Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is stirring the pot.
Sanctions have traditionally been a tool that foreign policy elites in America have used to punish foreign governments who do not comply with Washington D.C.’s policy wishes.
According to the National Interest, “The Treasury is currently blocking over eight thousand individuals around the world from the U.S. economy, as part of thirty-five different sanctions programs, some of them dating back decades. And there are near-total U.S. economic blockades on North Korea, Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, and Syria.”
Despite routinely using sanctions as a tool to induce regime change, the U.S. government has never publicly measured the success of sanctions. Namely, if sanctions actually have an impact on hostile governments without doing harm to civilians.
However, Gabbard wants to change this policy paradigm. She recently passed a successful amendment to the military budget in the House of Representatives compelling the President to gather and publicly disclose the annual impact of U.S. sanctions
The amendment must still make it to the Senate, but if it tacked on the military budget, it will more than likely become law.
“Too often U.S. sanctions are levied against another country in the attempt to ‘punish’ that country’s leader without consideration of what the real impact of those sanctions are,” Gabbard declared in a statement. “In reality, these sanctions are like a modern-day siege, most impacting the sanctioned country’s citizens, limiting their supply of food, water, medicine and basic supplies they need to survive, resulting in great sickness, suffering, and death.”
Gabbard continued by pointing out that “[t]here is currently no assessment or accountability for our country’s leaders” for sanctions’ effects.
Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro also joined in supporting sanction reforms. He observed that “the primary victims abroad are civilians whom we should be seeking to empower, not impoverish”
“The Gabbard provision would require transparency into the impacts of this practice and that would undoubtedly uncover information that would provide additional impetus for sanctions policy changes we’re seeking,” commented Erica Fein, advocacy director at Win Without War. This pro-peace organization recently signed an open letter outfling foreign policy priorities for progressives. “It’s not clear that Senate Republicans will support, but we’ll be supporting the provision as it moves into [House-Senate negotiations].”
Sanctions critics have long argued that economic sanctions disproportionately hit civilians harder than governments, which goes contrary to sanctions boosters’ intentions of trying to protect civilians from oppressive governments.
“[E]ven if the overwhelming majority of the amendment was focused on the supposed benefits, it is still a 100 percent victory for humanitarians concerned about sanctions,” Just Foreign Policy executive director Erik Sperling wrote in a text message regarding this bill.
“In fact, it will be interesting to read [the President’s] attempts to explain how broad sanctions have empowered the Cuban and North Korean people and loosened these governments’ six-decade grip on power,” he continued.
This is a welcome development for a foreign policy status quo that is obsessed with all sorts of hawkish action. Sanctions don’t work and only empower tyrannical regimes, while millions of innocent people end up suffering as a result of these punitive measures.
Policymakers needs to rethink some of the conventional wisdom regarding the foreign policy actions of yesteryear.