edited by Richard N. Haass and Meghan L. O’Sullivan, 12–32. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2000.

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    Argues that China has long opposed in principle the threat or imposition of economic sanctions, particularly in cases where their use has been unilateral in nature, but has been more accommodating in cases of multilateral sanctions.

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The Effectiveness of Sanctions

We can characterize the debate on the effectiveness of economic sanctions as one between traditionalists, who generally view economic sanctions as ineffective, and revisionists, who argue that traditionalists define the success of economic sanctions too narrowly. The debate between traditionalists and revisionists ultimately rests on the question of whether sanctions are successful.

The Traditionalist School

Something of an academic conventional wisdom has emerged regarding the ineffectiveness of sanctions as policy tools. Jentleson 2000 notes that the debate over the effectiveness of sanctions can be characterized as one between the “traditionalist” and “revisionist” schools of thought. Traditionalists generally view economic sanctions as ineffective foreign policy tools or, even worse, as counterproductive. Galtung 1967, the author’s seminal work, argues that economic sanctions help create a “rally around the flag” effect in the target state, thus strengthening the leadership of the target country that sanctions are supposed to undermine. Doxey 1980 asserts that the success of economic sanctions largely depends on their severity and the vulnerability of the target, but in empirical terms most of the actual sanctions were ineffective. Losman 1979 argues that sanctions failed to accomplish their political ends in the cases the author studied. Another pessimistic work is Barber 1979, which argues that economic sanctions have not been successful in achieving their primary goal of forcing the target to comply with the sender’s wishes. Pape 1997 argues that revisionists misinterpret the success of economic sanctions in most of their cases and therefore evaluate the effectiveness of sanctions rather optimistically.

  • Barber, James. “Economic Sanctions as a Policy Instrument.” International Affairs 5.3 (1979): 367–384.

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    Barber argues that while each sanctions episode may have the primary objective of seeking compliance by the target state, there are also “secondary” objectives that relate to the sender’s status, behavior, and expectations, and “tertiary” objectives that pertain to the structure of the international system, which must be taken into account. Sanctions, however, usually fail to achieve their primary objective.

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  • Doxey, Margaret. Economic Sanctions and International Enforcement. 2d ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980.

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    Examines cases where sanctions were employed by international organizations and finds that only in hypothetical cases of extreme economic vulnerability have the coercive properties of sanctions proved successful in achieving intended political goals.

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  • Galtung, Johan. “On the Effects of International Economic Sanctions: With Examples from the Case of Rhodesia.” World Politics 19 (1967): 378–416.

    DOI: 10.2307/2009785Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Galtung argues that the “naïve” theory of sanctions—economic deprivation leads to economic disintegration, which in turn leads to political disintegration, which in turn leads to compliance with the sender’s demands—fails because sanctions produce a “rally effect” in the target state.

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  • Jentleson, Bruce W. “Economic Sanctions and Post–Cold War Conflicts: Challenges for Theory and Policy.” In International Conflict Resolution after the Cold War. Edited by Paul C. Stern and Daniel Druckman, 123–177. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2000.

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    Casts the theoretical debate in the sanctions literature as one between traditionalists and revisionists. Traditionalists see little efficacy in the use of sanctions, while revisionists maintain that sanctions can be useful foreign-policy instruments.

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  • Losman, Donald L. International Economic Sanctions: The Cases of Cuba, Israel, and Rhodesia. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1979.

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    Using a case-study approach, the author finds that while sanctions managed to impose significant economic costs on Cuba, Israel, and Rhodesia, they failed to achieve their intended political goals.

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  • Pape, Robert A. “Why Economic Sanctions Do Not Work.” International Security 22 (1997): 90–136.

    DOI: 10.2307/2539368Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Replicates the 1990 Hufbauer, Schott, and Elliott study (see Hufbauer, et al. 2007, cited under General Overviews) and finds that only 5 of 115 sanctions episodes—or less than 3 percent of the cases—could be classified as successes.

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The Revisionist School

On the other side of the effectiveness debate, we find the revisionists, who argue that advocates of conventional wisdom define the success of economic sanctions too narrowly and place the bar so high that only a few cases could satisfy their criteria. The notion of a nationalist backlash against externally imposed sanctions was also picked up by Olson 1979, but the author argues that Galtung’s focus on a highly visible sanctions episode and his dated conception of the global economy biased his findings in the direction of the ineffectiveness of sanctions. Daoudi and Dajani 1983 argues that whether the target state complied with the demands of the sender state should not be the sole criterion for judging the success or failure of sanctions. Baldwin 1985 argues that sanctions cannot be analyzed in isolation but must be compared to the costs and benefits of other potential policies such as military action.

  • Baldwin, David A. Economic Statecraft. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985.

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    Compares economic sanctions to other policy instruments and argues that they have an undeserved bad reputation. Baldwin maintains that even though sanctions rarely succeed in forcing targets to comply with the demands of senders, the same can be said of other policies short of the use of military force. From this perspective, the costs of sanctions are lower compared to other policy alternatives.

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  • Daoudi, M. S., and M. S. Dajani. Economic Sanctions: Ideals and Experience. London: Routledge, 1983.

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    Argues that even though the total compliance of targets may not have been obtained through sanctions, the sender may nonetheless have snatched a partial success that should be deemed a positive and significant contribution to sanctions outcomes.

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  • Olson, Richard Stuart. “Economic Coercion in World Politics: With a Focus on North-South Relations.” World Politics 31 (1979): 471–494.

    DOI: 10.2307/2009906Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Argues that asymmetric economic relations and dependency allow for effective economic coercion, though more subtle economic weapons can create economic distress in the target.

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The Conditions for Sanctions Success

There is no consensus in the extant literature on what constitutes success. The success of sanctions is typically determined by comparing the post-sanctions outcome with the status quo ante. However, there is no agreed upon standard for what constitutes success, and the problems with defining it are at the heart of the debate between Elliott 1998, Baldwin 1998, and Pape 1998. Morgan and Schwebach 1995 does not investigate if sanctions work but when they do, Martin 1992 argues that multilateral cooperation is required for sanctions to have any effect. Drezner 1998 uses game theory to analyze the effectiveness of sanctions and argues that they can be useful policy tools if applied under suitable conditions. Brooks 2002 and Allen 2008 find that the regime type of the sanctioned state is crucial, while Ang and Peksen 2007 argues that the salience of the issue under dispute factors in the outcome of sanctions.

  • Allen, Susan Hannah. “The Domestic Political Costs of Economic Sanctions.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 52 (2008): 916–944.

    DOI: 10.1177/0022002708325044Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Argues that the political costs of economic sanctions are mitigated by domestic political institutions. Only in states with some degree of political openness can antigovernment activity have any impact on the sanctioned government. Autocratic systems, on the other hand, appear immune to such domestic pressure.

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  • Ang, Adrian U-Jin, and Dursun Peksen. “When Do Economic Sanctions Work? Asymmetric Perceptions, Issue Salience, and Outcomes.” Political Research Quarterly 60 (2007): 135–145.

    DOI: 10.1177/1065912906298632Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Adopts an issue-based approach to sanctions and finds that the more the sanctioning state perceives the issue under dispute to be salient, the more likely sanctions are to succeed.

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  • Baldwin, David A. “Evaluating Economic Sanctions.” International Security 23 (1998): 189–198.

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    Baldwin argues that the simple success or failure measure for sanctions in Pape 1997 (cited under Defining and Conceptualizing Economic Sanctions) does not allow for gradations in the degree or kinds of success. According to Baldwin, sanction effectiveness has to be evaluated in terms of combined analyses of costs and effectiveness. Baldwin considers the costs of sanctions as a good measure of their success: the higher the costs sanctions exact on the target state for noncompliance, the more successful they are.

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  • Brooks, Risa A. “Sanctions and Regime Type: What Works, and When?” Security Studies 11 (2002): 1–50.

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    Comprehensive sanctions that hurt the macroeconomy and the median voter will be more effective against democracies. Authoritarian regimes, on the other hand, tend to be insulated from public pressures and even gain from comprehensive sanctions by controlling the supply of vital goods, but they will be more vulnerable to targeted or “smart” sanctions aimed at the ruling elite.

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  • Drezner, Daniel W. “Conflict Expectations and the Paradox of Economic Coercion.” International Studies Quarterly 42.4 (1998): 709–731.

    DOI: 10.1111/0020-8833.00103Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Drezner shows that sanctioned states that expect future conflict with the sanctioning state are less likely to comply, because they are concerned that compliance would harm their future relations with the sanctioning state. By complying, they risk developing a reputation for caving into demands and hence will not give in to the sanctions.

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  • Elliott, Kimberly Ann. “The Sanctions Glass: Half Full or Completely Empty?” International Security 23 (1998): 50–65.

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    Elliott weighs in on the “glass is half full” side, with the argument that sanctions can be deemed successful if they contribute at least modestly to the outcome desired by the sender.

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  • Martin, Lisa L. Coercive Cooperation: Explaining Multilateral Economic Sanctions. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992.

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    Argues that multilateral sanctions are more likely to succeed than unilateral sanctions, as they reduce the possibility of sanctions “leakage.” Martin finds that two factors aid in the building and maintenance of a successful multilateral sanctions regime: the imprimatur of an international organization, and the incurring of significant costs by the primary sender of sanctions as a signal of resolve to the sanctioned state.

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  • Morgan, T. Clifton, and Valerie L. Schwebach. “Economic Sanctions as an Instrument of Foreign Policy: The Role of Domestic Politics.” International Interactions 21 (1995): 247–263.

    DOI: 10.1080/03050629508434868Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Maintains that sanctions are considered unsuccessful in general because the bar for measuring their success has been set too high, not because they are useless per se.

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  • Pape, Robert A. “Why Economic Sanctions Still Do Not Work.” International Security 23 (1998): 66–77.

    DOI: 10.2307/2539263Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Pape argues that the central policy purpose of economic sanctions is to modify the behavior of the target state. If the target state concedes to the demands of the coercer, then sanctions are deemed a success, and vice versa.

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The Problem of Selection Bias

To further complicate the question of whether sanctions are effective or successful, an argument has emerged recently that the literature on economic sanctions suffers from selection bias. Selection bias occurs when inferences are based on a nonrandom sample of cases that is not representative of the universe of cases from which it was drawn. Smith 1996 has indicated that by examining only cases where sanctions were imposed, the literature has selected on the dependent variable. Morgan and Schwebach 1997 argues that sanctions are most likely to be initiated when the probability of success of using them is high, therefore biasing the sample in the direction of overstating the successful use of sanctions. To find out how effective sanctions truly are, sound methodology requires that policy outcomes be compared with and without economic coercion, and Nooruddin 2002 and Blake and Klemm 2006 have attempted to examine the extent of selection bias. However, another group of scholars argues that the extant studies ignore the importance of threatened but not imposed sanctions and thus underestimate the utility of sanctions. Based on game theory, this argument posits that sanctions represent a loss of utility for both target and sender states in the form of disrupted trade, and therefore both actors have an incentive to reach an agreement before sanctions are imposed. Thus, if the sender prefers the status quo to the costs of imposing sanctions, no sanctions will be imposed; conversely, if the target prefers conceding to incurring the costs of sanctions, it will do so before sanctions are imposed. The emerging consensus in the sanctions literature is that concessions are most likely at the threat stage and that threats will succeed more often than sanctions. Drezner 2003 and Lacy and Niou 2004 find that sanctions that are likely to succeed will do so at the mere threat of sanctions. Krustev 2010, however, finds that while threats matter, so do the reputational costs associated with failing to carry out those threats.

  • Blake, Charles H., and Noah Klemm. “Reconsidering the Effectiveness of International Economic Sanctions: An Examination of Selection Bias.” International Politics 43 (2006): 133–149.

    DOI: 10.1057/palgrave.ip.8800137Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The authors adapt Boolean analytic techniques to estimate selection bias in the Hufbauer, Schott, Elliott data (see Hufbauer, et al. 2007, cited under General Overviews). Their analysis yields evidence of a selection bias.

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  • Drezner, Daniel W. “The Hidden Hand of Economic Coercion.” International Organization 57.3 (2003): 643–659.

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    Empirically tests game-theoretic models of economic coercion that hypothesize successful instances of economic coercion are much more likely to end at the threat stage than the imposition stage. Finds that the most successful coercion episodes are likely to end before sanctions are imposed, and the success rate of sanctions may be understated because of selection effects.

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  • Krustev, Valentin L. “Strategic Demands, Credible Threats, and Economic Coercion Outcomes.” International Studies Quarterly 54 (2010): 147–174.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2478.2009.00581.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Finds that threats have higher success rates than sanctions when the sender has tied its hands by risking at least some reputation costs that would be incurred if it fails to carry out a threat.

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  • Lacy, Dean, and Emerson M. S. Niou. “A Theory of Economic Sanctions and Issue Linkage: The Roles of Preferences, Information, and Threats.” Journal of Politics 66 (2004): 25–42.

    DOI: 10.1046/j.1468-2508.2004.00140.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Models the threat and use of economic sanctions as a multistage game with incomplete information, where the threat stage is critical, since sanctions that are likely to succeed will do so at the mere threat of sanctions.

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  • Morgan, T. Clifton, and Valerie L. Schwebach. “Fools Suffer Gladly: The Use of Economic Sanctions in International Crises.” International Studies Quarterly 41.1 (1997): 27–50.

    DOI: 10.1111/0020-8833.00032Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Maintains that studying only cases where sanctions were imposed creates the possibility of a selection bias. If sanctions are most likely to be initiated when the probability of success of imposing them is high, then the sample is biased in the direction of overstating the successful use of sanctions.

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  • Nooruddin, Irfan. “Modeling Selection Bias in Studies of Sanctions Efficacy.” International Interactions 28 (2002): 57–74.

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    Argues that existing empirical analyses are biased because they use a problematic dataset and ignore issues of selection bias. Uses a selection-corrected model of sanctions to test whether senders are more likely to impose sanctions on another state if they think they can succeed. Nooruddin finds that senders are more likely to use sanctions when the costs are low.

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  • Smith, Alastair. “The Success and Use of Sanctions.” International Interactions 21.3 (1996): 229–245.

    DOI: 10.1080/03050629508434867Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Argues that the occurrence of sanctions is intrinsically linked to their success, and the decision to intervene through the use of a sanction is biased if studies focus only on those cases in which sanctions were applied. If the target concedes, it will do so at the threat stage, and we never actually observe the sanctions at all.

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The Reasons States Impose Sanctions

Even revisionist scholars concede that economic sanctions generally fail, so why do states persist in using economic sanctions? One school of thought argues that compliance has not been the only objective sought by states when imposing economic sanctions. Barber 1979 and Lindsay 1986 argue that states pursue multiple objectives when initiating sanctions, while Wallensteen 1968 views sanctions as having expressive purposes. Nossal 1989 considers sanctions to be a vehicle for delivering “non-rational” punishment. Another school of thought considers sanctions to be driven by domestic political and economic dynamics. Hoffmann 1967 maintains that the decision to sanction is largely a function of internal cleavages or cross-pressures within sender states. Kaempfer and Lowenberg 1992 utilizes an economic framework to argue that the domestic reasons for a sender initiating sanctions are not merely symbolic. The authors argue that an interested portion of the public does indeed pay close attention—those economically affected by the sanctions policies. Drury 2001 finds that domestic politics affects the president’s decision to initiate economic sanctions.

  • Barber, James. “Economic Sanctions as a Policy Instrument.” International Affairs 5.3 (1979): 367–384.

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    Argues that while each sanctions episode may have the primary objective of seeking compliance by the target state, things are rarely that simple or straightforward. There are also “secondary” objectives that relate to the sender’s status, behavior, and expectations, and “tertiary” objectives that pertain to the structure of the international system, which must be taken into account.

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  • Drury, A. Cooper. “Sanctions as Coercive Diplomacy: The U.S. President’s Decision to Initiate Economic Sanctions.” Political Research Quarterly 54 (2001): 485–508.

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    Demonstrates that two domestic factors—approval ratings and the unemployment rate—affect the president’s decision to initiate economic sanctions, but the decision to modify sanctions policy is found to be invariant with domestic political factors.

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  • Hoffmann, Fredrik. “The Functions of Economic Sanctions: A Comparative Analysis.” Journal of Peace Research 4 (1967): 140–159.

    DOI: 10.1177/002234336700400204Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Finds that the British government’s decision to impose sanctions on Rhodesia was the product of a desire to alleviate cross-pressures in domestic politics.

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  • Kaempfer, William H., and Anton D. Lowenberg. International Economic Sanctions: A Public Choice Perspective. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1992.

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    Utilizes economic theory to demonstrate that domestic interest groups motivated by economic considerations affect not just the decision to impose sanctions but also what types of sanctions will be imposed.

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  • Lindsay, James M. “Trade Sanctions as Policy Instruments: A Re-Examination.” International Studies Quarterly 30 (1986): 153–173.

    DOI: 10.2307/2600674Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Lindsay argues that states are interested in a broader set of goals beyond mere compliance. States are also interested in subverting and deterring target states, as well as in international and domestic symbolism.

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  • Nossal, Kim Richard. “International Sanctions as International Punishment.” International Organization 43 (1989): 301–322.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0020818300032926Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Challenges the conventional “means-end” rationality assumption that sanctions are imposed to induce a change in the behavior of the target state. The author argues that sanctions are a “non-rational” but instrumental vehicle for the delivery of international punishment.

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  • O’Sullivan, Meghan L. Shrewd Sanctions: Statecraft and State Sponsors of Terrorism. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2003.

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    Using a case-study approach, the author argues that not all sanctions cases are alike and that there is significant variation among the cases with regard to the purposes for employing sanctions. She recommends flexibility in designing and imposing sanctions that are deliberately tailored to achieve the particular policy goal.

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  • Wallensteen, Peter. “Characteristics of Economic Sanctions.” Journal of Peace Research 5 (1968): 248–267.

    DOI: 10.1177/002234336800500303Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Maintains that states may impose sanctions for expressive or instrumental reasons, but are particularly prone to use them for expressive purposes to signal anger at, or disapproval of, the target state.

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Sanctions and the United Nations

The emergence of the Cold War in the late 1940s and the disintegration of the unity among the five permanent members prevented the United Nations from living up to the hopes and ideals of its founders. Luck 2006 points out that the UN Security Council managed to adopt economic sanctions and military sanctions just once during the Cold War era. The UN’s ability to react to the North Korean invasion of South Korea in June 1950 was made possible only by the Soviet boycott of Security Council sessions. In 1965 the Security Council called on states not to recognize and to break off all economic relations with the white regime of Ian Smith in Rhodesia. It was not, however, until 1968 that the Security Council issued a resolution invoking Chapter VII of the UN Charter and established a committee to monitor the sanctions regime against Rhodesia. The United Nations General Assembly voted to impose economic sanctions against the apartheid regime of South Africa in 1962, but it lacked any binding authority. According to Knight 2004, during the Cold War era the Security Council preferred the use of arms embargoes as opposed to trade embargoes, given their direct focus on the means of violence and the lack of negative humanitarian impacts. The author notes, however, that arms embargoes during the Cold War were ineffective because of the lack of strong backing by member states and of a dedicated body for monitoring implementation. Doxey 1996 points out that during the Cold War era the Security Council also experimented with diplomatic and political measures, in addition to economic sanctions and arms embargoes. It urged member states not to recognize the racist regime in Rhodesia, South Africa’s occupation of Namibia, and South Africa’s 1984 constitution. The council also possesses the power to recommend to the General Assembly the suspension or expulsion of any member state for persistently violating the charter, but it has never been employed. Cortright and Lopez 2000 points out that with the end of the Cold War the Security Council became “sanctions happy,” mandating fourteen sanctions in the 1990s alone, including comprehensive economic sanctions against Iraq, Yugoslavia, and Haiti. The authors find that few of the sanctions were successful in effecting a change in the behavior of the target. In Iraq, Yugoslavia, and Haiti, military force followed the perceived failure of comprehensive sanctions. In Angola, Liberia, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone, economic sanctions appeared to have no effect on the use of force by the various parties. Cortright and Lopez 2002 points out that while comprehensive sanctions can be considered more effective in that they pack more clout, the growing concern about the collateral humanitarian costs has led to calls for the use of so-called smart or targeted sanctions. Brzoska 2003 shows that the UN has undertaken reforms to formulate targeted financial sanctions, overhaul the arms embargo system, develop travel-related sanctions, and develop the institutional capacity necessary to carry out sanctions reforms. Chesterman and Pouligny 2003 argues that while institutional reforms are necessary to the UN sanctions system, the principal factors affecting sanctions success remain political.

  • Brzoska, Michael. “From Dumb to Smart? Recent Reforms of UN Sanctions.” Global Governance 9 (2003): 519–535.

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    Highlights the reform to the UN sanctions through the Interlaken, Bonn-Berlin, and Stockholm Processes dealing with targeted financial controls, arms embargoes and flight restrictions, and implementing reforms, respectively.

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  • Chesterman, Simon, and Béatrice Pouligny. “Are Sanctions Meant to Work? The Politics of Creating and Implementing Sanctions through the United Nations.” Global Governance 9 (2003): 503–518.

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    Argues that sanctions are likely to remain the policy instrument of choice for the UN Security Council, and that the political contexts in which they are formulated and implemented and the intentions of the key actors are key to understanding if the sanctions will work.

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  • Cortright, David, and George A. Lopez. The Sanctions Decade: Assessing UN Strategies in the 1990s. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2000.

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    Concludes that few of the sanctions imposed by the United Nations in the 1990s support the view that sanctions alone can achieve the goal of changing the behavior of targeted states.

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  • Cortright, David, and George A. Lopez. Sanctions and the Search for Security: Challenges to UN Action. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2002.

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    Maintains that despite the failure of sanctions to secure compliance, the UN sanctions regime has made advances in the sophistication of its sanctions regime, moving away from relying on comprehensive trade sanctions to more carefully targeted sanctions.

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  • Doxey, Margaret P. International Sanctions in Contemporary Perspective. 2d ed. Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 1996.

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    Points out that while all the major cases of international sanctions have relied heavily on economic measures, questions regarding their efficacy have been raised. Comprehensive sanctions packages include not just economic measures but also political and diplomatic measures like the political isolation and sports and cultural boycotts against South Africa’s apartheid regime.

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  • Knight, W. Andy. “Improving the Effectiveness of UN Arms Embargoes.” In The United Nations and Global Security. Edited by Richard M. Price and Mark Zacher, 39–54. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1057/9781403980908Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Argues that arms embargoes are important “smart” tools of conflict prevention, as they allow the UN to directly target groups and weapons that kill and injure civilians in both interstate and intrastate conflicts.

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  • Luck, Edward C. UN Security Council: Practice and Promise. London: Routledge, 2006.

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    Argues that, as originally conceived, the postwar UN Security Council placed a greater emphasis on military enforcement rather than economic coercion, but the Cold War and geopolitical realities intervened. Instead, during the Cold War the UN resorted to various arms embargoes in hopes of maintaining or restoring international peace and security

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Sanctions and Other International and Regional Actors

The League of Nations and the United Nations have not been the only sources of multilateral or international economic sanctions. Cortright, et al. 2005 argues that the UN secretariat and the Security Council lack the institutional capacity to ensure compliance with sanctions regimes and must rely on cooperation from various specialized international organizations and agencies, as well as regional organizations. Vries and Hazelzet 2005 points out that a European sanctions policy is dependent on the ability of European Union member states to come to an agreement regarding the effectiveness of sanctions as a foreign-policy tool and the conditions under which they would impose sanctions. As such, the authors argue that many European Union members have been averse to the use of sanctions and prefer positive measures, given the costliness and risks involved in deploying sanctions. Charnovitz 2005 points out that the World Trade Organization’s dispute-resolution mechanism, with compulsory jurisdiction, a rapid timetable for decisions, the possibility of appeal, and a compliance review process, is the envy of other international organizations and agencies. The author warns, however, that questions remain whether the World Trade Organization’s sanctions regime can be considered successful, and that copying a World Trade Organization–style sanctioning regime in other international organizations would run into the problem of violating World Trade Organization rules. Wohlgemuth 2005 examines the case of African sanctions deployed against Burundi after a military coup in 1996 and argues that they were unique in being initiated and maintained by the neighboring countries in the region. The Organisation of African Unity supported sanctions only after the decision had been made, and the UN later supported it reluctantly. Wohlgemuth maintains that the sanctions succeeded in isolating Burundi and forcing through political reforms.

  • Charnovitz, Steve. “The World Trade Organization: Sanctions for Non-Compliance.” In International Sanctions: Between Words and Wars in the Global System. Edited by Peter Wallensteen and Carina Staibano, 159–164. New York: Frank Cass, 2005.

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    Points out that although the World Trade Organization’s dispute-settlement mechanism is often held up as an example for other international organizations to copy, there are doubts as to whether the World Trade Organization’s sanctions even work.

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  • Cortright, David, Linda Gerber, and George A. Lopez. “Implementing Targeted Sanctions: The Role of International Agencies and Regional Organizations.” In International Sanctions: Between Words and Wars in the Global System. Edited by Peter Wallensteen and Carina Staibano, 144–158. New York: Frank Cass, 2005.

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    Argues that the roles of international and regional organizations will become increasingly important as the UN moves away from comprehensive trade sanctions toward more specialized and targeted sanctions.

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  • Vries, Anthonius W. de, and Hadewych Hazelzet. “The EU as a New Actor on the Sanctions Scene.” In International Sanctions: Between Words and Wars in the Global System. Edited by Peter Wallensteen and Carina Staibano, 95–107. New York: Frank Cass, 2005.

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    Argues that the European Union’s sanctions policy as it currently exists is to rely on positive rather than negative measures, because it is easier and less costly for member states to agree to use positive measures.

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  • Wohlgemuth, Lennart. “African Sanctions: The Case of Burundi.” In International Sanctions: Between Words and Wars in the Global System. Edited by Peter Wallensteen and Carina Staibano, 126–143. New York: Frank Cass, 2005.

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    Examines the case of Burundi as an example of sanctions being deployed as an effort to seek “an African solution to African problems.” Argues that the sanctions were unique in the fact that they were initiated and maintained by the neighboring countries and were only later supported by the Organization for African Unity and the UN.

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Costs and Consequences of Sanctions

Studies of the costs and consequences of sanctions flourished in the post–Cold War era, with growing international attention focused on comprehensive sanctions against Iraq, Haiti, and the former Yugoslavia.

The Costs of Sanctions

Mueller and Mueller 1999 provides evidence that sanctions have generated more victims than the use of weapons of mass destruction, and Weiss 1999 argues that the actual human costs of sanctions are just as great as those of wars. The unintended costs of comprehensive economic sanctions have led to calls for so-called smart sanctions to target the offending regime while minimizing collateral damage to innocents. Tostensen and Bull 2002, however, argues that smart sanctions as just as costly to enforce as conventional sanctions and suffer from unduly high public expectations.

The Consequences of Sanctions

A growing body of research by scholars, governmental and nongovernmental organizations, and health professionals thoroughly studied the possible detrimental humanitarian consequences of economic sanctions. The consensus in the literature on the consequences of sanctions is that innocent citizens are usually the primary victims and disproportionately suffer from economic coercion. Sanctions produce collateral civilian harm because targeted regimes typically control the supply of scarce public resources (made even more scarce by sanctions), and political elites are able to push the costs of sanctions on to average citizens. Andreas 2005 and Selden 1999 show that targeted elites and their supporters are further able to diminish the burdens of sanctions by generating revenues and securing supplies of scarce resources through illegal smuggling and other underground transnational economic channels. Cortright and Lopez 2000 argues that sanctions inadvertently weaken the capacity of the target regime’s domestic opponents to resist repression. Similarly, Lopez and Cortright 1997, using UN sanctions against Iraq as a case study, argues that the deterioration in human-rights conditions was an unintended consequence of economic sanctions caused by disproportionate economic hardship falling on Iraqi civilians. Peksen 2009 shows that comprehensive sanctions result in the general deterioration of human-rights conditions in target states. Gibbons 1999 and Gibbons and Garfield 1999 examine the political and humanitarian impacts of the US-led sanctions against Haiti and find that sanctions tend to reinforce the power of repressive regimes while simultaneously weakening the power of the population to either resist or survive.

  • Andreas, Peter. “Criminalizing Consequences of Sanctions: Embargo Busting and Its Legacy.” International Studies Quarterly 49 (2005): 335–360.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.0020-8833.2005.00347.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Examines the criminal repercussions of economic sanctions when political elites in the targeted state enter into arrangements with organized crime to create sanction-busting networks. Andreas argues that these criminal networks persist even after the lifting of sanctions, contributing to corruption and undermining the rule of law not just in the target state but in neighboring states as well.

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  • Cortright, David, and George A. Lopez. “Learning from the Sanctions Decade.” Global Dialogue 2 (2000): 11–24.

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    Authors argue that sanctions have unintended political effects that affect disaffected political groups in the target state. Sanctions prevent opponents of the target regime from maintaining contact with external actors who provide support for their domestic political efforts. Sanctions also provide authoritarian governments with leverage to create a “rally around the flag effect” as a means of suppressing domestic opposition.

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  • Gibbons, Elizabeth D. Sanctions in Haiti: Human Rights and Democracy under Assault. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1999.

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    Based on her experiences working for UNICEF in Haiti from 1992 to 1996, the author discusses the tension in UN policy between the goals of using sanctions designed to reimpose democracy in Haiti and the international organization’s stated positions on human rights. Gibbons argues that sanctions resulted in the systematic violation of human rights of Haitians young and old.

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  • Gibbons, E., and R. Garfield. “The Impact of Economic Sanctions on Health and Human Rights in Haiti 1991–1994.” American Journal of Public Health 89 (1999): 1499–1504.

    DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.89.10.1499Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Argues that although economic sanctions were aimed at restoring democratic rule in Haiti, the case-study evidence suggests that the sanctions were counterproductive and led to further deterioration of civil and political liberties. The authors also found that the impact fell disproportionately on the most disadvantaged Haitians.

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  • Lopez, George A., and David Cortright. “Economic Sanctions and Human Rights: Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution?” International Journal of Human Rights 1 (1997): 1–25.

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    Authors argue that the further deterioration of human rights was an unintended consequence of economic sanctions caused by disproportionate economic hardship falling on Iraqi civilians.

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  • Peksen, Dursun. “Better or Worse? The Effect of Economic Sanctions on Human Rights.” Journal of Peace Research 46 (2009): 59–77.

    DOI: 10.1177/0022343308098404Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Finds that comprehensive and multilateral sanctions result in greater violations of human rights in the target state than selective and unilateral sanctions, even if the purpose of the sanctions is to improve human rights.

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  • Selden, Zachary. Economic Sanctions as Instruments of American Foreign Policy. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1999.

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    Uses case studies to demonstrate how sanctions aided the rise of a powerful criminal elite in Yugoslavia who sponsored extreme nationalist political figures, and how Saddam Hussein twisted sanctions for his own personal benefit in Iraq.

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Why policymakers Persist in Imposing Sanctions

Even as the overall judgment of the extant literature on the effectiveness of sanctions is negative, its popularity as a policy instrument has never been higher among policymakers. What accounts for this disjunction between the supposed academic conventional wisdom and actual policymaking? Morgan and Schwebach 1997 dismisses policymakers as “fools” for persisting in using sanctions when they are ineffective. Tsebelis 1990 argues that policymakers have failed to identify the scenarios in which sanction use might be appropriate. However, some advocates of sanctions consider them as an alternative policy instrument to the use of military force. Baldwin 1999–2000 points out that the decision by policymakers to employ sanctions may be less a matter of their effectiveness than of the relative costliness of the use of force. George 1991, however, views sanctions as being effective only when the threat of force is omnipresent and available to be used if needed. O’Sullivan 2003 maintains that policymakers ask different questions than academics and are not concerned whether sanctions are useful per se, but whether they can achieve the desired results in specific instances.

  • Baldwin, David A. “The Sanctions Debate and the Logic of Choice.” International Security 24 (1999–2000): 80–107.

    DOI: 10.1162/016228899560248Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The author argues that judgments regarding the wisdom of using economic sanctions should not be based on its expected utility but on whether its costs are higher or lower than alternative courses of action.

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  • George, Alexander L. Forceful Persuasion: Coercive Diplomacy as an Alternative to War. Washington, DC: United States Institute for Peace Press, 1991.

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    Maintains that sanctions can be an effective policy tool if they are backed by the threat of force. On the one hand, they are more compelling than diplomacy alone because they carry a threat of resorting to war if compliance is not forthcoming. On the other hand, the use of sanctions also avoids the rapid resort to war, the consequences of which may not be foreseeable.

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  • Morgan, T. Clifton, and Valerie L. Schwebach. “Fools Suffer Gladly: The Use of Economic Sanctions in International Crises.” International Studies Quarterly 41.1 (1997): 27–50.

    DOI: 10.1111/0020-8833.00032Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Finds that there are no general benefits to employing economic sanctions. The authors compare the relative utility of sanctions and military force but only attribute costs to the use of sanctions while ignoring any costs associated with the use of force.

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  • O’Sullivan, Meghan L. Shrewd Sanctions: Statecraft and State Sponsors of Terrorism. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2003.

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    Argues that although the United States remains interested in promoting democracy and human rights, combating terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in a post-9/11 international environment will affect the ends, as well as the targets, against which sanctions are deployed.

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  • Tsebelis, George. “Are Sanctions Effective? A Game-Theoretic Analysis.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 34 (1990): 3–28.

    DOI: 10.1177/0022002790034001001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Using a game-theoretic model, the author shows that under a wide range of circumstances sanctions do not have any impact on the behavior of targets. Tsebelis argues that policymakers fail to learn the successful conditions for sanctions because they commit the “Robinson Crusoe fallacy” of assuming they are playing against nature when they are, in fact, playing against rational opponents attempting to promote their own ends.

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