Posted by: Sam Carson | 3 October, 2007

When have sanctions done any good?

When have economic sanctions ever worked?   No, really.  Tell me an example of when economic sanctions have influenced political change.  At a stretch I can possibly point to South Africa, but really I know better.  The end of apartheid was the result of a spectrum of reasons: the foremost being that black South Africans were starting to understand the power of the majority.  A close second is that white South Africans also figured out the same thing.

No.  I need a better example.  I cannot think of one.

My natural reaction to the recent Saffron uprising in Burma is to require some sort of sanctions, because I don’t know any better way of punishing a nation.  War is out for the same reason, each punish the people for the leadership’s crimes.  So, I accept neither, especially when I read this from the London Times:

Burma is a tiny sore, a snag in the woodwork that occasionally trips us up and begs the question: why did we not mend this problem years ago? Tellingly, when asked about British investments in Burma, David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, admitted that he could think of none. He might have asked John Battle, a former Labour Foreign and Commonwealth Office minister, who in 2000 led a campaign against Premier Oil, a small British explorer that found gas in the Andaman Sea. Campaigners latched on to Premier, the only significant British investor, and made wild accusations that the company used slaves to build a gas pipeline. Premier became embroiled in the politics and played a clever game. Instead of distancing itself, it became more engaged with the regime, forcing embarrassed military officers to take part in human rights seminars and, occasionally acting as an intermediary, helping to secure the release from prison of James Mawdsley, a young Briton who had staged a rash protest in Rangoon.



  1. Free Burma!
    International Bloggers’ Day for Burma on the 4th of October

    International bloggers are preparing an action to support the peaceful revolution in Burma. We want to set a sign for freedom and show our sympathy for these people who are fighting their cruel regime without weapons. These Bloggers are planning to refrain from posting to their blogs on October 4 and just put up one Banner then, underlined with the words „Free Burma!“.

  2. Depends what you mean as ‘good.’ Sanctions were great for the US against Iraq. They killed a half million people (albeit mainly babies and children), drastically weakened the infrastructures, made the crack Presidential Guard feeble rag-tag retreaters and made it really easy for them to stroll into the country and take it over. Sanctions are really good at weakening a country.

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