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Would anyone take Hillary Clinton seriously if she were not “risen to a height that few can scale by a set of curious chances” (apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan)? She had no real experience in foreign policy when she was named Secretary of State and has shown precious little ability to navigate effectively since that time. Her latest grand design being cited today in the media is to somehow punish the Iranian elites with sanctions without hurting the Iranian people. I am not sure exactly what she has in mind, but if she is thinking of blocking cognac supplies and porn movies, which angered the North Korean leadership, she might consider that a similar approach will not sway the Mullahs. If she is considering blocking bank accounts linked to the Pasdaran she might want to talk to people at Treasury because that is already being done.

Ultimately, Hillary will come down in favor of something stupid, like blocking fuel supplies, which will punish poorer Iranians disproportionately. I wouldn’t say that sanctions never work, but it is difficult to cite a situation in which they were very effective. Most often they just encourage a siege mentality for those who are on the receiving end and render any kind of negotiated agreement unlikely. Cuba would long ago have moved away from communism if it hadn’t been for sanctions. If Iran is truly intent on developing a nuclear weapon, sanctions will only accelerate that process.

What is really scary is that Hillary might be reflecting the thinking of her boss.

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Hillary Clinton 
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  1. Sanctions prevented whatshisname in Iraq from developing WMDs.

  2. Not sure if that’s really true as he could have had a chemical and bio program without any imports. And they killed 500,000 Iraqi children.

  3. Dennis Dale says: • Website

    Sanctions prevented whatshisname in Iraq from developing WMDs.

    That may be making an unsupportable assumption about Iraqi capabilities. But even allowing for this, the sanctions can be viewed as the bridge from Gulf War I to Gulf War II; to a certain extent the sanctions necessitated our return to Iraq; some hawks argue this as well. Beneath the panic and platitudes, ending the costly sanctions regime was one the more concrete incentives for the war.

    So, we must consider the protracted Iraqi misery of the interwar years, the tremendous cost to us (moral, political and economic) of imposing that misery, the second war and current instability in Iraq, the consequent rise of Iranian influence there, and the various other destabilizing events set in motion as the actual cost of those sanctions–all to thwart a crude Iraqi nuclear program that never got farther than the reactor the Israelis destroyed at Osirak years before the first war.
    Sanctions bind the enforcers as much as the targets; when they are seen as failing (and many will want them to been seen to fail, especially in the case of Iran) we are then bound to act. Sanctions are to war as marriage counseling is to divorce: preamble.

  4. Truly, the benefits of economic sanctions must be weighed against the costs (humanitarian and otherwise). But paleoconservatives probably shouldn’t paint themselves into the corner where the choice is between only military action and “diplomacy.” It’s nice to have other options. I take Mr. Dale’s point about sanctions constraining the imposer as well—it’s sometimes true in practice—but to say that it must be true in the abstract is to concede crucial ground to the militarist.

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