Sanctions or Engagement?


Fareed Zakaria makes a persuasive case that engagement, not isolation, is the best method for encouraging regime change of dictatorships from the outside. Excerpt:

To change a regime, short of waging war, you have to shift the balance of power between the state and society. Society needs to be empowered. It is civil society—private business, media, civic associations, nongovernmental organizations—that can create an atmosphere which forces change in a country. But by piling on sanctions and ensuring that a country is isolated, Washington only ensures that the state becomes ever more powerful and society remains weak and dysfunctional. In addition, the government benefits from nationalist sentiment as it stands up to the global superpower. Think of Iraq before the war, which is a rare case where multilateral sanctions were enforced. As we are discovering now, the sanctions destroyed Iraq's middle class, its private sector and its independent institutions, but they allowed Saddam to keep control. When the regime was changed by war, it turned out that nation-building was vastly more difficult because the underpinnings of civil society had been devastated.

In a careful study, the Institute for International Economics has estimated that U.S. sanctions on 26 countries, accounting for more than half the world's population, cost America between $15 billion and $19 billion in lost exports annually and have worked less than 13 percent of the time. But what if it's even worse? What if our policies have exactly the opposite effect than is intended? Look around the world today, and you will see regime change in places where Washington has no such policy and regime resilience in places where it does.

Whole thing here; link via Export Control Blog.