Lessons from Cuba: Why Sanctions Don't Work

Thu Aug. 3, 2006 12:13 PM PDT

In addition to recognizing that a Cuba-esque policy won't work in Syria, Jacob Weisberg writes that it probably won't work in Iran either. Weisberg is writing specifically about the futility of imposing sanctions on dictatorial regimes, but his argument begins with the same basic premise—namely, that a policy which has failed to effect change in Cuba for 46 years and counting probably isn't a great policy.

By applying economic restraints, we label the most oppressive and dangerous governments in the world pariahs. We wash our hands of evil, declining to help despots finance their depredations, even at a cost to ourselves of some economic growth. We wincingly accept the collateral damage that falls on civilian populations in the nations we target. But as the above list of countries suggests, sanctions have one serious drawback. They don't work.

Nothing like an ailing Communist dictator over whom we have no influence whatsoever to remind us what constitutes productive diplomatic strategy.

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