Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Sanctions--the Feel-Good Solution

Sanctions are the diplomatically imposed presidential equivalent to eight year-olds shouting at recess;
Did not!
Did too!!
Did not!!!


Sanctions Sanctions are the diplomatically imposed presidential equivalent to eight year-olds shouting at recess;
Did not!
Did too!!
Did not!!!
Seems they serve the same purpose of keeping us from coming to blows, but there ends the comparison. Sanctions are an American coercion of choice when it comes to being angry short of war. We have Anti-Terrorism Sanctions, Counter Narcotics Trafficking Sanctions, Non-proliferation Sanctions and even Diamond Trading Sanctions.
One can’t discuss sanctions without coming up against the common earliest description of sanctions and how effective they were nearly 25 centuries ago;
In 432 B.C., officials in Athens denied traders from the state of Megara access to Athens' harbor and its marketplace. That first recorded use of economic sanctions didn't work, and instead helped precipitate the Peloponnesian War, a horrific and lengthy conflict that brought an end to the fledgling Greek democracy. Goodbye Greek democracy for a couple thousand years.
Kimjong But we’re smarter now. Sanctions are a cheap way for America to have its way, but the results of those sanctions can be disastrous in terms of civilian populations. Punishing Saddam Hussein resulted in Saddam profiting hugely by illegal kickbacks and Iraqis selling their furniture to buy food. North Korean sanctions do nothing to hurt Kim Jong II, they just starve a few hundred thousand additional of his people and give him good excuses for his national failure.
It’s not supposed to be this way and yet we have literally given up on international diplomacy in favor of useless sanctions.
Sanctions share a root with sanctimonious--excessively or hypocritically pious, holier-than-thou and self-righteous. It’s no surprise that they are visited upon the weaker by the stronger. They provide a form of diplomatic extortion when nations are too lazy, self involved or politically weary to do the work of finding win-win solutions.
They feel good at the same time that they harden positions and poison the well of future negotiation. John Mueller, a political scientist at the University of Rochester, argues that
"It's not like blowing up a building, where you can count corpses, but it's much worse," said Mueller, referring to estimates that tens of thousands of Iraqi children have died from malnutrition-related diseases because of a lack of food and medicine. "Numerically, the deaths in Iraq are worse than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined."
Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined and not a witness in sight. According to Michael Paulson, a Seattle Intelligencer reporter;
A 1997 study by the Institute for International Economics found that since 1970, unilateral U.S. sanctions had achieved foreign policy goals only 13 percent of the time. The study also concluded that sanctions are costing the United States $15 billion to $19 billion annually in potential exports.

Sanctions have not led to democratic changes in Cuba, Iraq or Iran, and the unambiguous threat of sanctions did not deter India and Pakistan from testing nuclear weapons last year.
Moammargadhafi There have been successes. At least we think there have been. It’s impossible to know if the 28 years of not talking to Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi that finally produced two suspects in the 1988 bombing of Pam Am Flight 103, could have been more quickly and honorably achieved by quiet conversation.
As one might expect, the best records are kept by those who have the most at stake;
The National Association of Manufacturers claims that 42 percent of the world's population lives in countries sanctioned by the United States. According to the Congressional Research Service, by the end of 1997 there were 191 different sanctions being imposed by the United States.
Senator Dick Lugar, who doesn’t much value sanctions as a diplomatic tool, says;
"Putting a sanction on a country always seems to be an inexpensive way to address the problem. Unfortunately, almost none of these sanctions have brought about change and I think they have led to a sizable loss of foreign trade."
Foodshortage He’s got a point, but it may not be the only or even most important point. Sanctions are not paid by tyrannical regimes, but by their citizenry. Far more damaging to America is the fact that those two billion, six hundred forty-six million people, who are made even more wretched by our sanction-inspired poverty, form a collective global memory. Regimes under sanction lose no opportunity to blame the United States for any and all their societal failings.
Hungrycongochild And who is to argue? Who is to support our position? The have-nots of the world see bread shortages, scarce cooking oil, skyrocketing fuel costs, shortages of medicine and education for their families and thank the United States. They are not for a moment left to forget.
Thus we find ourselves on the threshold of—what else?—sanctions against Iran for following the same footprints in the sand of unsanctioned Pakistan and India. Iran insists its program is focused on electric generation. India and Pakistan made no such claims. They each developed offensive nuclear weaponry in violation of non-proliferation treaties and have been at war with one another periodically for the better part of 60 years.
Iranianpresahmadinejadad In comparison, Iran and Israel have yet to commit their first hostile act between countries. Iran is certainly no friend of Israel but, regardless of the wild-eyed hysteria of Louis Rene Beres, Iran understands that the United States has a mutual defense pact with Israel and would be wiped off the face of the earth by initiating a first-strike. Case for yet another ‘preemptive’ war closed, except in the dark recesses of Dick Cheney’s office, where they’re hatchin’ plans and diagrams.
Last Sunday, the Washington Post ran an editorial titled Next Step on Iran--The Western campaign to stop Iran's nuclear program still isn't working. Their conclusion, after rattling every saber and pressing every panic button, is that
Sanctions that put real pressure on the Iranian economy, combined with a continuing offer of expanded trade and security guarantees when the nuclear program is suspended, might still crack Iran's hard-line posture. In the absence of such action, the options of surrender or war will only gain ground.
WaPo, as bankrupt of ideas as the Bush administration, sees alternatives in the light of surrender or war, which is pretty dim light.
28 years ago in Iran, a bunch of militant college students (quite probably including Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) took over our embassy and held hostage the Americans residing there for 444 days.
Shahiran The United States was so shocked and so additionally embarrassed at our American-supported Shah being kicked out of his dictatorship, that it stiffed every Iranian effort towards diplomatic normalization for the next twenty-eight years. And WaPo calls that an Iranian hard-line posture.
We are a great and powerful and tragically naïve nation. The true and effective uses of overwhelming power are to apply the sensibility to sit down with those who oppose and find common ground. There is always common ground. It merely requires those confident enough and patient enough to search for the common ground.
That search doesn't begin on the deck of a threatening aircraft carrier, Dick.
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