A 1997 article in the New York Times titled “Converting the Dollar into a Bludgeon” reported that in 1996, the United States alone used 22 new economic sanctions against various target states.1 The author asserts that sanctions “are an irresistible, relatively risk-free and inexpensive way of assuaging America’s sense of outrage” (Myers 1997). While suggesting that sanctions are used more for domestic political reasons than for foreign policy efforts, the journalist also points out that sanctions have been generally successful in influencing the target nations at which they are aimed. The economic sanction literature’s conventional wisdom partly disagrees with the New York Times analysis. Most studies of sanctions focus on their lack of effectiveness. Without mention of the goals or the conditions that lead to their use, the scholarly literature shows that sanctions are largely ineffective—a result that is often blamed on domestic politics in the sender state, particularly domestic demands for action. The New York Times article is correct in saying that sanctions are used to make the public feel better. However, scholars argue that sanctions are driven by protectionist impulses and rarely work because they are used to supply domestic special interest groups with rent.
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