May 06, 2016

Understanding the Promise — and Limits — of Sanctions


Last week, David Francis and Lara Jakes published a report for Foreign Policy, titled “Sanctions Are a Failure… Let’s Admit That,” on the feeling in Washington that recent attempts to impose biting economic sanctions have not achieved their objectives and have led to unintended and negative consequences. Francis and Jakes’s reporting overstate the findings of the scholarship in this area, including some of our own. (See also).

To be sure, the powerful new financial sanctions employed by the United States and its partners over the past ten years present unique challenges and are not a magic bullet. Sanctions, however, have been an effective tool of diplomacy, both in pressuring rogue states like Russia and Iran to change their behavior and in denying terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda and Hezbollah access to legitimate financial services. More to the point, everytool of coercive diplomacy has costs and limits. And if sanctions are a failure, as Francis and Jakes’s reporting suggests, they might be surprised to see how poorly diplomacy will fare without any coercive leverage behind it.


To read the full article, visit the Foreign Policy website.