Home World News How America Learned to Love (Ineffective) Sanctions

How America Learned to Love (Ineffective) Sanctions

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If one policy embodies the global reach of American power today, it is the economic weapon of sanctions. As a coercive tool, it is deployed all over the world, against governments from North Korea to Venezuela and from Iran to Belarus. There is scarcely a foreign-policy crisis that arises today in which U.S. policymakers do not resort to sanctions. In the wake of its withdrawal from Kabul last year, the U.S. government froze more than $9 billion in Afghan state assets to punish the Taliban. Earlier this month, it slapped sanctions on the Serb nationalist Milorad Dodik for destabilizing Bosnia. Sanctions are also the chief instrument with which the Biden administration and its European allies are currently trying to deter Russian President Vladimir Putin from invading Ukraine.

It is hard to imagine our present world politics without America’s use of such coercive tools. Yet it was not always this way. In the early 20th century, the United…

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