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One Way To Link Economic Sanctions to Civilian Suffering

On 25 January 2002, UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw delivered an address
entitled "Engagement with the Islamic World" to Oxford University students
and Oxford community members at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, an
Oxford University associated institution.

During the question and answer period an audience member asked a question
about Iraq, sanctions and related UK policy.

To summarize, the questioner:

* Noted the August 1999 UNICEF maternal and infant mortality survey and its

* Noted that that the Government ostensibly bases UK foreign policy on human
rights principles and standards.

* Asked therefore how the Government could justify continuing such a policy.

The question was good.  But as demonstrated by Straw's response, the
questioner left Straw far too much "wiggle room".  He rather successfully
avoided the link between economic sanctions and the under-five mortality (or
any other civilian suffering).

This exchange reminded me how important it is to optimally frame the issue,
and to close loopholes when publicly  writing and/or speaking.  Granted,
politicians, professional and amateur, are often adept at spin and
side-stepping straight-forward questions.  However, one wants to make it as
difficult for them as possible.  Most importantly, one does well to clearly
and carefully show the general audience how evidence supports ones
proposition and not the other party's.

A former colleague once reminded me of economic sanctions' most basic
feature and the subsequent consequences.  I have found it to be most
helpful, both to internally clarify the Iraq case and convince hostile
audiences that there is a link between UN Security Council economic
sanctions on Iraq (and U.S. policy therein) and civilian suffering.

* Economic sanctions damage a target economy.
- They fail to do so only when they are completely ineffective.
- This is what the sanctions architects design and implement them to do.
- The damage extent and type depend on the sanctions particulars (specific
measures, enforcement, comprehensiveness, etc.) and the target economy (the
Iraqi economy was for well chronicled reasons particularly vulnerable).
- For some potential, predictable economic sanctions effects see Eric
Hoskins, "The Impact of Sanctions: A Study of UNICEF's Perspectives",
February 1998, and particularly
Table 3

* By definition, economic damage leads to suffering.
- Civilians are most vulnerable.
- Vulnerable civilians (women, children, the sick, the elderly and the poor)
are most likely to bear the suffering brunt.
- The extent and type of suffering depends on the economic damage and
individual vulnerability.
- For some potential, predictable economic sanctions effects see Eric
Hoskins, "The Impact of Sanctions: A Study of UNICEF's Perspectives",
February 1998, and particularly
Table 3

* Applied economic sanctions will lead to economic damage and subsequent
civilian suffering - this is inevitable and foreseeable.

Thus, if one accepts the above hypothesis, one may argue it is inaccurate to
state that applied economic sanctions do not have a role in Iraq's economic
damage and civilian suffering (in the Iraqi case it is a primary role).  The
policy has clear, inevitable, foreseeable economic and civilian
consequences, regardless of whether the audience believes that the GoI or
the Security Council (or even more specifically the U.S.) is to blame for
the economic sanctions actually being in place.

In summary, one may generally link economic sanctions, economic damage and
civilian suffering.  Then, one may apply the link to the Iraq case and fill
in the case-specific details.

Note: This note presupposes that sound reasoning and argumentation alone are
insufficient for effective (defined as facilitating sufficient policy
change), multi-person issue advocacy.  Such effectiveness requires pressure,
lobbying and many other advocacy tools.  However, many advocacy tools become
much more potent when they feature the tightest arguments and the most
accurate, credible evidence.

Nathaniel Hurd

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