International Sanctions: A Report by a Group of Members of the Royal Institute of International Affairs

International Sanctions: A Report by a Group of Members of the Royal Institute of International Affairs

International Sanctions: A Report by a Group of Members of the Royal Institute of International Affairs

International Sanctions: A Report by a Group of Members of the Royal Institute of International Affairs

Excerpt

On November 18th, 1935, for the first time under the Covenant of the League of Nations, measures of economic pressure, 'Sanctions', were taken by some fifty sovereign states, large and small, against another sovereign state with a view to restraining a breach of a treaty obligation. The sovereign state thus dealt with had, in the opinion of the states taking action, resorted to war against a fellow Member of the League of Nations in violation of the Covenant of the League.

Sanctions in 1935 and 1936 failed to achieve their object. In the forms in which they were applied they failed to bridge the gap between a primitive African people and the military might of a Great Power. To many people the fact that sanctions have been tried and found wanting is a sufficient reason for abandoning the whole attempt to use coercion for the support of an agreed law. It has, however, been contended that, since sanctions were but partially applied, the experiment cannot be regarded as a fair trial; others declare that the fact that the overwhelming majority of League Members were prepared for the sacrifices involved in the application of sanctions is so encouraging an augury as to outweigh in importance the failure of sanctions to achieve their object; yet others argue that, since sanctions have been tried and have failed of their desired effect, it will be impossible ever again to bring the Members of the League to the point of applying sanctions; finally, there are those who maintain that it is the elementary duty of every member of the international community to refrain from giving any form of aid, through the maintenance of economic or financial intercourse, to a country which has wantonly gone to war in defiance of its pledges under the League Covenant or the Briand-Kellogg Pact.

With the conclusion of the Abyssinian campaign and the raising of sanctions, the tempest of controversy which raged without interruption for close on a year has abated, and it is in no controversial spirit that those responsible for this study wish to approach the subject. They feel, rather, that the time has come for a sober re-examination of the whole problem of sanctions, particularly in the light of the considerable experience which has been gained since their application against Italy first became a possibility.

Before regarding the 'experience' of 1935-6 as necessarily con-

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