I don’t sanction that
The BBC reports that the United States has imposed sanct
ions on key Iranian officials for human rights abuses dating from the crackdown on anti-government protesters in the summer of 2009. The sanctions consist of travel bans and asset freezes. As far as diplomatic tools go, sanctions like these –small, targeted ones- are mostly symbolic in nature and morally uncontroversial. They will at least inconvenience the miscreants in question a little, and likely will not hurt any innocents.
But the same cannot be said of sanctions in general as diplomatic tools. Without so much as a shot fired, economic sanctions can be just as
destructive as wars and just as capable of harming the innocent. More than that, they rarely accomplish policy goals in their own right, although they might make some goals easier to attain in at least the short run.
When we discuss sanctions of the kind that target whole nations, we are really weighing the morality of collective punishment against the desirability
of certain policy goals. Maybe the price will be worth it. Maybe not.
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