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U.S. Sanctions: Economic Sabotage That Is Deadly, Illegal, and Ineffective

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/06/17/us-sanctions-economic-sabotage-deadly-illegal-and-ineffective

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Sanctions show an administration’s sanctimoniousness.

Diplomacy and tactful reason show an administration’s embrace of the real concepts of peace, love, and compassion.

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The USA, my beautiful democratic country, is a Goddamn Bully using our Military might to push other countries around.

If foreign countries do not obey our orders we will impose devastating Sanctions on them and also punish any Country that deals with the Country we are trying to control.

What the hell gives us the right to dictate how a sovereign country can run their government.

North Korea knew that the only way to deal with a Bully like the United States was to develop a Nuclear Bomb as quickly as possible before we treated them to a Shock & Awe show.

Welcome to America the most powerful Terrorist Country in the World, and we now have to most dangerous Tyrant in the World in charge of our Terrorist Nation.

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Tyrannosaurus Rex went extinct.

Tyrant-o-Ignoramus Trump will be fossil fuel in the making sooner than we all might imagine.

We have seen history play this tune before. Why do people here think they are immune to tyranny?
Indeed, we ARE the terrorists of the world. Somebody please punish us. Put the leadership in something equivalent to Gitmo.
It’s way past time that we once again invest in peace dividends, not stock market games.

Actually, it seems as though the US sanctions regime is proving quite effective…

At stimulating other nations to develop financial agreements that bypass the US$ in favor of trading in multiple currencies. That shift is picking up steam, led by India, Russia, and China. If I’m not mistaken, Venezuela accepts rupees in exchange for oil;

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I posted a video yesterday in an “Iran” story with the same theme. What shocked me the most, it was from CNN, of all places. Tells me our economy is probably on life support as we speak.

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The headline “U.S. Sanctions: Economic Sabotage That Is Deadly, Illegal, and Ineffective” is of course misleading. They’re effective at making life more miserable for the targeted people, though ineffective – often counterproductive – at making those people support U.S. aggression.

And in the long run, they may prove effective in diminishing U.S. power and influence – as other countries resent them and find alternatives. International stories increasingly quote world leaders saying the U.S. can’t be trusted as a political and commercial partner.

There is a misconception of what sanctions do. Sanctions never work to implement regime change. The reason is if a regime is so brutal to ignore the will of the people, the fact that their lives are more miserable does not change anything. The concept that Russia, Iran, Cuba, NK, or Venezuela leadership will capitulate is laughable. However, that is not what sanctions are for.

Sanctions are used to prevent a bad actor or someone you believe is a bad actor from having additional resources to cause mischief. For example one of the side effects of the Iran nuclear deal was Iran having the resources to prop up Assad. Russian air power was important. But it was boots on the ground that saved Assad. It was the billions used to finance the Shite militias by recruiting bodies from as far away as Afghanistan that saved Assad. There is no other way for a small minority to hold on to a country in the face of a national revolt. Sanctions suddenly make it harder and more painful for Iran to implement mischief because mischief costs money.

The reasoning with sanctions against Russia are for the same thing. Obama knew that Putin would never give up Crimea. However the sanctions combined with the drop in the price of oil has forced Russia to scrap most of the modernization of their military. 5th generation tank and air superiority fighters will remain only as research initiatives. The aircraft carrier much less any capital ship will not be built as even a cruiser is out of budget. Ditto a long range bomber. Putin’s plan for a first rate armed forces is gone along with any future ability to project power. Without the Mistrial amphibious ship that France was building, no way to transport military assets a long way.

In the case of Venezuela they are still exporting oil to curry political favors. If Venezuela cannot export oil, it cannot prop up Cuba. If Cuba does not have oil to resell as hard currency it cannot export its mischief. It is stuck with surviving as exporting revolution costs money.

Please note that bad actor and mischief are subjective. If one were to find the policy and actions of the above countries acceptable you might disagree with them being mischievous. However, my point is that sanctions make it harder for target countries to do the actions you disagree with because the resources available are less. Example in the case of Iran they will have to at some point have to cut back in their financial investments in the Shite militias in Syria, Iraq, Hezbollah, Gaza, and Houthi movements. The Soviet Union fell not because the people rose up but because Reagan convinced Europe not to purchase Soviet natural gas plus convincing the Saudi’s to pump like crazy.

In summary the author just does not understand what the weapon of sanctions is all about. Sanctions are an economic weapon to prevent a country from taking an action by making them too impoverished to do it.

the most effective response to US bullying and sanctions would be if almost all the rest of the world, including Russia, China, Europe, Japan, Latin America… united in resistance and made appoint of trading with and helping the sanctioned countries - the US couldn’t sanction the entire world without wrecking our own economy. But such unity is not easily come by, we’d need help from social justice advocates everywhere as each country’s leaders may see an incentive to opt out and cater to the Trump regime

Another reason for sanctions is that it enables our ruling class to continue the propaganda that significant social spending (and the horrid “socialism”) is bad – so we target governments that move too far left. For example, if we had not had an embargo on Cuba for more than the last half century and as a result the economy there was thriving and the masses there had an economic life actually better than a significant proportion of people in the U.S., then would that not make plain the lies of the 1%, with the numerous systemic inequities that we have here?

I will have to disagree with you. Kennedy and Johnson implemented sanctions first long before Reaganism existed. Cuba was using its national resources and aid from the Soviet Union to attempt to export it’s economic and political model to other countries in Africa and the Western Hemisphere. Economic sanctions were an attempt to thwart this export attempt. Peru had a socialist government and Ecuador still does. There have been many socialist countries that have not gone on the sanctions list including countries that have implemented nationalization programs. South America went through an entire socialist populist phase and its not like the entire continent went on the sanctions list. If the pollical order is democracy, no one is going to care if the country is socialist.

If you look at the short list the countries on the US sanction list are doing more than just existing but being an aggressive entity in term of exporting their political and economic agenda elsewhere, often condoning violence. If Castro were content to be a Communist country like Cambodia was the United States would not have been so vigorous in a response. It was Castro’s public statement that he wanted to expand what was in Cuba elsewhere. You forget that Castro was angry that the Soviet Union backed down as he wanted a nuclear exchange during the crisis in 63.

Same thing with Iran. If the mullahs were content to run Iran like the generals did former Burma, no one would care. The US cared because the mullahs still see the Muslim world pre treaty of Westphalia. If you are a Sunni, your dirt. They don’t care about social justice and make our most extreme evangelicals look happy Pollyana’s. Not that Saudi Arabia is any better. Maybe they will have different opinions after a nasty 30 year war. Iran is sanctioned because their idea of the world order was different from the western world and they were willing to impose that order via force Soviet iron current style if they could. There are no saints in the world. But there are some shades of gray more odious then others.

You forget that sanctions are a pain. So just because there is a country you believe is crummy out there is not motivation enough. They may even be doing something you don’t like. Its when a country threatens your strategic interests that sanctions are implemented. In the case of the Soviet Union, Cuba, later Russia, Iran, and now Venezuela they are threatening that strategic interest or at least the rulers of the United States believe so. If the Bolivarian revolution was meant for Venezuela only, no one would care.

If you wonder why the rest of the world goes along, its because they agree. The United States would be okay if Iran took over the entire middle east. Europe is in a world of hurt. Most of Latan America applauded the demise of Cuba has a hundred revolutions withered without bankrolling from the Soviet Union.

I think the US doesn’t care one way or the other a country is democratic or not provided it has the economic system the US wants it to have,and is not otherwise opposed to the interests of the US or it allies. As you said, foreign policy is not about altruism. It is about self-interest.

Different economic systems can provide a problem for the US in several ways. For example, apropos Venezuela, if a high proportion of a country’s oil wealth is be spent on social programs for the masses it reduces the ability of US corporations to exploit the country’s resources, and that’s contrary to perceived US interests. Also, particularly if close to home, a renegade country can provide a bad example as mentioned in my comment to which you responded. The neoliberalism model works great for exploitation, and that’s what we’re interested in.

Kennedy an Johnson implemented sanctions before Reganism existed but so what? There was a cold war going on, a war much more about economic systems than elections and democracy.

I agree that, other things being equal, the more aggressively a country engages in exporting its incompatible (with the us) desired economic system, neoliberalism, the more opposition it’s likely to draw from the us. In South America’s socialist phase, whilst leaving economically compliant governments undisturbed, the US has used lots of tools other than sanctions to derail left leaning governments.

Contrasting Iran to Saudi Arabia makes the case that being democratic or not is not what makes our response to those countries different. Saudi Arabia is exporting some nasty stuff, but economically to our liking, so it gets a free pass. Iran is supporting Hamas and Hezbollah and Israel wants that to end, and Israel has lots of power in the US.

“If the Bolivina revolution was meant for Venezuela only no one would care”. The Bolivian revolution is not about imposing anything undemocratically. The US opposition to it because of it’s an economic move to the left, not good for US corporate interests. If Venezuela returned to the exploitation-made-possible model, the US would not have a problem. The US doesn’t seem to have a problem with the offense against democracy that is Bolsonaro.

The US concern about democracy is a facade. It makes great cover.

You ignore my case study of Peru an Ecuador. Both of those countries took actions in terms of social policy as Venezuela. They even expropriated corporate assets and redirected towards social programs. Yet the reaction from the United States was muted. The reason is that Peru and Ecuador are democracies. The Bolivarian revolution had no need for democracy other then as Erdogan described as just a train stop. You use it like Hitler to get in power and discard. Chavez made it pretty clear that democracy was a means to an end. Now you see the pathological end as Venezuela has fully transformed into a narco state run by the army. You may be right about US corporations or more logically multi nationals. But its pretty clear in the post cold war era that even a neo conservative will not foment instability just because a country is socialist.

I disagree with your response on Saudi Arabia. SA wants to see the status quo. They are not interested in other countries territory. SA has never coveted Shite land much less countries like Jordan or Egypt. They have their own despotic idea and I agree they are willing to work within the system which makes their despotism tolerable to the world. Then again as long as oil is important they can sort of do what they want. Regardless, they have bought into the western economic model verses Iran which professes to tear down.

Again I will reiterate that countries that are the target of sanctions are more then just perceived internal bad actors. Whether it is Iran and their jihad, Bolivarian revolution of Chavez, the export of Castro style revolution, or Russia looking to put the empire back together, that is when there will be a response.

Specifically I will absolutely disagree on your assertion on the Bolivarian revolution. Again, Argentina and Brazil were leftist for over a decade. I made my case studies with Peru and Ecuador. Pretty much the only center right countries on the continent were Columbia and Chile. So I strongly disagree that socialism is perceived as a threat either by the United States or a partially socialist Europe. Tyranny is the threat. Ten percent of the population of Venezuela had fled before sanctions were even considered. Anyone that thinks Cuba or Iran is a great country, go visit there and criticize the leadership. I do not have a problem with leftist thinking other then left attempts to not be democratic.

You’re saying left-leaning governments are only attacked if they are not democracies and are attempting to export their socialism undemocratically. Check out this long list of leftist democracies overthrown by the US to get undemocratically the economic or other policies there (never leftist) that suited the US. That’s self interest Otherwise, there’s no US self interest in whether a foreign country that is not a military threat is a democracy.

Something I wrote a little while back that might be of interest

https://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/2010s/2019/no-1375-march-2019/sanctions-waging-war-without-bullets/

“…Those who defend sanctions share the same belief as a kidnapper who refuses food and water to his victim because the victim’s family declines to pay the ransom demand. The siege tactic deliberately targets a civilian population with fatal consequences by withholding supplies and starving them yet it is a form of warfare which is considered legal and acceptable…”

Pointed out earlier in the thread there is an inflection point centered at the end of the cold war. There is no doubt that the US government exercised REAL POLITIK when it was in a struggle of existence with the Soviet Union. That said for those who like to put NEO in front of any establishment, they will see conspiracy behind every tree.

I still hold by my position as I can cite dozens of examples of either a country going socialist or nationalizing multinational assets and there was no response by the United States. Most of OPEC derived their oil assets by nationalizing. Yet there was no invasion of Saudi Arabia, much less my case studies of Peru or Ecuador.

Those in charge of US policy are not saints. But they are not even remotely close to the nefarious evil that is often claimed on this board. I have researched multiple events that are stated as fact that ended up being not even remotely true. Yet the conspiracy becomes a convenient fact because its easier to mobilize if your enemy is evil or to turn you antagonist into an enemy. This is how the Russians spin that Victoria Nuland orchestrated the entire Ukraine uprising.

My favorite is Chile. The CIA knew what was going to happen because collecting intelligence is what they do. Yet to consider they could overthrow an entire country on a threadbare operation is laughable. If they actually did that you should fear the NEO’s because that means they have paranormal powers that approach the divine. If they truly were such masters of manipulation, then again we would not know Illuminati style :slight_smile: Like I said before they are not saints as we know there was direct involvement in Iran in 53. Then again what do you do when you know Soviet agents are in the country playing the same game, who are trying to install their version of an Iranian Lenin. The burden of REAL POLITIK. You walk away, Iran is a client state. I won’t justify it. A lot easier for us to Monday morning QB after the fact. Just researched Gettysburg. Everyone hates Meade because he did not follow up an attack after the 3rd day because that is what the wiki says. Yet the deep dive shows evidence that not attacking was still the right thing to do. As someone who got spun into an illusion that turned into fact at a previous occupation, I have empathy.

this is nothing new, and everyone knows it.
nothing changes, however, until the people of USA want to change.
but most don’t yet, as they benefit, or so they think, from the US state terrorism economic or otherwise.
the poeple of the USA are terrorists and willing accomplices of other crimes.
the change will come from outside, one way or another, and sooner or later.

I agree that the US has not overthrown every socialist country - it’s not always much desired, or feasible. Of course, the fact that you can show me banks that have not been robbed, does not mean that banks are not robbed.

My position is that the US engages as nauseam in virtually all its regime change efforts in pursuit of or shoring-up its wealth and power behind a facade of propaganda, maligning antagonists and claiming altruism like bringing democracy - Venezuela is just one example. It is never solely for the intended benefit of the country attacked (collateral benefits accepted)

For good or bad, the US has been pushing the neoliberalism model on the world It’s an unsustainable inequity mazimizer. US conduct with respet to Iran is clearly reprehensible…

Gotta love that neo world. Up there with terrorism and crimes against humanity as most misused words. That may have been the case a long time ago. Certainly not now. The reason is there is a common misconception on what wealth is. There is no wealth in acquisition. That was the failure of Germany and Japan in WWII. They still clung to the old colonial empire belief that land and captive peoples converted to prosperity and ultimately power. In the Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson he defines the value of a countries currency by the worlds confidence in its people. I will turn the neo word around. This is something the neo-progressive-radicals do not get. The United States does not generate any wealth by pillaging other countries. The United States may spend good resources on silly endeavors. But foreign adventures never made anyone money. Amazon is worth more than 1 trillion dollars. Presuming that extracting oil generated a 50 dollar profit, that is equivalent to sitting on 20 billion barrels of oil. What extraordinary power unleased that the United States makes something out of nothing. All of the gold in the world did the Spanish no good. And Amazon is only one company out of a score that are continuously spawning into existence. Venezuela has nothing. Venezuela is worth more dead than alive as its oil production going off line only makes the shale oil industry that much more valuable. But since you bring up Venezuela.

What is the value of Venezuela from a pure wealth perspective. Using your model, the people are worthless. Only the natural resources be it oil and to a lesser extent gold is worth anything. There is about 20 years plus or minus five left in the oil age. The United States had developed infrastructure in country to extract oil shale for those remaining 20 years. Venezuela’s infrastructure is so shot, it will take a decade to bring back on line. I’m guessing it will require 50-100B investment to bring Venezuela’s infrastructure back to pre Chavez levels. More money will be made by Venezuela being offline then bringing its oil assets online. I’m sure a corporation here or there will make a nickel. In the grand scheme of things Venezuela is a money pit. You build the country back up for the sake of the people, not that there is anything to squeeze out of it. Its the power of despots to kill the golden goose.

Which leads to the reason why the neo-radicals illusion of the United States as some kind of hegemon is silly. Hayek’s book The Path to Serfdom spells out how tyrants like Chavez can destroy so much. Hayek’s comments on National Socialism and Communism still hold true. The true strength of The United States is its political organization of decentralization. You are correct there are bad acts along with the good. Regardless of how altruistic or nefarious you label a president be it FDR, Reagan, Clinton, or Trump, there is a limit to any factions power. Its really hard to impose any coherent will because in the United States to get something done, everyone has to agree. If that is not the case nothing gets done.

The Founding Fathers realized that paralysis was superior to one side imposing its will. Every strong meaning President has been blocked by someone. So all of this conspiracy theory that the United States has some coherent plan to suck the world dry is silly. There never was a plan. Perhaps, there are unfortunate accidents and side effects. There still may be responsibility to be taken. But there was never an Illuminati like Central Committee plotting the demise of the troublesome third world country. It was as much keystone cops as the British acquisition of the Indian Subcontinent.

Hayek points out where this can happen. It can only happen in a centrally planned model. Why? Because someone has to have the brutal will to take action against the wishes of others. This is the brutal evil of collectivism. Man will never agree on a common course. Only by imposing a plan by force and if necessary violence can a central plan be enacted. This requires the removal of the democratic process. Then you can do anything you want.

The glorious end results is something like Venezuela. Ten percent of the country had already left before sanctions were even enacted. The country produces nothing. The leadership stays in power by allowing the armed forces to suck the last wealth out of the country. Now everyone is desperately poor. Sanctions did not cause this. It only accelerated the death throes.

All that will soon be left are the thugs and those too poor to leave. Back to my definition of wealth which is the people, all those who were productive and could produce have left in a diaspora spanning continents. Venezuela is a zombie corpse worth nothing. If the nightmare ever ends the only reason to invest in it is empathy, charity, and mercy.