On July 16, 2015, the Asan Institute for Policy Studies hosted a roundtable with Professor Daniel W. Drezner, Professor of International Politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and a contributing editor at the Washington Post. In a talk titled, “The Renaissance of Economic Sanctions in American Foreign Policy,” Professor Drezner discussed the role and increasing enthusiasm for sanctions in American foreign policy over the past two decades culminating in the recent Iran nuclear deal. “When I started studying economic sanctions 20 years ago,” he recounts, “[I could only look at] high profile cases against South Africa or Cuba, but now there is a wealth of information to permit statistical analysis.” He also mentioned that although China and Russia have been much more active with sanctions in recent years, both nations pale in comparison to the U.S.: more than 20 cases were updated or added to the U.S. sanctions list within the last year alone.
Professor Drezner raised four key questions during his talk: 1) How and why have sanctions become so popular? 2) What do we know about how sanctions work? 3) What is the current potency of sanctions? 4) What should the U.S. do moving forward? He delineated between trade embargos and financial sanctions (or “smart sanctions” such as travel or luxury goods bans, arms embargos, and freezing assets of high ranking officials) to emphasize that the latter present the best options by imposing costs on the elite rather than the general population of a target nation. As Professor Drezner further explains, “any kind of trade embargo [which] outlaws economic activity would breed corruption and makes it easy for the target government to simply shift the burden to its broader public rather than the elite.” For example, the devastating sanctions on Iraq caused the country’s child mortality rate to skyrocket due to restrictions making it extremely difficult to obtain medicine.
According to Professor Drezner, there are ultimately four criteria to determine the effectiveness of sanctions: the need for multilateral support, importance of targeting the elite rather than broader public, low costs for the imposing country, and clearly defined demands. Nonetheless, it is very difficult to accurately predict the effect of sanctions or prove its deterrent effect. For the U.S. moving forward, it will still be necessary to push for sanction law reform.
Date/Time: Thursday, July 16, 2015 / 10:00 – 11:30
Place: Conference Room (2F), The Asan Institute for Policy Studies