The Folly of Sanctions


Rep. Ron Paul - AntiWar

Many people have the misconception that sanctions are an effective means to encourage a change of behavior in another country without war. However, sanctions and blockades are not only acts of war according to international law, they are most often the first step toward a real war, starting with a bombing campaign. Sanctions were the first step in our wars against Iraq and Libya, and now more sanctions planned against Syria and Iran are leading down the same destructive path.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s latest report, just out this month, there is no evidence that Iran has diverted enriched uranium from the peaceful and lawful generation of power toward building a nuclear weapon. According to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has every right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Unfortunately, U.S. foreign policy has boxed Iran into a corner where they may view development of a nuclear weapon as the only way to maintain sovereignty. They are surrounded by unfriendly nuclear powers, and history has shown that having a nuclear weapon is the best way to avoid being bombed or invaded. The unintended consequences of our confrontational policies toward Iran may be to actually encourage them to seek nuclear weapons capabilities. We should be using diplomacy rather than threats and hostility.

Fortunately, there is another way. Nothing promotes peace better than free trade. Countries that trade with each other generally do not make war on each other, as both countries gain economic benefits they do not want to jeopardize. China is a massive nuclear power, yet it does not seek military confrontation with the United States. Trade is much more profitable. Also, trade and friendship apply much more effective persuasion to encourage better behavior, as does leading by example. Alarmingly, tough new sanctions are under consideration that would also punish Iran’s trading partners, including China, Russia, and possibly our NATO allies such as Germany.

Conversely, sanctions allow regimes to blame their shortcomings on foreigners, thereby maintaining a hold on power. They rarely even inconvenience elites in the target countries. They simply provide a common enemy to rally the people against and undermine internal dissent. Consider how well the embargo has worked against Cuba. Fidel Castro and his regime may be annoyed by the inability to trade with their neighbors just 90 miles away, but American businessmen also lose out in the bargain. That means less jobs and less freedom at home.

We should be clear about this: sanctions against Iran are definite steps toward a U.S. attack. Already we see U.S. warships approaching the region, moving dangerously close to Syrian waters. The tougher sanctions currently under consideration would disrupt global trade and undermine the U.S. economy, which in turn harms our national security. Foreign companies or foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies would be severely punished if they did not submit to the U.S. trade embargo on Iran. We must change our foreign policy to one of economic freedom and diplomacy. That is the only way to promote peace and prosperity. This race to war against Iran and Syria is both foolhardy and dangerous.


Ron Paul is a Republican congressman from Texas. He was the 1988 Libertarian Party candidate for president.

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One Response to “The Folly of Sanctions”

  1. satoshi says:

    Discussions on sanctions such as mentioned above remind me of Aesop’s “North Wind and the Sun”. Aesop teaches us what is the effective way if you want your opponent to act as you want.

    Unfortunately, the international community does not understand his teaching. The international community believes that if you squeeze your opponent, he will surrender to you. But, in most cases, things do not work that way. The more you squeeze your opponent, the more he will defend himself not to surrender to you. The more you do against him, the more he will do against your wish. The situation escalates harder and harder. The possible ultimate outcome? Perhaps the use of the nuclear weapons aganist your opponent… The regime change? Or what? Look at Iraq after the regime change by force. Look at Afghanistan after the regime change by force.

    Peace does not begin by squeezing your opponent. Peace does not begin by punishing your opponent. Peace begins with love. This is what Aesop tells you.

    St. Fancis of Assisi prayed,
    “Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
    where there is injury, pardon;
    where there is doubt, faith;
    where there is despair, hope;
    where there is darkness, light;
    where there is sadness, joy;…”

    St.Francis did not say, “Where there is an international dispute, let me give them sanctions.” The essence of his teaching is the same as that of Aesop.

    What was the outcome of the UN sanctions against Iraq? The higher death tolls of children and other weak Iraqi people. What is the outcome of the international sanctiohns against North Korea? The more starvations of weak and small people (according to WHO, some 60% of local people in North Korea are starving) in that country. The dictator’s family are laughing at the international community. For example, some of Kim Jong Il’s family members were having a good time at the Tokyo Disneyland, while one of the grandsons of Kim Jong Il is having a good time at a fancy cafe (in which he is playing cards with his class mates) after class almost every day in Mostar, Bosnia.

    Peace begins with love. As mentioned above, Aesop teaches you as such. St. Francis of Assisi teaches you essentially the same. Not to mention, Buddha teaches so, and Jesus teaches so as well.

    Your oppenent is the negative reflection of yourself. Your oppenent is the shadow aspect of yourself. If you deny them, it means that you deny a part of yourself. “Love your enemy” means that you need to love your negative reflection of yourself. Love the whole part of yourself even if it is not very pleasant for you. Eventually, love the whole part of humanity on this planet. Read Aesop’s tale once again. Recite St.Francis’s prayer.

    If you think what I said above is too ideal, it is your real problem on peace and love.

    “Love” is the answer to any problem. “Peace” is the way to reach “love”.