The ethical dilemma of the imposition of economic sanctions as a deterrent tool against a sovereign state: a critical analysis with reference to Cuba, Iraq and Zimbabwe.
MetadataShow full item record
The issue of economic sanctions has become a popular foreign policy tool that is usually resorted to in dealing with states whose policies are deemed to be repugnant to acceptable foreign international norms. The dominant rationale behind the imposition of economic sanctions against the target state is based on the presumption that such punitive measures will inevitably bring about behaviour modification in the target state. Related to this belief is that the citizens of the target state will embark on a popular revolt against their government as a result of the national hardships caused by the imposed economic sanctions. Regardless of the fact that there is no empirical evidence on the efficacy of economic sanctions as a foreign policy tool for policy modification, economic sanctions have remained the most popular foreign policy tool when dealing with errant or rogue states. The thesis is premised on the consensus of many scholars that economic sanctions do not lead to behaviour modification in the target state, instead, they actually create a situation whereby those who are supposed to be helped by economic sanctions end up suffering the most as a result of the negative consequences of those sanctions. The rationale behind the support of economic sanctions is predominantly derived from economics and does not take into account the negative humanitarian consequences of economic sanctions. The rationale behind economic sanctions does not accommodate any humanitarian impulse. It was partly for this reason that the study advanced the thesis that the reason behind the imposition of economic sanctions by the sender state(s) against the target state is related to the pursuit of national interests of the sender state(s). From a historical perspective, the Western world has used economic sanctions as an expression of power. Economic sanctions were used as a way of subduing poor states into doing what the powerful countries wanted these poor countries to do. In this regard there was not any humanitarian consideration in the imposition of sanctions. Many scholars have argued that economic sanctions are designed to inflict economic harm on the target state indiscriminately. It is for this reason that critics of economic sanctions have argued that they are an inhumane system. While the UN Charter does not specifically mention the term ‘economic sanctions’, the concept is implied in terms such as ‘other measures necessary for the maintenance of peace and security in the world’ such as ‘trade embargoes’, which can be taken multilaterally under the authorisation of the UNSC, and unilaterally. The spirit of the UN Charter premised the imposition of sanctions on the understanding that apart from warfare, they are a harmless foreign policy tool for the promotion of peace and security in the world. Through case studies of countries such as Cuba, Iraq and Zimbabwe, where economic sanctions have been imposed, the study questioned the efficacy of economic sanctions as a foreign policy tool for the promotion of peace and security in the world. It was thus deduced from these case studies that economic sanctions have contributed to indiscriminate suffering of the majority of the innocent citizens in these target states instead of bringing about behaviour modification of the perceived errant State. It was argued that economic sanctions cannot be justified from the Western and African ethical traditions. The basis of my ethical critique was on the assumption that they are a foreign policy tool that is designed to inflict indiscriminate suffering on the majority of the innocent citizens of the target state. From the utilitarian ethical perspective, economic sanctions violate the utilitarian ethical principle of acting in a way that promotes the greatest good for the greatest number of people. The inherent element of indiscrimination in economic sanctions arises from the fact that they are a foreign policy tool that is designed to use persons as means and not as ends in themselves as required by the Kantian deontological ethics. From a Judeo-Christian perspective, it is also argued that economic sanctions are a manifestation of structural evil in the generality of human existence by virtue of their inherent capability to inflict indiscriminate harm on the innocent. Another ethical critique that was proffered in this study was based on the African ethical tradition which puts emphasis on our human relationality and common belongingness. In the light of this ethical tradition, it was thus deduced that economic sanctions, by inflicting indiscriminate harm, fail to affirm our shared humanity.