Economic sanctions represent those broad or specific penalties levied against a nation, entity or individual citizens in the form or trade or financial withdrawals as part of a foreign policy strategy to coerce or to make the targeted nation change or eliminate an unwanted behavior or policy. The United States has used economic sanctions with mixed results of success since the post-World War II era both multi and unilaterally form. The objectives for these sanctions include promoting democracy and human rights, fighting drug trafficking, fighting terrorism, combating weapons proliferation and promoting disarmament (Hufbauer & Oegg).
Achieving the desired foreign policy objectives through economic sanctions may imply serious cost to the sender nation (the United States) as it is the one that has to design, implement and enforce the sanctions (Davis & Engerman 191). Another factor that can seriously limit the achievement of these goals through economic sanctions is the globalization of the world economy. When a targeted nation is sanctioned by the U.S., it can look to other countries for trading and investment opportunities thus dampening or limiting the effect of the sanction (191-192).
Another factor which limits the achievement of the desired goal is the type of regime targeted for economic sanctions. When these types of penalties have been imposed on Cuba (trade embargo) and the former Soviet Union (grain embargo), the U.S. did not achieve the intended goals of respectively ending the Castro regime and forcing the Soviets to withdraw from Afghanistan. With the globalization of the world economy, it is much easier for targeted countries to find alternative sources for trade or for capital markets and when sanctions have been imposed by the U.S., it is those firms and workers corresponding to the sanctioned sector that feel the immediate impact of lost jobs and wages (Hufbauer & Oegg).
Sanctions have been successful both in achieving the desired goals and in being an instrumental part of them only in a limited number of situations that have been documented from the early 20th century until the early 21st century. A recent Washington Post reports that those few instances of goal attainment occurred where the country has been an ally, where the objectives have been modest and narrow and where the targeted country has been either smaller or weaker than the United States (Taylor).
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