What do Economic Sanctions Achieve? Essay

In the past decades, economic sanctions are seen to be the sought after solution as it is viewed as a less violent alternative to wars. As mentioned by the then US President Woodrow Wilson, economic sanctions is a “’peaceful, silent, and deadly remedy’ that no nation can resist. ” (Garfield, 1999: 3) Since then, numerous economic sanctions were carried out which in turn questions its achievements and its successful rate. Has economic sanctions achieved more desired outcomes or the contrary?Economic sanctions simply defines as the “coercive economic measures taken against one or more countries to attempt to force a change in policies, or at least to demonstrate the sanctioning country’s opinion of another’s policies” (Rennak and Shuey, 1999:4). There are three types of economic sanctions namely; comprehensive, limited and targeted economic sanctions. The different types of sanctions vary based on the intensity and the level of restrictions and interventions.

This paper reviews the achievements of economic sanctions by assessing them based on negative and positive attainments. Case studies drawn from Haiti, Burundi, Iran, Cuba, Syria, and Yugoslavia were used as an example to manifest the differences. Section 1 will cover the positive achievements of economic sanctions and conversely, in section 2 will cover the negative consequences. The argument of this paper is that economic sanctions do have its positive achievements. However, in comparison to the achievements it has also brought about hefty negative repercussions that can’t be overlooked.Section 1: Positive Achievements During the economic sanction executed on South Africa, it is noted that sanction might have strengthened the prevailing white regime politically and economically for certain period of time.

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The sanction allowed US firms to open up their operations in South Africa which eventually provided necessary goods such as insulin to the population. (Garfield, Devin, Fausey, 1995: 463) Primarily, South Africa is known for being one of the successful sanctions that were carried out.Their main objective to end apartheid was succeeded at the end of the embargo. Not to mention, Burma did not suffer much from the sanction and was able to take advantage of it by gaining from their trading.

Prior to the sanction, neighbouring countries of Burma used to be the importing countries. However, due to the sanction, those countries became their net exporter instead which in turn helped Burma. In addition, countries such as China, India and other ASEAN countries were benefitting from Burma’s economic sanction.The countries took advantage dealing with the military government as “Burma’s political economic, social and cultural links with Burma are undoubtedly stronger than those with the West. ” (Andreasson, 2007: 23) Another positive attainment was seen in the restriction on Iran. It has been argued that it has helped Iran by saving $5 billion annually due to their substantial foreign currency reserves. Iran had $80 billion in foreign reserves and some $20 billion of gold.

The gold was bought from Turkey at a cheaper price and was sold fast in Iran as the currency of Rial continues to fall due to the sanction.As a result, there was an increase of 395% in the purchase of gold and stones in Iran. (Boroujerdi, 2012: 10) Even though the currency rates of Rial had taken a plunge, it has also gained foreign reserves and gold which can benefit Iran financially in the future. One of the main indications of a successful economic sanction is when the main objective were met. This can be seen in Vietnam’s case where Section 2: Negative Achievements One of the most common repercussions of economic sanction is the loss of jobs and failure in the economy.For instance, Haiti (1991-1994) faced the loss of 29,780 jobs in 1991 which then further increased to a quarter of a million having no main income in 1994.

Due to these accumulated economic effects, Haiti suffered an inflation of 138 %. (Gibbons and Garfield, 1999: 1499) Similarly, in Burundi (1996 – 2000) revenue of the country were cut off due to the ban on the export. The aftermath of the abrupt change leads to the decline in commercial and industrial economy, bringing about high unemployment rate and loss of income. Hoskins and Nutt, 1997: 1) Iran’s economy was also affected in the embargo, especially the banks and the oil industry. Under USA pressure, oil companies like Shell and Total were forced to withdraw themselves.The withdrawal ultimately affects the oil industry, which is the main resource of revenue for Iran. In addition, the plunge of the local currency rates encouraged the population to buy foreign currency and gold which perpetuates the economy in a never-ending cycle. Boroujerdi, 2012: 11) Likewise, the tourism economy in Burma was severely affected due to the stability and doubts of the country.

(Andreasson, 2007: 30) With the economic restrictions, it is apparent that it will affect the country’s economy. However, the country’s economy accumulated more issues that were seen as unintended consequences. One of the unintended consequences is the effects on health and health services. Shortage of resources to sustain and run healthcare services was stemmed from the intervention.It constricts the capacity and availability of health services. (Garfield, 1999: 1) The sanction in Syria significantly prevented medical supplies (that were not locally produced) into Syria which affected millions of people (Al Faisal, Al Saleh, Sen, 2012: 152).

The suicide rates reflected in Yugoslavia increased by 22%. (Garfield, Devin, Fausey, 1995: 461) Those in Haiti were not consuming the right food and the cleanest water as they had no accessibility of both luxuries. Due to the deprivation, the Haitians were living based on survival strategies.

The lack of nutrition affected the nation’s average life expectancy from 56. 6 years to 54. 4 years. Children were also affected which in turns gave rise to the mortality rate of children age 1-4. (Gibbons and Garfield, 1999: 1501) Whereas in Burundi, it was estimated by UNICEF that approximately 50% of children under the age of 1 year old who were supposed to get vaccination will not be able to do so due to the embargo.

Another example, in Cuba, illustrated that there were rapid prevalence of Tuberculosis among 15. % of the population.The accumulated health problem in Cuba resulted in 67% increase of death due to infection and 77% due to influenza and pneumonia. (Garfield, 1999: 13) The simultaneous occurrence of issues forced the population to take alternative ways to cope with the impacts of the sanction. These changes affected their lifestyle. The common coping strategies include moving together with relatives and dropping out of school. The sanction in Haiti forced rural families to leave their children with relatives who reside in the city.This encouraged children to miss out school which in turn dropped the gross school enrolment by 26% in 4 years.

During the sanction period, children in Haiti were “commonly charged with murder, criminal conspiracy, drug use and burglary. ” (Gibbons and Garfield, 1999: 1500) Consequently, in Syria, it interrupts the power supply of many areas to a maximum of 12 hours daily. The disruption causes the Syrian to be exposed to extreme winter and summer climate. (Al Faisal, Al Saleh, Sen, 2012: 152) The consequences that were piling one after another demonstrate the decrease of human rights among the population.The basic human rights that are commonly absent in economic sanctions are “the right to freedom of speech, the right to have adequate food, the right to a standard of living adequate for health and wellbeing, the right to education” and many more. (Garfield, 1999: 8) Last but not least, something that is frequently overlooked in the repercussion of economic sanctions is the expenses businesses, farmers and workers of American have to shoulder. The tendency to not notice is due to the underestimation of sanction cost and absence of these numbers in the US government budget tables.

Based on past sanctions, it can be illustrated that these sanctions do influence US economy in the reduction of revenues and loss of jobs in US companies and individuals. (Haass, 1998:2) Often people identifies the negative consequences based on the target country but with the abovementioned statement, it can be noted that both target country and country that initiated the sanction have its fair bit in the economic embargo. Conclusion The examples stated above evidently ascertain the immense negative repercussions made by economic sanctions.However, to make a fair point, there were more unintended consequences rather that intended ones. In addition, it produces a snowball effect on the population where one issue lead to another which then worsens another situation. Ordinary citizens are at the receiving end of the unintended consequences instead of the elites who are the ones directly involved in the policy decision.

By comparing the initial objective and the outcome of the sanctions, it is also found by the political scientist that the success rate is low. Hufbauer et al, 1990; Dashti-Gibson et al, 1997; Pape, 1997) Not to mention, out of the 10 case studies on comprehensive economic sanctions, only two of them were successful where it is noted that the successful interventions were advocated by the sender and initiator and carried out by the target country themselves. (Wallensteen, 2000: 5)Furthermore, with the advancement of globalisation, it is harder to achieve successful cases in economic sanctions as globalisation made it easier for the target countries to tap into international trade, capital markets and find other suppliers of goods and capital. Schott, 1998) According to Hufbauer et al. (2007), only 35% of all the recorded sanctions happened between the years 1914 to 2000 are labelled as “partly successful” sanction.

“Partly successful means that the initial goal were “partly” achieved and the contribution by the sanction were the least “substantial” (Oechslin, 2011: 2) These numbers argues the efficacy of economic sanctions in achieving the initial objectives when carrying out the intervention. The idea of using economic sanction is due to it being the alternative to violent actions.However, the successful rate and repercussions above evidently demonstrate that the effects of the sanctions are too heavy to be overlooked and are often ineffective. The sanction not only affects the ‘target country’ but also unfavourably affect the partners of the target country. As mentioned, sanctions resulted in unintended consequences and it is inevitable to prevent it to happen.

Thus, the United Nations and other affected parties have asked to specifically state the definitions and objectives of the sanctions beforehand so that the criteria to end the sanctions could also be defined.Morin and Miles, 2000: 160) This method will help to monitor the sanction and end it as soon as the progress are undesirable to avoid prolong unintended consequences which are seen in the previous case studies. In the near future, if more world leaders are going to execute economic sanction on certain countries, they will need to be certain of the objectives and the consequences because their action will affect one’s health, life and future – which is a heavy responsibility to shoulder.


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