It’s Time to Rethink Foreign Policy Sanctions

American foreign policy is a mess. Although the Trump administration to its credit did not start any new wars, it still maintains its liberal hegemonic outlook. For example, the U.S. has still sanctions countries such as Russia and Iran. The latter has been subject to a “maximum pressure” campaign which has left the country in economic shambles, but the government has not been toppled.

Similar results have been witnessed with regards to sanctions. All these punitive measures against countries to hurt the citizens and not the governments themselves. In fact, these sanctions end up strengthening the sanctioned country’s government in question. This is due to how governments can scapegoat external actors for problems that they themselves created.

However, D.C. does not seem to get this. They insist that sanctions will bring about regime change and keep so-called rogue states in check. However, as seen with countries like Iran, they usually end up resorting to the use of illicit networks and making alliances with even more powerful states such as China. So one has to wonder what’s the whole point of sanctions?

Even national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien confessed in late October that “One of the problems we have with both Iran and Russia is that we have so many sanctions on those countries right now that there’s very little left for us to do.” Readers can decide for themselves what other measures could be employed to get them to “behave.” If history shows anything, constant brinkmanship and punitive actions towards other states only makes them more belligerent.

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The human costs of sanctions cannot also be ignored. The brave Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard recently added an amendment to the military budget that would compel the executive branch to disclose the financial and human damage that American sanctions bring upon countries. This is something that we often ignore in foreign policy discussions. There’s a lot of focus on direct military action, which we all should oppose. However, we should never ignore the bellicose nature of sanctions and how they escalate tensions between countries. Policymakers would be wise to start questioning the merits of sanctions and taking a stand against these measures.

It’s not enough to just talk about being against never-ending wars. Elected officials must also start to categorically reject all the steps that lead us into these disastrous conflicts.

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