| Main |
Syria - Threats from a Deep Fryer:
Remember when the US stopped using the term "rogue state"?
In an eery replay of recent history the US is threatening to impose harsh sanctions on Syria. The hawks are at it again, only now we're supposed to believe that "Syria has the most fearsome chemical and biological weapons arsenal of any Arab state - well beyond anything that Saddam ever had." This is rediculous, what are they going to do, impose sanctions on Syria and then use them like they did with Iraq to help justify war? Next thing you know they'll be using the Israeli land-grab in Syria as an argument for US invasion. Stephen Zunes at Foreign Policy in Focus
shreads the administration's case apart, and any "new intelligence" can hardly be taken seriously.
The second question is whether sanctions, an act of war need one be reminded, against Syria would actually stand to achieve anything besides forcing the government to crack down on its own population and starving the people. The only goal to actually be achieved in Syria, since there is evidence for niether active support for terrorism or its poising a WMD threat, is 'regime change', whatever the administration's insistence on so-called "cooperation" suggests otherwise. They fed us that line with Iraq too, "cooperation" meant "regime change", and they said as much. If that's the case here maybe they should just screw sanctions and organize another coup. I don't see much reason to believe sanctions will be any more successful for such goals in Syria than they were in Iraq and Cuba:
The argument floating around now about Cuba's latest crackdown is that Castro is purposefully derailing the normalization of trade to hold onto power. It would make sense, though I agree with those who argue that once an autocratcy is entrenched behind an embargo it makes it more difficult for those trapped under it to resist the autocrat. The democratic left was long arguing that without sanctions Iraqis would likely depose the Ba'ath regime in similar fashion as the Iranians deposed the Shah, Romanians deposed Ceausescu, or Filipinos deposed Marcos, ect. ect. All of these changes occurred while active support from Washington was continuing. In a few scenarios, such as apartheid South Africa, sanctions did help in bringing about change. Sanctions must exploit divisions between elites, which requires there to be divisions to exploit - under a military dictatorship where the military controls capital, sanctions have proven ineffective. And furthermore, for embargo policies to have any chance at success their conditions must be consistent: for Iraq in particular US policy was at odds with the official UN policy - we insisted on "regime change" while the rest of the world was insisting on disarmament:
The political ramifications of disarmament are complicated, and it is a common observation that the Iraqi government has not been given clear incentives to disarm. UN Security Council Resolution 687 states that the Security Council shall consider the lifting of sanctions if Iraq is found to have fully complied with disarmament, while Resolution 1284 stipulates that sanctions will be suspended if Iraqi cooperates. At the same time, three successive US administrations have firmly stated an alternative objective, as Secretary of State Colin Powell did when, in comments to the Financial Times, he described "sanctions and the pressure of sanctions [as] part of a strategy of regime change." On February 28, as Iraq began to destroy its proscribed al-Samoud missiles, the White House reaffirmed that Iraqi disarmament is not enough to avert war.
Ostensibly the embargo on Cuba is about democratization and human rights - it seems obvious that between Castro's repression of political expression and the embargo-induced poverty of Cuba the embargo does more ill than good - if Bardach is right in arguing that Castro is actually trying to prevent lifting the embargo then there's absolutely no justification for continuing them, on his part or ours.
For sanctions to be effective they also have to be enforced, besides being applied with consistent goals in mind, and amidst today's
accussations that France and Russia broke the sanctions it appears that the
US was breaking them too. And in the meantime, because the US won't pass interim authority to the UN the other UNSC members may attempt to continue sanctions - which haven't actually been officially lifted on Iraq yet.