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Even Smarter Sanctions

How to Fight in the Era of Economic Warfare

All in favor: at a UN Security Council meeting on North Korea, September 2017 STEPHANIE KEITH / REUTERS

Economic sanctions have been a fixture of U.S. foreign policy for decades, but never have they enjoyed so much popularity as they do today. On virtually every major foreign problem—North Korea’s belligerence, Iran’s nuclear aspirations, Russia’s aggression, the Islamic State’s (or ISIS’) brutality—the U.S. government has turned to some form of sanctions as an answer. Their value is one of the few things that former President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump agree on: Obama used them more than any other president in recent history, and Trump, in his first eight months in office, oversaw significant expansions of U.S. sanctions against North Korea, Venezuela, and, despite his misgivings, Russia.

Some U.S. sanctions aim to stigmatize foreign leaders and human rights abusers, such as those against North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, and the Russian officials responsible

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