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When sanctions replace diplomacy

Two overviews of 'sanctions as foreign policy', including a synopsis of
Professor Richard Garfield's new study ...

Uncle Sam's spiel
Professorial lectures and sanctions replace diplomacy

by Nicholas Berry

Anyone who listens to foreign diplomats hears a common theme: They're tired
of being lectured to by American officials. They see little reason for Uncle
Sam to act as the world's only tenured full professor of moral philosophy.

Within the last few months, President Clinton has lectured Pakistani leader
Pervez Musharraf on the virtues of democracy, the vices of terrorism, and
the immorality of attacking civilians in India-controlled Kashmir. On the
latter issue, Mr. Clinton in a public address in Islamabad chastised
Pakistan for supporting terrorists who kill Indians in Kashmir: "No matter
how great the grievance, it is wrong to support attacks against civilians
across the Line of Control." He warned that Pakistan faces further
international isolation if it continues to support Islamic fundamentalists
in Kashmir and Afghanistan.

Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers has lectured the Japanese government on
the virtues of the American model for the New Economy. 

Sen. Jesse Helms (R) of North Carolina, chairman of the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee, has lectured members of the UN Security Council on the
UN's anti-US bias, its bureaucratic inefficiencies, and its unfair (to the
US) dues structure.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has lectured China on its human rights
record, Russia on its devastation of Chechnya, various African states on the
necessity for reform, and many other countries who fail to live up to
American standards. She seems compelled to fill out a report card for her
hosts on every overseas visit.

Perhaps all this arises from having too many ex-professors in the
administration. Nonetheless, when the world's only superpower publicly sets
standards and others fall short when tested, it is virtually certain that
its leaders are placed in a situation of either putting up or shutting up.
Shutting up is not the American way. This explains why the US imposes
sanctions on more foreign states than do all other nations combined. It's
why Clinton so far has levied more sanctions than all other American
presidents before him, combined.

An April 3 Monitor article by Scott Peterson, reported that Clinton, "for
whom sanctions have all but replaced diplomacy," has "along with Congress
... been responsible for imposing more than half of the 125 or so cases of
sanctions ever imposed by the US."

The percentage of the world's population under US sanctions is staggering:
Seventy-five nations with more than half the world's people - including such
international outlaws as Canada, Japan, and Italy - are subject to a range
of penalties.

Mr. Peterson traced the roots of the US reliance on sanctions to President
Woodrow Wilson (like Clinton, another lecturing ex-professor). Wilson at
times penalized Mexico and various Caribbean countries for their

Something besides established research findings must compel the Clinton
administration to employ the wholesale use of sanctions, because researchers
generally agree that:

Foreign leaders who are the targets of sanctions - whether Fidel Castro,
Saddam Hussein, or Slobodan Milosevic - blame the country imposing the
sanctions for their country's economic misery and avert being blamed for
their own poor performance. Sanctions let incompetent dictators off the
These leaders use hostility generated by sanctions to maintain authoritarian
control by emphasizing the foreign threat. Any domestic opposition to these
leaders can then be labeled as actions by dupes or agents of the sanctioning

Civilians, mainly women and children, suffer most from sanctions. The
suffering in Iraq, for example, was so great among civilians that the UN
humanitarian coordinator there, Hans Von Sponeck, resigned rather than
oversee further deaths, disease, malnutrition, and collapse of social

The costs incurred by the states imposing sanctions can be heavy. For
example, the generally accepted figure for lost US trade due to sanctions is
around $20 billion, which translates into the loss of about 220,000
well-paying jobs.

Sanctions rarely work to overthrow foreign leaders or to reverse their
objectionable policies. Sanctions on South Africa and the former Rhodesia -
where elites alone could be punished - are usually mentioned as success
stories, but few others can be hailed as bringing desired results.

Sanctions do hurt the target's economy, but with counterproductive results.
A weakening economy shrinks the middle class, the very socio-economic group
that traditionally presses for freedom and democracy. A weaker middle class
weakens civil society, which then makes the authoritarian public sector
relatively stronger.

Selective sanctions open Washington to the charge of double standards and
hypocrisy. Close dependency on governments that trample certain human rights
makes sanctions problematic. For example, Saudi Arabia's antidemocratic,
antifemale record should bring hefty US sanctions, according to current
standards, but that country is a strategic ally and has lots of oil. US
sanctions on Riyad are virtually nonexistent.

The inescapable conclusion is that a lecturing foreign policy compels
American officials to back the standards they enshrine in their lectures
with penalties for violating those standards. It is a trap. If an American
official says to a foreign leader that he or she should do X, and the leader
does not do X, there is no recourse but to punish. To not punish is to
appear a paper tiger, a blowhard, a fraud, and no US official would welcome
those labels.

Consequently, the US accrues the reputation of a self-righteous bully. And
unfortunately, many ordinary people suffer.

In an effort to get UN members to rethink the use of sanctions, Secretary
General Kofi Annan recently issued a report urging that "smart sanctions" be
used to punish dictators while sparing innocent civilians.

The tone of his 57-page "Millennium Report" leaves little doubt that he
prefers more effective, less costly, methods - such as diplomatic isolation,
media castigation, or UN condemnation - to change the improper behavior of

He could have added that a bit less lecturing might help. 

Nicholas Berry is a senior analyst at the Center for Defense Information. He
is co-author of 'IR: The New World of International Relations' 4th ed.
(Prentice Hall, 1999).


Economic Sanctions Damage Public Health
By John Casey 

April 27 (CBSHealthWatch)--When a country is subject to economic sanctions,
it's often women and children who bear the brunt of the health problems that
result from a lack of good nutrition and medicine, according to a new study.

"For children under five in Iraq, the mortality rate has more than doubled
since the United-Nations-sponsored sanction went into place," says the
study's co-author Richard Garfield, a professor at the Columbia University
School of Nursing who specializes in multicultural public health issues. 

Using individual health records for Iraqi children from a survey of mothers
conducted after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the study authors used a special
method of analysis to come up with their findings. 

"Many Iraqi men died in the war with Iran," says Garfield. "But widows who
were heads of households did all right until the economy collapsed. Then,
women heads of households tended to loose employment. Many men have several
employable skills and even several advanced degrees. Many Iraqi women have
just one skill and one degree. And if they lost their jobs in those areas,
it really hit them and their children hard." 

But Garfield stresses that it's not accurate to say that the rise in child
mortality is just due to the sanctions. 

"It's a product of the whole complex crisis in Iraq, from reduced economic
output to war, not just the sanctions," he says. "People want to point to
the outcome and say it's due to that one cause, but it's not that simple." 

Economic decline caused by sanctions can devastate the entire country, not
just the military. 

"Malnutrition was not a public health problem in Iraq prior to the embargo,"
wrote the authors of 1998 UNICEF report on the affects of sanctions on
health care. "By 1997, it was estimated about one million children under
five were [chronically] malnourished." 

Besides Iraq, Garfield has studied sanctions in a range of countries,
including Haiti and Cuba. He and his colleague found that under economic
sanctions, the risk of death in the general Iraqi population "increased
dramatically," and women and children were especially hard hit. 

But Garfield says other countries under sanctions have managed to thrive
under extended embargoes, for example Cuba. 

"After the US embargo of Cuba went into effect, the Cuban economy declined
about 30%," says Garfield. "Low-weight births went up, as did malnutrition.
Water systems went unrepaired, textbooks disappeared. But when these crises
occurred in Cuba, they reacted by sending doctors into the countryside to do
nutritional monitoring. They began to invest in a very well-developed public
health infrastructure." 

Ironically, some countries rally to a national threat, says Garfield. 

"People in Cuba learned to use the little goods they had more efficiently,"
he says. "The same thing happened in England in World War II. Crisis can
bring out resourcefulness." 

Figures from the World Health Organization show that the five-year-survival
rate of children in Cuba is much higher than the rates in Washington, DC. 

"Everyone says it would be wrong to send [Elian Gonzalez] back to Cuba,
because he'll suffer there," says Anthony F. Kirkpatrick, MD, PhD, a
professor at the University of South Florida College of Medicine in Tampa,
who has been to Cuba several times to examine the embargo's effect on public
health. "But based on where he is now--the Washington, DC area--you'd see
that his chances of surviving from birth to five years are much better in

"Some people look at the data and say that sanctions appear to be at least
less deadly than warfare as a way of pursuing foreign policy," says
Garfield. "But if we're going to engage in sanctions, we have to find ways
to do that without flagrantly violating people's ability to survive." 

Garfield's study appears in the April issue of the American Journal of
Public Health. 
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