It's Not That Simple: Examining The Nuance of Economic Sanctions
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Economic sanctions are a nuanced form of statecraft that have grown increasingly popular over the last several decades. However, much of the academic community’s research on the subject focuses entirely on determining whether sanctions are “effective” or not. Such analysis is shortsighted and largely unhelpful for any policymaker seeking input from the academic community as to how to best craft a sanctions regime. Rather than take a sanctions-optimist or sanctions-pessimist perspective, this thesis encourages a more nuanced analysis of the factors that can contribute to any given sanctions regime’s success or failure. It uniquely applies theories found in other fields of behavioral and scientific study to economic sanctions, thereby adding more complexity to the conversation surrounding sanctions, by drawing on relevant case studies involving the United States, Russia, Cuba, and Iran. The research conducted in this thesis demonstrates the need for a more nuanced approach in discussing and debating economic sanctions. It serves to assist the academic and public policy communities in (1) developing a better understanding of how the presence, or lack thereof, of certain conditions can contribute to a sanctions regime being more or less likely to succeed in accomplishing the goals set by policymakers; (2) learning how target states can develop resistance economies that will likely prove effective in assuaging the impact of future sanctions regimes imposed upon them; and (3) identifying how domestic stakeholders – including Congress, the Executive Branch, and industry – make their policy preferences known during the period in which sanctions legislation is being drafted and imposed, as well as the potential unintended consequences of drafting sanctions legislation without giving proper consideration to all stakeholder preferences.
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