Desert Shield at Sea: What the Navy Really Did

By Marvin Pokrant | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
Sanctions

In addition to deploying military forces to supplement the Middle East Force already present in the Persian Gulf, the United States undertook a parallel effort to implement economic sanctions. On 2 August 1990, President George Bush issued an executive order freezing Iraqi and Kuwaiti assets. On 6 August, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 661, which imposed trade and financial sanctions on both Iraq and occupied Kuwait. These sanctions served as a tool to achieve the national policy goals listed in chapter 1.


WHY SANCTIONS?

Historical View of Sanctions

Dating back to the Greeks in 432 BC, sanctions have been a preferred foreign policy tool that demonstrates resolve, deters, and punishes. As an alternative to military force, sanctions provide a country a way to demonstrate its resolve to the target country and to the world. Sanctions also attempt to deter others from future similar behavior. That is, the entire world community witnesses the success or failure of the sanctions as they are used to punish violations of international law or aggression. From the military point of view, sanctions hinder the opposition’s ability to obtain additional equipment, supplies, and spare parts for its war effort. A final, unspoken reason for imposing sanctions is that they are politically acceptable and relieve the pressure to take direct military action immediately.

Do sanctions ever work? It depends on the type of behavior to be altered. Hufbauer, Schott, and Elliott, in their comprehensive case study analysis of sanctions, conclude that in the 116 cases they examined from World War I through the Gulf War, 34 percent were successful. An important caveat applies here, however. Their success ratings depend upon the type of behavior to be modified: military

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