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Economic Sanctions, Expect More Use of them

For decades, critics of U.S. policy toward Cuba have harped about the failure of economic sanctions. I’ve found that the best rejoinder, to which they can never answer, is that economic sanctions are not a “policy” but a tool.  Anyhow, Harvard’s Joseph Nye has a thoughtful piece in today’s Financial Times on economic sanctions that is worth a read.

He concludes with this:

Now is the moment for the cynics to drop their all-or-nothing criticism of sanctions, and to see them instead as a limited but useful tool. Because of their value in signalling and soft power; because they are often the only relatively inexpensive policy option; and because smart sanctions can be applied flexibly, they remain an important policy instrument.


I think you will see more, not less use of economic sanctions as a policy tool in decades to come. As it should be. Bad actors should not be allowed to use the U.S. financial system or our economy to make it easier for them to do things that conflict with U.S. interests and policy.

As far as the compliance costs, as well as the  economic impact of sanctions to U.S. companies, when compared to overall GDP and demand for U.S. products and services, it is not the dire picture wonks in this town try to project. It is a cost of doing business that U.S. companies have factored in when trading in the global arena.

Nye’s op-ed is available here.

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