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Why Economic Sanctions Still Do Not Work
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Why Economic Sanctions Still Do Not Work
Robert A. Pape

Robert A. Pape is Assistant Professor of Government at Dartmouth College.

I thank Randall Clark, Chaim Kaufmann, Michael Mastanduno, John Mearsheimer, Bradley Thayer, and Dennis Zacharopoulos for their thoughtful comments, and Patsy Carter and Stelios Zachariou for their timely research assistance. I would also like to thank the Earhart Foundation and the Smith Richardson Foundation for supporting this research.


1. Robert A. Pape, "Why Economic Sanctions Do Not Work," International Security, Vol. 22, No. 2 (Fall 1997), pp. 90-136.

2. Gary Clyde Hufbauer, Jeffrey J. Schott, and Kimberly Ann Elliott, Economic Sanctions Reconsidered, 2d rev. ed., 2 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Institute for International Economics, 1990).

3. Kimberly Ann Elliott, "The Sanctions Glass: Half Full or Completely Empty," International Security, Vol. 23, No. 1 (Summer 1998), pp. 50-65.

4. Pape, "Why Economic Sanctions Do Not Work," p. 91.

5. Kimberly Elliott, Gary Hufbauer, and Jeffrey Schott, "The Big Squeeze: Why the Sanctions on Iraq Will Work," Washington Post, December 9, 1990, section K, p. 1; Gary Clyde Hufbauer and Kimberly Ann Elliott, "Sanctions Will Bite-and Soon," New York Times, January 14, 1991, section A, p. 17. Gary Hufbauer offered the same advice in testimony before Congress. Statement of Gary Clyde Hufbauer, U.S. Policy in the Persian Gulf, Hearing before the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, 101st Congress, 2d session, December 4, 1990.

6. Kimberly Elliott and Gary Hufbauer, "Sanctions Might Work," Washington Post, February 20, 1994. In 1992 Elliott and Hufbauer argued that the failure of the United Nations embargo against Iraq was the result of impatience, rather than the inherent weakness of economic sanctions as a coercive instrument. Kimberly Elliott and Gary Hufbauer, "Sanctions Can Work, But They Require Luck, Patience, and Planning," Atlanta Constitution, June 7, 1992.

7. HSE, Economic Sanctions Reconsidered, vol. 1, pp. 1, 13, emphasis added.

8. Ibid., p. 41. Actually, Elliott's position in her response is inconsistent, because at one point she repeats her commitment to a competitive standard: "We explicitly take into account the presence of these other policies and call an episode a sanctions success only if sanctions-relative to these other tools-contributed at least modestly to the outcome." Elliott, "The Sanctions Glass," p. 52.

9. Statement of Gary Clyde Hufbauer, "Economic Sanctions against Iraq," Hearings before the Subcommittee on Education and Health of the Joint Economic Committee, U.S. Senate, 101st Congress, 2d session, December 19, 1990, p. 20.

10. Ibid.

11. Pape, "Why Economic Sanctions Do Not Work," p. 97.

12. Ibid., pp. 111-112.

13. James Shoch, "Party Politics and International Economic Activism: The Reagan-Bush Years," Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 113, No. 1 (Spring 1998), pp. 113-132; Bruce Stokes, "Trade: Running on Nationalism," National Journal, March 3, 1990, pp. 513-517; and Peter Gourevitch, Politics in Hard Times: Comparative Responses to International Economic Crises (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1986).

14. Kenneth A. Rodman, Sanctity versus Sovereignty: The United States and the Nationalization of Natural Resource Investments (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), p. 328. The cases are: Bolivia 1938-40, Honduras 1962, Argentina 1963-65, Iraq 1961, Peru 1971, Bolivia 1969, Libya 1973, Guyana 1970-71, Ghana 1972-74, Bolivia 1971, Ecuador 1971-74, Venezuela 1971-74, Algeria 1971, Iraq 1972, Jamaica 1974, Guyana 1974, South Yemen 1975, Somalia 1975, P.R. Congo 1976, and Ethiopia 1979. Rodman covers 1938 to 1980, compared to 1914 to 1990 in HSE.

15. Pape, "Why Economic Sanctions Do Not Work," pp. 133-135. Thus, while only 5 of 115 cases in the HSE database are clear successes that support their claim that economic sanctions could be effective in some circumstances, if we also count these indeterminate cases, then the maximum number that could be counted as supporting HSE's sanctions optimism would rise to 7 cases of 115. (There is a third indeterminate case, Canada-EC/Japan 1977, but in that case the uncertainty is over whether the target states made meaningful concessions.)

16. Ibid., pp. 111-136.

17. As British Prime Minister Anthony Eden explained to U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower: "If the Soviets...