Courtesy Reuters

How Sanctions Failed

THE failure of the sanctions applied against Italy poses on the one hand the problem of the League of Nations, its structure and its functions. On the other hand it raises an even more important issue: Can the denial of economic facilities, the shutting down of sales and purchases of commodities and services on a sufficiently wide basis, offset military power? What conditions are essential to the success of this policy of economic pressure?

Power and coercion have always been "tripartite" -- spiritual, military and economic. When certain groups of men held the keys of heaven, they could exercise spiritual coercion over peoples' minds. Since the weakening of religious tenets, the place of spiritual coercion has been taken by propaganda or terrorism, both closely related to such material factors as physical threats or risk of starvation. Economic power, on the other hand, though never absent, has been increasing in importance. Armies have always marched on their stomachs. The sea Powers, especially England, have systematically used the withholding of trading facilities, either an embargo on national or neutral exports to the enemy, or a prohibition of his export trade, as an accompaniment to actual fighting. But the use of economic pressure has always been accessory to military coercion. Without Aboukir and Trafalgar the British blockade could not have worked.

The growth of industrialism, while widening the scope of economic pressure, has led to violent attacks upon its uses. To the Manchester School war was the arch enemy of the industrial system. It should be limited to professionals and must not encroach upon business. Blockades ought to be prohibited; contraband ought to be limited and rights of search should be restricted. The sea should be as free in time of war as in time of peace. It seemed senseless wickedness to punish the British artisans by a blockade of the cotton states, whose military resistance the Northern armies could not break until Sherman's march through Georgia spread economic devastation.

In the Great War,

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