South-Western College Publishing - Economics  

Policy Debate: Are Economic Sanctions Effective in Altering a Country's Actions?

Issues and Background

In today's fluid global marketplace, the failure of unilateral sanctions has become apparent: sanctions simply alter trade patterns without seriously damaging the target nation. Unless multiple countries deploy trade sanctions, the targeted country can avoid their punishing effects by turning to alternative suppliers. Although the United States enjoyed near-monopoly status in the production of many goods earlier in the century, that is not the case today. Instead, sanctions transfer business from U.S. companies to foreign competitors in the same market....

By providing an external focus for hostilities, unilateral sanctions also empower the targeted government in other ways. With the collapse of the USSR and the subsequent end of subsidies to Cuba in 1990, the Cuban military threat has disappeared; the sanctions have not. Indeed, many observers argue that continued U.S. antagonism toward Cuba has been the principal reason Castro has remained in power, despite the Cuban economy's deterioration.
~Aaron Lukas

Former President Carter was right to tell Cubans their country is isolated without true democracy and human rights. But lifting the trade embargo will remove the only incentive Castro has to reform. Instead, the United States should cultivate closer relations with ordinary Cubans, support those struggling for freedom and prod the dictatorship to loosen its grip.
~Stephen Johnson

Economic sanctions have often been used by the U.S. and other countries in attempts to alter the behavior of the target countries. These sanctions typically include general or selective trade embargoes, restrictions on foreign investment, and restriction on travel to and from the affected country. Among the most prominent examples of current or recent U.S. economic sanctions:

  • The U.S. has imposed sanctions on Cuba since the early 1960s in response to the overthrow of the U.S.-supported Battista regime.
  • A grain embargo was imposed on the Soviet Union in 1979 in response to the invasion of Afghanistan.
  • Sanctions were imposed on South Africa and Rhodesia to alter the racist policies of their governments.
  • Sanctions were imposed on Libya between 1986 and 2004 in response to its past support of terrorist groups and its alleged connection to the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.
  • Since 1984, economic sanctions have been imposed upon Iran in a response to its support for terrorists groups and its attempts to acquire nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.
  • Economic sanctions had been imposed on Iraq since the end of the Gulf War in response to its attempts to develop weapons of mass destruction.
  • More recently, sanctions have been imposed on North Korea in response to its development of a a nuclear program designed to produce nuclear warheads.

While economic sanctions have been a popular tool of international policy, there is substantial disagreement over the effectiveness of these policies. Advocates of sanctions argue that the imposition of economic sanctions imposes substantial economic costs on the citizens of the affected countries. Since the development of the theory of comparative advantage by David Ricardo in the early 1800s, economists have argued that free trade provides economic benefits for all participants. Under this argument, countries may increase their level of per capita consumption by specializing in the production of those goods that they can produce at the lowest opportunity cost and trading these goods for those that can be acquired at a lower opportunity cost from other countries. The imposition of sanctions eliminates or reduces these potential gains from trade. (A more extensive discussion of the possible gains from trade appears in the debate investigating whether the U.S. gains from international trade).

It is also important to note that while multilateral sanctions may impose a substantial cost on the target country, unilateral sanctions are most likely to impose substantial costs primarily on the country that imposes the sanctions since the target country has other trading options. For example, the U.S. trade embargo on trade with Cuba initially resulted in the development of close trading ties between Cuba and the Soviet Union. In more recent years, Cuba has traded extensively with Europe and other North, South, and Central American countries. The availability of alternative trading partners substantially weakens the effect of the sanctions on the target country.

Supporters of sanctions argue that U.N.-sponsored sanctions have been effective in ending racist policies in Rhodesia and South Africa. Opponents of sanctions, however, argue that sanctions generally seem to have little or no effect in altering the behavior of the target country. They suggest that the changes in Rhodesia and South Africa would have occurred as a result of internal pressures even in the absence of sanctions.

The U.S. government has often imposed sanctions on countries in the hope that these sanctions will lead to political unrest and the replacement of the current government with one that is likely to be supportive of policies advocated by the U.S. Opponents of economic sanctions, though, argue that sanctions often make it easier for the current political leadership to blame economic problems on the trade restrictions imposed by the U.S. (and/or other nations). Health care problems, poverty, and so forth are blamed on the effect of the sanctions instead of on political and economic problems within the country.

One concern with sanctions is that the children, the poor, and the sick are often the primary victims of the trade restrictions while the leadership is largely unaffected. Long-term sanctions may lead to negative feelings toward the U.S. (and other countries that initiate and support sanctions) on the part of the general population in the target country. Concerns are often expressed that this may lead to an expansion in terrorist activities directed at U.S. targets. Proponents of sanctions argue that allowing free trade trade provides support for governments that engage in substantial human rights violations.

For better or worse, economic sanctions have become one of the most frequently used foreign policy tools of the U.S. It is likely that the debate over their efficacy will continue for some time to come.

Primary Resources and Data

  • U.S. Interests Section - Havana, "US Legislation on Cuba"
    This website contains links to online documents detailing U.S. laws related to Cuba.

  • U.S. Interests Section - Havana, "US Policy Toward Cuba"
    This website contains links to online policy statements dealing with U.S.-Cuba relations.

  • Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1996
    The Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1996, also known as the Helms-Burton Act, imposes increased sanctions on Cuba with the intention of encouraging democratic reform. One of the more controversial components of this Act is Title III, which allows legal actions against any firm that receives benefits from the use of any properties that had been confiscated by the Cuban government after the revolution. This provision has raised tensions with the European Union since firms in the EU are under no such restriction. To help reduce international conflict, Presidents Clinton and Bush have consistently renewed 6-month suspensions of Title III of this Act. (The Adobe Acrobat viewer plugin is required to view this document. You may download this viewer by clicking here.)

  • U.S. Department of State, "Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996 (Helms-Burton)"
    This page contains links to U.S. government news releases dealing with the Helms-Burton Act (from 1996 - present). Statements by Presidents Clinton and Bush on the rationale for the suspension of Title II of this Act are provided.

  • CubaNet News, "Cuba News"
    This website contains an extensive collection of current and recent news releases dealing with Cuba and U.S.-Cuba relations.

  • Congressional Research Service, "The Iran-Libya Sanctions Act"
    This Congressional Research Service report contains a summary of the provisions of the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) of 1996 (as amended in 2001). This Act represents a continuation of unilateral U.S. sanctions that began in the early 1980s against these countries. The purpose of this Act is to reduce the ability of these countries to expand their military power and their support for terrorist activities. It was passed in response to allegations that Iran was attempting to acquire the capability to produce nuclear weapons and had been actively engaged in funding terrorist activities. One of the more controversial features of this Act is that it requires the U.S. President (with a few exceptions) to impose sanctions against foreign firms that invest above specified threshold levels in the energy sectors of Iran or Libya. The sanctions on Iran terminate if Iran ceases its attempts to develop weapons of mass destruction and is removed from the State Department list of countries that sponsor terrorist activities. Sanctions against Libya were lifted in 2004 when it was decided that it had fulfilled the requirements of the U.N. resolutions dealing with the bombing of Pan Am 103.

    In 2001, the Iran-Libya Sanctions Extension Act extended the provisions of the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act for another five years. (The Adobe Acrobat viewer plugin is required to view this document. You may download this viewer by clicking here.)

  • Institute for International Economics, "Case 90-1, US and UN v. Iraq, (1990-: Invasion of Kuwait, Impairment of military capability, destabilization), Chronology of Key Events"
    This online document contains a very detailed timeline of the events from the events leading up to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait to recent events. The history of sanctions against Iraq are presented as part of this timeline.

  • Institute for International Economics, "Sanctions and Terrorism: Case 90-1, United States and UN v. Iraq"
    On this website, the Institute for International Economics provides quotations from many of the key players from the U.S., Iraq, the U.N., and other countries. Relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions are also provided.

  • United Nations, Office of the Iraqi Programme: Oil-for-Food
    This U.N. website contains information on the history of the Oil-for-Food program that was adopted in 1995 to allow Iraq to sell oil to acquire food and other humanitarian supplies. This program was terminated on May 31, 2004. This site provides a history of the program, statistics on weekly oil exports, and a detailed description of what Was allowed under this program.

  • UNICEF, "Nearly One Million Children Malnourished in Iraq, Says UNICEF"
    This November 26, 1997 online UNICEF news article indicates that economic sanctions against Iraq contributed to chronic malnourishment for nearly one million children in southern and central Iraq. Surveys indicated that approximately 25% of Iraqi children under the age of five were underweight in 1997.

  • Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture / World Food Programme, "FAO/WFP Food Supply and Nutrition Assessment Mission to Iraq"
    This FAO/WFP document contains a detailed description of the results of a 1997 survey of the food and nutrition conditions in Iraq. It is noted that malnutrition remained a serious problem two years after the adoption of the oil-for-food program. A deterioration in the water and sanitation systems created further health concerns while contributing to a reduction in agricultural output by reducing irrigation. This document also provides an overview of the general economic conditions in Iraq in 1997.

  • UNICEF, "Overview of Nutritional Status of Under-fives in South/Centre Iraq"
    This December 2002 UNICEF report describes the continuing nutritional problems experienced by children under the age of 5. It is observed that malnutrition rates had fallen by 30-50% from the high levels of 1996 as a result of the oil-for-food program. Concerns are expressed, however, that malnutrition rates are still substantially above those experienced in 1991. Some of the problems are linked to the breakdown in energy and water supply systems as a result of war and sanctions. (Electrical supply problems limit the use of water filtration systems required to produce an adequate supply of potable water.) (The Adobe Acrobat viewer plugin is required to view this document. You may download this viewer by clicking here.)

  • United Nations Commission on Human Rights, "Statement of Mr. Max van der Stoel, Special Rapporteur of the Commission on the Situation of Human Rights in Iraq"
    This March 31, 1999 statement describes the large volume of human rights violations reported for Iraq. Arbitrary executions, interference with religious practice, internal deportations of Kurds, and an extensive collection of other human rights abuses are described.

  • United Nations Commission on Human Rights, "Situation of Human Rights in Iraq, 1999"
    This February 26, 1999 report describes human rights concerns in Iraq. This report is not based on direct observations since the Special Rapporteur has not been allowed in Iraq since 1992. Some of the most serious concerns are those that affected the population in southern Iraq, the Shiite religions community, and the Kurds. Reports indicate that approximately 2,500 prisoners were executed between autumn 1997 and February 1999. This report indicates that a large share of these executions appear to be for political reasons. Nutrition, health care, water, and sewer system problems are also described in this report.

  • United Nations Commission on Human Rights, "Situation of Human Rights in Iraq, 2002"
    This March 15, 2002 report is the result of the first visit by the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights since 1992. Concerns are expressed over the execution of political prisoners, cruel and inhuman punishment, restrictions on religious and political freedom, forced military recruitment, and other human rights issues. It is noted that the February 2002 visit to Iraq provided only limited information concerning these issues due to the brief nature of the visit (and the limited advance notice). (The Adobe Acrobat viewer plugin is required to view this document. You may download this viewer by clicking here.)

  • World Health Organization (WHO), "Iraqi Health System Close to Collapse"
    This February 27, 1997 WHO press release describes a variety of public health problems in Iraq. It is noted that supplies of basic medicines were either nonexistent or available in only limited quantities. It is observed that: "Diseases that were virtually under control are re-emerging."

  • U.S. Department of the Treasury, "Sanction Program Summaries"
    This website provides a list of the countries, groups, and individuals that are the target of U.S. trade sanctions and embargoes.

  • USDA Foreign Agriculture Service, "Economic and Trade Sanctions"
    This webpage contains links to information concerning trade embargoes on agricultural commodities. Specific information is available concerning trade with Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, and Sudan.

  • USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, "Trade with Cuba"
    The USDA Foreign Agricultural Service provides detailed information concerning U.S./Cuba trade in agricultural commodities. It also provides information on the status of Cuban agricultural markets and production.

  • U.S. International Trade Commission, "The Economic Impact of U.S. Sanctions With Respect to Cuba"
    This very detailed February 2001 U.S. International Trade Commission study investigates the economic impact of U.S. trade sanctions involving Cuba from 1960 through 1998. This study suggests that economic sanctions did not impose a major cost on either the U.S. or Cuban economies. The major losses to the U.S. occurred with the earlier nationalization of U.S. owned properties. The small impact on the U.S. economy is the result of the relatively small size of the Cuban market. It is argued that the effect on Cuba is relatively small since Cuba was able to quickly find alternative trading partners. A detailed discussion is provided of the estimated effects of the sanctions on many sectors of the U.S. and Cuban economies. (The Adobe Acrobat viewer plugin is required to view this document. You may download this viewer by clicking here.)

Different Perspectives in the Debate

  • Robert P. O'Quinn, "A User's Guide to Economic Sanctions"
    Robert P. O'Quinn argues, in this June 25, 1997 Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, that economic sanctions are rarely effective in achieving their goals. He notes that President Clinton "imposed new unilateral economic sanctions on 35 countries that make up 42 percent of the world's population and consume 19 percent of its exports." These sanctions are an important component of U.S. foreign policy and have imposed substantial costs on U.S. consumers and businesses. While economic sanctions are widely used, O'Quinn cites evidence that indicates that sanctions have not achieved their goals in the vast majority of applications. Unilateral sanctions generally impose little harm on the target country while sometimes having a substantial effect on U.S. citizens. O'Quinn also suggests that sanctions, when they impact the target country, generally affect the middle class rather than the leaders of the country.

  • Sidney Weintraub, "Sanctions: When They Don't Work, Keep Doing the Same"
    Sidney Weintraub critiques the use of sanctions in this August 21, 2001 online article. He argues that they are rarely effective and harm the general population instead of the leadership. The unilateral imposition of sanctions also harm relationships among allied countries who disagree on the need for sanctions. Weintraub suggests that engagement with the target countries has a better track record of improving economic and political conditions. (The Adobe Acrobat viewer plugin is required to view this document. You may download this viewer by clicking here.)

  • Cato Center for Trade Policy Studies, "Unilateral Sanctions"
    This Cato Institute web site contains links to online documents that argue against the use of sanctions.

  • Institute for International Economics, "Economic Sanctions"
    On this website, the Institute for International Economics provides a variety of online resources that analyze the effectiveness of economic sanctions. It is argued that history suggests that economic sanctions have generally been ineffective.

  • Brookings Institution, "Export Controls and Sanctions"
    This Brookings Institution website contains links to a series of studies concerning the effectiveness of economic sanctions.

  • Peter Wallensteen, Carina Staibano, and Mikael Eriksson, "Making Targeted Sanctions Effective: Guidelines for the Implementation of UN Policy Options"
    Peter Wallensteen, Carina Staibano, and Mikael Eriksson examine methods of increasing the effectiveness of of economic sanctions in this 2003 final report of the Stockholm Process on the Implementation of Targeted Sanctions. They observe that economic sanctions have generally not been very successful in attaining their objectives. They argue that sanctions will be more effective when:
    • implementation methods are taken into account when sanction resolutions are designed,
    • international support is maintained for the sanctions,
    • sanctions are monitored and sanctions measures are adjusted in response to new information,
    • the UN Secretariat plays a role in the sanction process,
    • Information from the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee work is used to improve the operation of sanctions,
    • training programs are implemented to ensure an appropriate implementation of the sanctions,
    • model legislation on sanctions are created to assist members states in developing their own legislation,
    • measures are adjusted to the type of sanctions imposed,
    • the sanctions are accurately targeted, and
    • a reporting process is implemented.
    (The Adobe Acrobat viewer plugin is required to view this document. You may download this viewer by clicking here.)

  • Project Ploughshare, "Assessing Economic Sanctions"
    This document provides a report on Project Ploughshare's November 1997 Forum on Economic Sanctions. While this group advocates the use of sanctions over the use of military force, concerns are expressed over the humanitarian cost of the sanctions against Iraq. A good discussion is provided of the history of the Iraqi situation. The effectiveness of sanctions in the cases of Iraq and South Africa are also discussed in this document.

  • Scott Snyder, "Economic Instruments to Achieve Security Objectives: Incentives, Sanctions, and Non-Proliferation"
    This May 2000 online document summarizes the results of a March 1999 seminar series sponsored by the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership and the Social Science Research Council. The cases of China, North Korea, India, and Pakistan provide much of the focus of this discussion. (The Adobe Acrobat viewer plugin is required to view this document. You may download this viewer by clicking here.)

  • Hanna Newcombe, "The Ethics of Economic Sanctions"
    In this online document, Hanna Newcombe examines arguments raised during a November 27-28, 1997 forum dealing with the ethics of economic sanctions. Speakers at this forum argue that economic sanctions often harm those that policymakers ultimately wish to help. Since sanctions affect the entire economy, they target the innocent while often having little effect on those who are guilty of the actions that prompted the sanctions.

  • Sheldon Richman, "The Evils of Economic Sanctions"
    Sheldon Richman provides several arguments against sanctions in this October 1996 document. He observes that sanctions limits the freedom of U.S. citizens to buy products of their choice. They harm the citizens of the target country while not affecting the rulers. Richman suggests that the external threat associated with sanctions is likely to result in hostility to the country imposing the sanctions and may increase domestic support for the leadership of the target country.

  • Daniel Griswold, "Going Alone on Economic Sanctions Hurts U.S. More than Foes"
    Daniel Griswold argues that unilateral economic sanctions harm U.S. citizens and U.S. businesses while having little impact on the target country. U.S. firms have lost sales and have been acquiring a reputation of unreliable sellers as a result of these sanctions. Griswold argues that China's growing market sector has been the result of increasingly free trade with the U.S. and the rest of the world. He suggests that such a policy is preferable to the use of sanctions.

  • Richard N. Haass, "Economic Sanctions: Too Much of a Bad Thing"
    Richard N. Haass argues that the costs of unilateral sanctions has often outweighed the benefits. While there is little evidence of their efficacy, economic sanctions have become a frequently used tool of U.S. foreign policy. Haass suggests that the U.S. should more carefully evaluate the expected costs and benefits of sanctions before their imposition.

  • Naomi Koppel, "U.N. Report Slams Economic Sanctions"
    This August 16, 2000 Associated Press article describes a report on sanctions issued by the U.N. Subcommittee on Human Rights. The report concludes that sanctions against Iraq and Cuba have resulted in substantial harm to the civilian populations.

  • Institute for International Economics, "Economic Sanctions Reduce US Exports by $15 Billion to $20 Billion Annually"
    The Institute for International Economics summarizes the results of a study of the economic impact of sanctions in this April 16, 1997 press release. This study, conducted by Gary Clyde Hufbauer, Jeffrey J. Schott, and Kimberly Ann Elliott, finds that sanctions had achieved positive effects less than 20% of the time in the 1970s and 1980s. The costs to the U.S. economy, however, appear to be relatively large.

  • Ivan Eland, "Sanctions: Useless, or Worse Than Useless?"
    In this November 28, 2006 online posting, Ivan Eland notes that both liberals and conservatives have often favored economic sanctions to achieve their desired goals. He notes, though, that sanctions have a very poor track record in achieving their goals. Eland notes that the effect of sanctions is generally shifted to the worst-off individuals in societies since leaders redirect resources to their high-priority objectives when sanctions impose costs on their economy.

  • Cato Institute, "The Cuban Economic Embargo: Time for a New Approach?"
    This document contains the transcript of a February 15, 2000 Cato Institute Policy Forum on the U.S. embargo on trade with Cuba. Participants in the forum argue for a relaxation of the trade and travel restrictions. It is suggested that Cuban citizens blame the embargo for any economic problems. Since most of the rest of the world trades freely with Cuba, it is argued that the U.S. embargo has little impact on the Cuban economy. Participants in the forum argue that the private sector has been expanding in Cuba and that closer contact with the U.S. could lead to more pressure for further expansions in economic and political freedom.

  • Jill Hickson, "Governments Oppose US Anti-Cuba Bill"
    In this March 1996 Green Left Weekly article, Jill Hickson discusses international opposition to the Helms-Burton Bill. She argues that this legislation "flouts international law and the regulations of the World Trade Organisation (WTO)." Most of the critique focuses on the "extraterritorial" features of the law, the attempt to impose U.S. laws on actions occurring outside of U.S. territory.

  • Let Cuba Live
    The Let Cuba Live website reflects the views of a group of Maine residents who are opposed to the U.S.'s embargo on trade with Cuba. Links to news articles on Cuba-U.S. relations are provided on this site. It is argued that the U.S. trade restrictions have harmed Cuban citizens. This group has attempted to ship medical supplies to Cuba through Canada, but has had some of their materials seized at the Canadian border.

  • Cuba Solidarity, "Background on the U.S. Blockade Against Cuba"
    This web page contains a collection of statements, documents, and position statements from a variety of groups that are opposed to the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba.

  • Ian Vásquez and L. Jacobo Rodríguez, "Trade Embargo In and Castro Out"
    Ian Vásquez and L. Jacobo Rodríguez provide arguments against the use of economic trade sanctions against Cuba in this December 12, 1996 Cato Institute commentary. They argue that the Helms-Burton Act harms U.S. relations with the rest of the world without having any impact on Cuban policy. Vásquez and Rodríguez suggest that the trade embargo strengthens Castro's position by providing an external enemy that can be blamed for economic problems. They suggest that ending the embargo is likely to hasten economic reform in Cuba.

  • Brad DeLong, "Bad Trade: The Cuban Embargo and the Future of the World Trade Organization"
    Brad DeLong argues against the Cuban trade embargo in this March 25, 1997 online document. He suggests that the Helms-Burton Act infringes on the sovereignty of Canada and European nations and is in violation of U.S. obligations under the WTO charter.

  • Pedro Prada and Luis Martin, "The Labyrinth of the Minotaur"
    In this January 19, 1998 online document, Pedro Prada and Luis Martin argue against the trade restrictions with Cuba. They suggest that the Cuban Humanitarian Relief Act and the Helms-Burton Act have both worked to limit the availability of medical supplies in Cuba. As an example, it is observed that Siemens Elemac, JBIW, and Teratronics ceased supplying Cuba with pacemakers because of U.S. restrictions. Medications and medical supplies produced only by U.S. are available in Cuba only with long delays. These products are sold to Cuba at a cost that is 80-140% above the price charged to other buyers.

  • John Suarez, "Should the World Maintain Sanctions Against the Castro Regime?"
    John Suarez argues for the maintenance of sanctions against Cuba in this online document. He notes that many Cuban citizens have been imprisoned or executed for political reasons. Suarez also provides descriptions of fatal attacks on Cuban citizens who were attempting to flee the country.

  • Jeff Jacoby, "The Cuban Embargo's Moral Justification"
    Jeff Jacoby argues in support of the Cuban trade embargo in this April 2, 1998 online document. He notes that the Castro regime has executed individuals for political reasons and restricts political and economic freedom. Jacoby suggests that "refusing to do business with a thief who murders and who is prepared to help destroy you is morally justifiable."

  • John P. Sweeney, "Why the Cuban Trade Embargo Should be Maintained"
    In this November 10, 1994 Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, John P. Sweeney argues for the continuation of the Cuban trade embargo. He suggests that the collapse of the Soviet Union will help ensure the collapse of the communist government in Cuba. Sweeney calls for increased international pressure for change in the political and economic structure of Cuba. He observes that the Cuban economy provided a relatively high level of per capita income prior to the revolution and now possesses one of the lowest per capita incomes in the region.

  • John Sweeney, "Clinton's Latin America Policy: A Legacy of Missed Opportunities"
    John Sweeney provides additional arguments in favor of the trade embargo on Cuba in this July 6, 1998 Heritage Foundation Backgrounder. While the focus of the article is on a general critique of U.S. Latin American policy, a substantial portion of the discussion deals with the Cuban trade embargo. Sweeney argues that the waiver of the Helms-Burton Act penalties against firms that trade with Cuba have seriously weakened its impact.

  • Daniel Fisk and Stephen Johnson, "How to Help the People of Cuba, Not the Regime"
    In this July 6, 2001 Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, Daniel Fisk and Stephen Johnson argue that any loosening of trade restrictions with Cuba should involve only activities that encourage the development of the growing Cuban private sector. They suggest that trade with self-employed individuals and non-governmental organizations in Cuba will encourage the expansion of economic and political freedom. Fisk and Johnson discourage the development of increased trade or other interaction with the Cuban government.

  • Stephen Johnson, "Time for Consensus on Cuba"
    Stephen Johnson, in this September 3, 2002 Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, argues that sanctions against Cuba should be eased only in response to Cuba's acceptance of political and economic reforms that enhance political and economic freedom.

  • Stephen Johnson, "Should America Lift Sanctions on Cuba?"
    Stephen Johnson argues for the continuation of sanctions in this May 20, 2002 Heritage Foundation Commentary. He suggests that Jimmy Carter's May 14, 2002 speech sent a mixed message to Cuba by recommending that the embargo be lifted. Johnson argues that the U.S. should tie any relaxation in trade restrictions to improvements in the economic and political freedom of Cuban citizens.

  • S.K. Ross and Associates, P.C., "The Helms-Burton Act: Helms-Burton Probe Heats Up"
    The law office of S.K. Ross and Associates provides this December 1999 discussion of the legal and international issues arising from the Helms-Burton Act. Concern is expressed that this Act violates international law, particularly due to the extraterritoriality provisions of this Act. In addition to providing a critical analysis of this law, this document provides a good discussion of its provisions.

  • Thomas H. Henriksen, "It's Time to End Sanctions against North Korea"
    This 1998 Hoover Institute document, written prior to the most recent problems involving North Korea, provides several argument against the use of economic sanctions. It is argued that sanctions turn the population of the target country against the country or countries imposing the sanctions. Henriksen suggests that economic engagement is a better long-term strategy.

  • National Public Radio - All Things Considered, "U.N. Imposes Economic Sanctions on N. Korea"
    This contains information from, and an audio transcript of, an October 14, 2006 All Things Considered broadcast dealing with U.S. sanctions against North Korea.

  • Heather Smith, "Give North Korea What it Wants"
    Heather Smith argues for the elimination of sanctions against North Korea in this online document. It is argued that the U.S. did not fully abide by the terms of the 1994 Agreed Framework that provided for economic assistance and the relaxation of sanctions in return for the ending of North Korea's nuclear program. (The Adobe Acrobat viewer plugin is required to view this document. You may download this viewer by clicking here.)

  • Balbina Y. Hwang, Larry M. Wortzel, and Baker Spring, "North Korea and the End of the Agreed Framework"
    Balbina Y. Hwang, Larry M. Wortzel, and Baker Spring discuss the use of economic sanctions against North Korea in this October 18, 2002 Heritage Foundation Briefing Paper. They argue that more severe actions must be taken to bring North Korea into compliance with the 1996 Agreed Framework. It is suggested that stricter economic sanctions should be implemented until North Korea eliminates its nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs. It is also suggested that selective military actions might be appropriate to eliminate nuclear facilities.

  • PBS NewsHour, "North Korea Nuclear Threat"
    This document contains the transcript of a December 30, 2002 NewsHour broadcast dealing with the North Korea nuclear threat. Part of this discussion focuses on the impact of economic sanctions against North Korea.

  • Christopher Preble and Ted Galen Carpenter, "North Korean Sanctions: A Cruel Mirage"
    In this October 19, 2006 Houston Chronicle op-ed piece, Christopher Preble and Ted Galen Carpenter discuss the effectiveness of U.S. sanctions against North Korea. They argue that the UN economic sanctions imposed upon North Korea are relatively limited in scope and are not likely to deter North Korea from attaining its goal of nuclear weapons capability. Preble and Galen Carpenter note that sanctions are likely to hurt the most volunerable members of North Korea's population without attaining any positive outcomes.

  • Jeffrey J. Schott, "The Iran and Libya Sanctions Act of 1996: Results to Date"
    Jeffrey J. Schott argues, in this July 23, 1997 Congressional testimony, that the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act of 1996 has not been very effective in achieving its goals. He suggests that these unilateral U.S. sanctions have been costly to the U.S. and Iran while providing few observable benefits. Schott also argues that these sanctions have generated unnecessary tensions between the U.S. and its European allies. He suggests that the effect of the reduction in demand for Iranian oil was more than offset by impact of the resultant higher global oil prices on Iran's oil revenue. Schott discusses research findings that indicate that U.S. sanctions against 26 countries in 1995 may have resulted in a loss of more than 200,000 U.S. jobs and a loss of $800 million to $1 billion in U.S. labor income.

  • Jeffrey J. Schott, ""
    In this July 25, 2006 Congressional testimony, Jeffrey J. Schott argues that progressively increasing U.S. sanctions against Iran has not resulted in Iran abandoning support for terrorism or its quest to acquire nuclear weapons capablilities. While he supports the extension of the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act, he suggests that Congress should recognize that the main effect of contiunues sanctions will be to slow down, but not deter, Iran's achievement of nuclear weapons capability. Schott argues that, as a result of relatively high energy prices, it is unlikely that the U.S. could encourage greater world support for increased economic sanctions against Iran.

  • Aaron Lukas, "Stuck in Sanctions: U.S. Needs Way Out of Policy Morass"
    Aaron Lukas, in this February 9, 1998 online article, critiques the extensive use of economic sanctions by the U.S. He argues that unilateral sanctions "alter trade patterns without seriously damaging the target nation." Lukas observes that sanctions have become an increasingly important policy tool, noting that between 1993 and 1996 the U.S. imposed 63 sets of sanctions on 35 countries.

  • Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, "Opening Remarks on Cuba at Press Briefing"
    Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright discusses U.S. policy towards Cuba in this March 20, 1998 press conference. She states that the U.S. is committed to encouraging a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba. As part of this briefing, Albright announced that the U.S. would ease restrictions on humanitarian medical aid to Cuba. (The Adobe Acrobat viewer plugin is required to view this document. You may download this viewer by clicking here.)

  • Madeleine K. Albright, "Economic Sanctions and Public Health: A View from the Department of State"
    In this January 18, 2000 article appearing in the Annals of Internal Medicine, Madeleine K. Albright argues that sanctions may impose a cost to public health, but these costs are less than those that would result from a war. She suggests that the U.S. and the U.N. should expand on the practice of using limited sanctions that allow for trade in food and health care supplies. (The Adobe Acrobat viewer plugin is required to view this document. You may download this viewer by clicking here.)

  • BBC News, "UN Official Blasts Iraq Sanctions"
    This September 30, 1998 online news article provides a discussion of Denis Halliday's opposition to the use of economic sanctions against Iraq. Halliday had served as co-ordinator of the UN sponsored food-for-oil program that relaxed sanctions to allow Iraq to sell oil to acquire food and medical supplies. He argues that sanctions harm the citizens of the country without weakening the government. Halliday indicates that the sanctions help to result in the death of 4,000 - 5,000 children every month as a result of problems with water supplies, sanitation, diet, and health care. He suggests that it is also resulting in higher divorce rates, lower marriage rates, higher crime rates, and the "alienation and isolation of the younger Iraqi generation of leadership."

  • Karol Sikora, "Cancer Services are Suffering in Iraq"
    Karol Sikora discusses the impact of the economic sanctions against Iraq in this January 16, 1999 online article. It is argued that the U.S. and England have blocked "radiotherapy equipment, chemotherapy drugs, and analgesics...." This has resulted in people dying from potentially curable cancers. Sikora suggests that these conditions will "consolidate a background of hatred in a new generation who will never forget the scars." Concerns are also raised about the rising cancer rates in Iraq.

  • The Iraq Water Project
    The Iraq Water Project, sponsored by Veterans for Peace, sends team of military veterans to Iraq to assist in rebuilding water plants. It is argued that sanctions have lead to the impoverishment of Iraqi citizens and has helped to raise mortality rates.

  • Institute for Public Accuracy, "Autopsy of a Disaster: The U.S. Sanctions Policy on Iraq"
    This website contains a timeline of the economic sanctions against Iraq with quotations from U.S. policymakers and others relating to the sanctions. The pattern of quotes suggests that the U.S. criteria for the lifting of sanctions against Iraq has not been very stable.

  • Iraq Action Coalition
    This website is maintained by a group opposed to the economic sanctions against Iraq. Links are provided to news articles dealing with the adverse affects of the sanctions on the health and wellbeing of Iraqi citizens. An earlier archived version of this site contains a more extensive list of links to articles from 1999 and earlier.

  • News and Observer, "Iraqi Refiners Say Pollution Cost of U.N. Sanctions is 'Astronomical'"
    This April 27, 1998 online news article suggests that economic sanctions against Iraq have resulted in an increase in pollution generated by oil refineries. Representatives of the Iraqi oil refinery industry argue that a lack of spare parts and supplies has lowered the quality of their products while reducing their ability to engage in pollution abatement.

  • Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq
    This student organization at Cambridge University provides a case against the economic sanctions on Iraq. It is argued that economic sanctions are generating substantial human costs to the citizens of Iraq. Much of the cost of the sanctions appear to be falling on children who are suffering from malnutrition, health problems, and high mortality rates.

  • Kathy Kelly, "Banning Child Sacrifice: A Difficult Choice?"
    Kathy Kelly describes health and economic conditions in Iraq in this March 9, 1998 online document. She had been part of a contingent that brought medicine to Iraq. Kelly describes poor conditions in hospitals and in the countryside that have resulted in higher rates of infant and child mortality and malnutrition. She argues that economic sanctions are the cause of many of these problems.

  • Matthew Hay Brown, "Iraqi Sanctions: Without Medicine and Supplies, the Children Die"
    Matthew Hay Brown describes the effect of the economic sanctions against Iraq on Iraqi children in this October 23, 2000 Hartford Courant article. He provides compelling anecdotal evidence of children suffering from chronic shortages of medicines, medical equipment, blood supplies, food, and potable water. Brown notes that UNICEF statistics indicate that over a half million children have died as a result of economic sanctions.

  • Leon T. Hadar, "U.S. Sanctions Against Burma: A Failure on All Fronts"
    In this March 26, 1998 Cato Institute Trade Policy Analysis paper, Leon T. Hadar argues that sanctions against Burma have "harmed American economic interests and done nothing to improve the living conditions or human rights of the people of Burma." He also suggests that the U.S. has harmed its relationships with its allies while reducing the likelihood of influencing the government of Burma (Myanmar). Hadar suggests that the presence of U.S. firms in Burma could have exerted a positive influence for political reform.

    In addition to discussing the case against sanctions, this document provides a detailed description of the origin of sanctions against Burma.

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