Citizens of authoritarian regimes already depend heavily on government for the many of the basics of life. That's why sanctions against the authoritarian regimes don't hurt the regimes themselves--they only decimate the already subjected peoples. Iraq is but one great example of this phenomenon. Recently passed and continuing sanctions against Iran are a mistake that is becoming larger and larger.
Yesterday, the United Nations established yet additional economic sanctions on Iran.
The United Nations Security Council voted Wednesday to impose new sanctions on Iran to try to force it to suspend its nuclear program.
The new sanctions include cargo inspections, new controls on Iranian banks ... restrictions on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a new U.N. panel of experts to help monitor and enforce sanctions, and asset freezes on 40 entities and an individual.
Besides the fact that we have no business caring whether Iran develops nuclear capabilities, history shows that sanctions do not work for their publicized purposes.
Ask the Iraqi people.
When Paul Bremer arrived in Iraq to take the lead of the rebuilding effort, he was shocked by the economic situation there. Huh? What rock did he crawl out from under? Had he never heard of the years of sanctions that had been levied against Saddam Hussein? In 2006, Christopher Hayes wrote
The reason Iraq’s economy was “run down” and its infrastructure decimated has more than a little to do with a massive American bombing campaign during the first Gulf War, followed by 13 years of the most comprehensive sanctions in the history of the United Nations. Bremer’s “surprise” at Iraq’s devastation is like a Union general arriving in Atlanta after Sherman and expressing shock that the place had been torched.
Unfortunately, the sanctions had little effect on Saddam Hussein. He still enjoyed his lavish palaces and all the other accouterments of the high life. It was the Iraqi people who suffered mightily.
In his book, Web of Deceit, Barry Lando wrote that
The most lethal weapons of mass destruction to hit the people of Iraq were the sanctions imposed by the U.N. security council on August 6, 1990. They cut off all exports and imports between Iraq and the rest of the world; that meant everything--from food and electric generators, to vaccines and hospital equipment. Since Iraq imported 70 percent of its food, the sanctions had an immediate and catastrophic impact on the country.
Two U.N. administrators who oversaw humanitarian relief in Iraq during that period consider the sanctions to have been a crime against humanity, as massive as any of the crimes committed by Saddam Hussein.
Web of Deceit: The History of Western Complicity in Iraq, from Churchill to Kennedy to George W. Bush, p. 185
And now we're doing it to the Iranian people under the guise of punishing their government. Rather than economic sanctions, it would be better to just leave Iran alone. It would be best, however, to do the exact opposite of what we've been doing. Economic sanctions do not have their intended consequences--at least the ones that are stated publicly.
If we could show the Iranian people the caring side of America, instead of our monster face, crazies like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the mullahs would be out of power much sooner. The vice grip of tighter and tighter sanctions will make such a rapprochement eventually impossible without military intervention.
After having read George Orwell's 1984, though, it could be that more war is just what the American Establishment is looking for.
NPR: Iran Sanctions Play into the Hands of the Iranian Government