[FOUNTAIN]Brandishing a big stickSanctions are an integral part of U.S. foreign policy. In October 1960, President Dwight Eisenhower suspended exports to Cuba and banned imports of Cuban sugarcane, in response to the nationalization of American assets in Cuba by Fidel Castro, then prime minister and now president of the Council of State. Making up 80 percent of Cuban exports, sugarcane was the mainstay of the Cuban economy.
In February 1962, President John F. Kennedy raised the level of the sanctions and announced an overall import ban. Central and South American nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) joined the move and severed munitions dealings with Cuba. The Cuban economy, largely dependent on the United States for trade with 60 percent of its exports going to the United States and 70 percent of imports coming from there, suffered serious damage.
However, the U.S. sanctions could not overthrow the Castro regime. The Soviet Union and China purchased sugar cane and Poland signed a trade agreement with Cuba. The U.S. embargo against Cuba is a precedent that leaves doubt as to the effect of unilateral sanctions. In contrast, financial and trade sanctions on Iran proved crucial in resolving the hostage crisis at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran from November 1979 to January 1981.
Among more than 100 sanctions applied since World War II, two thirds were by Washington. According to the Institute for International Economics, only one third were successful. The private sector, which lost the chance to make money, became angry at their ineffectiveness. Industries proclaimed they would not donate to congressmen who proposed excessive sanctions.
The United States is reportedly satisfied with the effect of financial sanctions on North Korea. Since Washington banned U.S. banks from dealing with a Macao bank accused of laundering money for Pyongyang, many countries have followed suit. The New York Times reported that the move “really struck a nerve” and the North Korean leadership has complained vigorously to Washington.
The effect is not that surprising considering the rules of sanctions. A trade sanction hurts residents and a financial sanction empties the wallets of the ruling class. However, unless there is a major resistance group, sanctions will only make the existing regime more solidly united. The slogan of the North Korean military is, “Risk our lives to protect the revolutionary leadership.”
How long will the U.S. Republican Party stand by the teaching of President Theodore Roosevelt, “Speak softly and carry a big stick”?
by Oh Young-hwan
The writer is a deputy political news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.