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The Problem with Sanctions: Feel Good Versus Effective Policy

April 23, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Colombia to strike a
Reaganesque pose when he called on Venezuelan President Nicolas
Maduro to open a bridge to allow entry of humanitarian aid. The
effort fell flat.

The bridge didn’t offer much of a backdrop, certainly not
one comparable to the Berlin Wall, where President Ronald Reagan
memorably urged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “Tear down
this wall.” Moreover, Maduro didn’t pay the slightest
notice to Pompeo. In contrast, Gorbachev almost certainly took note
of Reagan. After all, the former had begun dismantling the
totalitarian system’s worst oppressions. Indeed, in the end
Gorbachev essentially did as asked by simply announcing that the
Red Army would remain in its barracks, leaving East Germany’s
leaders on their own.

The biggest difference, however, is that Reagan made a demand
that was plausible and grew out of their growing relationship.
Ronald Reagan’s determination and optimism together helped
create an international environment that invited the USSR’s
collapse. But Mikhail Gorbachev also was a critical player. Reagan
rightly judged that his Moscow counterpart just might be the man to
lower the most brutal symbol of the Evil Empire.

Administration officials
appear to be fulfilling the classic definition of insanity – doing
the same thing while expecting a different outcome

In contrast, Pompeo doesn’t talk to Maduro. The American
secretary of state doesn’t even consider Maduro to be
president any longer. The latter is simply expected to concede
defeat and quit. Yet Maduro has no inclination to surrender. He is
no humanitarian, and cares not at all about his nation’s
continuing implosion. And where would he go? Enjoy poverty with his
fellow dictators in Cuba?

Most important, Maduro seems to be winning. Since the
administration recognized the National Assembly’s Juan Guaido
as president, Pompeo, and the administration that he serves, have
offered mostly words. But there isn’t much else to do.
Military action was never a good option. War always should be a
last resort, limited to protecting vital interests, most obviously
where America is under attack. Venezuela, however, is a tragedy,
not a serious security interest. Sanctions are effective only in
making the already poor worse off. Those in power do best avoiding
the worst effects. Trying to save the nation by destroying its
economy and society is a dubious venture anywhere. In Venezuela it
appears to be ineffective as well.

Yet sanctions appear to be the administration’s policy de
jure, irrespective of impact. Two years ago the president reversed
much of President Barack Obama’s opening to Cuba. He demanded
that Cuba implement democracy and liberty, worthwhile objectives to
be sure, but ones no self-respecting communist government would
allow.

More recently he …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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