Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Why Sanctions Always Fail

Posted by M. C. on June 27, 2022

The Enemy Always Adapts.

Andrew Cockburn

 The misplaced belief in the efficacy of sanctions as a weapon may partly be traced to what is generally considered to have been their greatest triumph, the British blockade of Germany in world war 1 that supposedly starved the Germans into submission, a “very perfect instrument” in Keynes’ words.  But as the late great Norman Stone pointed out, German food shortages were almost entirely due to government mismanagement, although the blockade, as usual, provided a convenient scapegoat.

 Early in the Ukraine war, President Biden boasted on twitter that thanks to “unprecedented” sanctions, the “Russian economy is on track to be cut in half” and the ruble had been reduced to “rubble.”  All instruments of economic warfare had been deployed against Ukraine’s invader, from the freezing of central bank reserves to sanctions on Russian cats. Today, the cats may be still at home, but the ruble is at a seven year high, Russian interest and inflation rates are headed downwards, and industrial production is ticking up. Meanwhile Russian forces steadily advance in Ukraine. 

Objective: “Hunger, Desperation, Overthrow of Government.”

         All this represents a much larger defeat for sanctions than is usual in such offensives.  In a memo on Cuban sanctions back in 1960 a state department official named Lestor Mallory described the purpose of such measures with unusual frankness (the memo was of course secret.) The aim, he wrote, was  “ bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.” Twenty years later, again cloaking honesty in classification, the CIA intelligence directorate studied the record and concluded that “economic sanctions…have not met any of their objective” and had furthermore strengthened the regime, providing Castro with “a scapegoat for all kinds of domestic problems.” That pattern has endured: hardship for the sanctioned population, as exemplified by the half-million toll on Iraqi children during the 1990s, or the ongoing mass hunger in Afghanistan, while the ruling elite escapes unscathed and diverts any possible local disaffection among the immiserated populace in the direction of the sanctioning powers.  This time around, the effect of sanctions has of course been double-edged. Not only has the Russian economy not collapsed, the sanctioneers, principally the Europeans, are themselves in an accelerating economic downslide, marked by rising inflation, in particular the catastrophic energy costs consequent on sanctions against Russian oil and gas.

Sanctions Work Just Like Bombing – Badly.

See the rest here

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