Summary of "Sanctions"

Summary of


by Steven McIntosh

Summary written by: Tanya Glaser, Conflict Research Consortium

Citation: "Sanctions," chap. in Building International Community, Kevin Clements and Robin Ward, eds. (St. Leonards, Australia: Allen & Unwin, 1994) pp. 311-318.

McIntosh examines the use and effectiveness of United Nations sanctions in five cases. Drawing on these cases, he suggests three factors which influence the effectiveness of sanctions.

The UN first employed sanctions against Rhodesia in 1966. Few nations took steps to enforce the sanctions, and South Africa actively opposed them. It wasn't until the U.S. and South Africa began to apply pressure that the warring factions were moved to negotiations. In the late 1970s the West initiated an arms embargo and serious economic sanctions against South Africa, in an attempt to end the practice of racial apartheid. The South African economy depended on commodity trading and foreign capital. Sanctions caused an economic crisis, which prompted the government to negotiate an end to minority rule in the early 1990s. Domestic opposition, cultural changes, and the end of the Cold War facilitated the government's decision to negotiate.

Sanctions were leveled against Iraq due to its invasion of Kuwait. Sanctions remain in force because Iraq has not complied with UN orders regarding weapons destruction and the return of Kuwaiti property. To date, sanctions against Iraq have not been effective. The ruling elite has managed to shift the effects of sanctions onto the domestic opposition, and have not themselves felt the shortages. Some members of the ruling elite have actually profited. Neighboring Arab states have not enforced sanctions strongly. Iraq has been able to maintain the infrastructure despite sanctions and has rich farmlands. Moreover, the Iraqi leadership feels that capitulating to the sanctions threatens their existence and credibility as a nation.

The UN has leveled air, arms and diplomatic sanctions against Libya to encourage Libyan cooperation in international investigations into terrorist activities. These relatively mild sanctions have not been effective.

A blanket arms embargo on Yugoslavia gave Serbs a military advantage over the Bosnian Muslims. While sanctions have had a devastating economic effect on the populace, the ruling parties have not been as deeply affected. Some members of the ruling elite have profited from the black-market. In addition sanctions seem to have intensified Serbian nationalism. The overall effect of sanctions in the former Yugoslavia remains difficult to assess.

Oil and arms embargoes on Haiti produced rapid results. Sanctions were put in place in June 1993 to encourage restoration of a democratic government. The democratically elected president was reinstalled in August 1993 and sanctions were lifted.

McIntosh concludes that "although comprehensive economic sanctions may not, in the short term at least, compel target states to alter their behavior, they adversely affect the ability of those states to continue that behavior."[p. 317] Broad, vigorously enforced sanctions are the most effective.

Sanctions are less effective on autocratic governments than on democratic ones. In autocratic states the ruling elite can often avoid or even profit from shortages, and can more easily ignore the suffering of the general population. Use of sanctions can strengthen existing nationalist resolve in the target country. McIntosh also notes that sanctions can have serious impact on third-party states. Developing better mechanisms for compensation of affected third- parties would likely improve their enforcement of and compliance with sanctions.