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Sanctions and Embargoes Are Immoral and Counterproductive


In an unusual moment of candor, President Bush revealed why so many people around the world hate and resent the U.S. government for its foreign policy. In his news conference this week, Bush pointed out how he is hoping that the U.S. sanctions against Iran encourage the Iranian people to oust their rulers from power. According to the New York Times:

“Mr. Bush sought in the news conference to make clear that his pressure tactics, including economic sanctions, were aimed at persuading the Iranian people to find new leadership. ‘The whole strategy is that, you know, at some point in time leaders or responsible folks inside of Iran may get tired of isolation and say, ‘This isn’t worth it,’ and to me it’s worth the effort to keep the pressure on this government,’ Mr. Bush said.”

So, there you have it — the same nasty, cruel strategy of sanctions that was aimed at the Iraqi people for more than 10 years and against the Cuban people for more than 50 years.

Bush knows that sanctions and embargoes attack the citizenry, not the rulers. He knows, for example, that it wasn’t Saddam Hussein who paid the price for the sanctions against Iraq but rather the Iraqi people, who lost hundreds of thousands of their children as a result of the sanctions. He also knows that it hasn’t been Fidel Castro who has paid the price for the embargo against Cuba but rather the Cuban people, who live on the verge of starvation.

The idea is that if the citizenry are sufficiently squeezed economically, especially through the prospect of death, they will have the incentive to oust their rulers and install a pro-U.S. regime in their stead, which will cause U.S. rulers to drop the sanctions, establish friendly relations, and flood the country with U.S. foreign aid.

Unfortunately, all too many Americans have yet to figure all this out — that this is the core element of U.S. foreign policy — regime change — the ouster of independent regimes and their replacement with pro-U.S. regimes. They prefer to convince themselves that the lofty pronouncements issued by U.S. officials regarding democracy-spreading, liberation, and loving foreigners are true despite the manifest evidence to the contrary, including the willingness to kill an unlimited number of foreigners to achieve their goals. Thus, Madeleine Albright’s infamous statement that the deaths of half a million Iraqi children from the sanctions was “worth it.”

Another factor to consider with respect to Iran, of course, is that U.S. officials have never forgiven the Iranian people for ousting the pro-U.S. shah of Iran, whom the CIA installed in a coup in 1953, and replacing him with an independent regime during the Iranian Revolution in 1979.

On top of the immorality of sanctions and embargoes, there are two other important factors to consider.

One, sanctions and embargoes produce anger, hatred, and resentment, which manifests itself with terrorist blowback. In fact, one of the primary reasons for the 1993 and 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center (along with the attacks on the USS Cole, the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the Pentagon) was the rage that the continual deaths of the Iraqi children produced among people throughout the Middle East, not to mention the effect that Albright’s unbelievably callous statement had on people in the Middle East.

Two, sanctions and embargoes are a direct infringement on the economic liberty of the American people because they deprive people of the fundamental right to spend their money the way they want.

Sanctions and embargoes are immoral and counterproductive. Americans should constitutionally prohibit the federal government from ever imposing them again.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.