We Should Lift the Sanctions on Zimbabwe

AllAfrica is featuring an editorial calling for the U.S. government to keep its sanctions on Zimbabwe. Todd Moss argues that, “removing sanctions now would arguably make matters worse for Zimbabweans' hopes for a full return to democracy.” While I suspect most Zimbabweans are more concerned about their health than democratic representation, the points Moss makes should be addressed. If we really care about the impoverished in Zimbabwe we should be arguing for the lifting of sanctions, not for their renewal.

Moss lays out three arguments against sanctions on Zimbabwe and attempts to dismantle each of them.

The first argument is that the sanctions are illegal. This is a weak argument. Economic sanctions can be imposed by the President under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. Whatever one might think about the legitimacy of this legislation the fact remains that the sanctions on Zimbabwe are on solid legal foundation.

The two remaining arguments targeted by Moss are more interesting.

The second argument is that the sanctions hurt the poor. Moss dismisses this argument calling it ‘silly’, claiming that the sanctions target seventy-seven particular members of the Zimbabwean elite listed in George W. Bush’s Executive Order. Moss dismisses the claim that investors are more put off by economic restrictions than they are by human rights abuses and political corruption.

However, many investors do business in countries where there are worrying human rights abuses and no sanctions. Western nations do business in China, Saudi Arabia, and Russia, all of which have far from laudable human rights records. I cannot think of any reason that investors would make an exception to Zimbabwe.

That the sanctions target seventy-seven particular people is of little consequence. Investors must undertake additional costly work to prove that none of these particular people will benefit from a trade in Zimbabwe, a piece of regulation that puts off many would-be investors.

The last argument Moss tackles is the argument that lifting sanctions will remove a scapegoat the Zimbabwean government has been using for years. Moss doesn’t think it likely that ZANU-PF would stop blaming the sanctions for Zimbabwe’s poverty were they lifted. Why he thinks this is not made clear. While it might be the case that ZANU-PF wouldn’t stop blaming sanctions for poverty, it is certainly the case that they couldn’t do so with any credibility.

Sanctions have a poor track record of helping the poor or motivating change. Iran, Cuba, and North Korea have not been motivated to change their policies as a result of sanctions, and there is no reason to think that Zimbabwe is any different. 

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  • sarcasmic||

    I can't wait to see all those quality "Made in Zimbabwe" goods at Wal*mart!

    Woo hoo!

  • BarryD||

    Maybe Zimbabwe can run the Federal Reserve for us, too.

  • mr simple||

    removing sanctions now would arguably make matters worse for Zimbabweans' hopes for a full return to democracy.

    He's right, just ask the Cubans. In Miami.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    When did we start embargoing zombies?

  • Citizen Nothing||

    I have a 100 trillion Zimbabwe dollars banknote I'm willing to invest.

  • ||

    Sanctions make life more difficult for the regular people and have no effect on the assholes in charge. It's just another way of fucking with another country.

  • 0x90||

    I assume you meant to write they have no negative effect on the assholes in charge. Indeed, sanctions are for them a positive boon, providing a convenient rallying point around which to foster justified hatred of the sanctioning country, which, naturally, is then used to obfuscate the failings of their own backward political structure, in the popular consciousness.

  • Raston Bot||

    Yeah, but if we remove the sanctions, then the US Govt won't be in a position of power to throttle investment in Zimbabwe according to Todd Moss. And he should know, he's Todd Moss vice president for programs and senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. Previously, as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of African Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. And once a consultant and advisor to the Chief Economist in the Africa Region of the World Bank. He also has a bad case of white man's burden and central planner's disease. He even set foot in Africa once on a program evaluation tour with a bunch of other white people where he saw black people.

  • ||

    I've been against sanctions way, way before I ever thought of myself as libertarian. They simply don't work. Especially against dictators that don't give a fuck about the people.

    Todd Moss argues that, “removing sanctions now would arguably make matters worse for Zimbabweans' hopes for a full return to democracy.”

    Well at least he admits that it is arguable when he invokes the democracy fairy.

  • ||

    Maybe we could just drone-murder Zimbabwe into modernity.

  • ||

    Racist!

  • ||

    Wait, I think it's only racist if you post pictures of dead children.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Taking out those 77 elites ought to make democracy blossom, right? So if you add in collateral damage, that's only a few thousand people we need to blow up.

  • NotSure||

    I was in Zimbabwe a few years back for a holiday, the place really needs investment not sanctions, other than the protected hotels I could not even find a basic restaurant or shop that sells things like hats.

    Mugabe will die one day, but if a country is left in such a poor economic state another Mugabe will simply takeover.

  • CE||

    And Cuba.

  • Raston Bot||

    "Anyone who suggests Mugabe Co. just need one more chance to show their good intentions..."

    This specific critique of economic sanctions does not exist. Did he have a word quota before he could collect his check and added this shit in at the end to reach it?

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