Academic journal article The Cato Journal

The 1992-96 Bulgarian Trade Data Puzzle: A Case of Sanctions Breaking?

Academic journal article The Cato Journal

The 1992-96 Bulgarian Trade Data Puzzle: A Case of Sanctions Breaking?

Article excerpt

Economic sanctions have been used by various countries to achieve political ends with nonmilitary means. Galtung (1967: 379) characterized sanctions as actions designed to penalize one or more countires "by depriving them of some value" or by forcing them "to comply with certain norms." Pape (1997: 97) offered a set of standards to judge the effectiveness of sanctions. In his view, sanctions should be deemed a success if "(1) the target state conceded to a significant part of the coercer's demands; (2) economic sanctions were threatened or actually applied before the target changed its behavior; and (3) no more-credible explanation exists for the target's change of behavior."

The usefulness of this policy tool has been debated for years. Galtung (1967) and Doxey (1980, 1987) find sanctions to be ineffective. Hufbauer, Schott, and Elliott [HSE] find limited success but acknowledge that "the contribution of sanctions to the policy outcome is often murky" (HSE 1990: 41). Pape (1997, 1998) argues that the HSE study is skewed because many of the cases denoted a success were actually resolved with military force rather than with nonviolent means. In response to Pape's arguments, Elliott (1998) stated that the authors of the HSE study "were interested in finding out ... under what circumstances economic leverage might be useful--not necessarily dominant--in achieving foreign policy goals" (p. 51), and conceded that "economic sanctions used independently of other policy tools typically achieve only relatively modest and limited goals" (p. 58). Similarly, Cortright and Lopez (2000) conclude that sanctions alone cannot radically alter the behavior of the receiving nation. Nevertheless, they support the use of sanctions and deem sanctions a success "if they had a positive, enduring impact on bargaining dynamics or if they helped isolate or weaken the power of an abusive regime" (p. 204). The criteria proposed by Elliott and Cortright and Lopez are very broad and differ considerably from those found in Galtung and Pape.

Overall, research shows that sanctions are effective to the degree that they (1) inflict economic hardships on the target; (2) make the receiving country more vulnerable in case the conflict escalates into a war; (3) act as a means to bring a party to the negotiating table; and (4) serve as a "bargaining chip" if negotiations take place. Research does not support the notion that economic sanctions alone can, more often than not, succeed in altering substantially the receiving nation's behavior, or force it to adopt policies it persistently opposes; sanctions are seldom an effective alternative to a military conflict.

Various hypotheses have been put forth to explain the poor success rate of economic sanctions. Galtung (1967) points to three major factors. First, the sending nation may act to express its outrage, rather than to force the target to comply with a certain norm of political behavior. (1) Second, in the face of outside pressure, people in the receiving nation tend to "rally around the flag." Third, sanctions could be evaded. Green (1983) argues that this is indeed the most important factor that allows nations to survive economic sanctions. This point is also brought forward in numerous other studies, for instance in Renwick (1981), Anglin (1987), Leyton-Brown (1987), and Conlon (2000).

Evasion is possible because third parties, both governments and private businesses, put political and financial interests above international norms. In some cases, evasion is even tolerated by imposing nations. Although Great Britain initiated economic sanctions against Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe), the "Labour government's carefully concealed double-dealing was the most deceitful of all countries involved in sanctions violations" (Anglin 1987: 39). Another major problem is the impact of sanctions on neighboring countries. Adverse consequences on them "may be no less severe than the impact on the target country" (Renwick 1981: 82). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.