Op-eds

Five Myths About Sanctions: Washington Post Op-Ed by Prof. Drezner

Washington Post

Daniel Drezner is Professor of International Politics at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.

Sanctions are so hot right now. Assistant Treasury Secretary Danny Glaser recently bragged to Newsweek that Treasury is “at the center of our national security.” Financial sanctions were the West’s first response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and continued bellicosity toward the rest of Ukraine, and the Obama administration is debating how widely to cast the sanctions net.

So are sanctions an outdated foreign policy instrument, a safe option between diplomatic demarches and military action, or a new hope for American global leadership? The answer, of course, is none of the above. To understand why, we need to debunk a few myths.

1. Sanctions never work.

Fifteen years ago, prominent foreign policy veterans such as Dick Cheney and Richard Haass were decrying “sanctioning madness.” But attitudes have changed. Honed during the global war on terror, sanctions now enjoy plenty of bipartisan support. For instance, Juan C. Zarate, a deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration, argued in his book “Treasury’s War” that the United States can use sanctions “to confront its most critical national security threats.”

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