In This Review

The Sanctions Decade: Assessing U.N. Strategies in the 1990s
The Sanctions Decade: Assessing U.N. Strategies in the 1990s
Edited by David Cortright and George Lopez
Lynne Rienner, 2000, 274 pp

A helpful guide to the sanctions debate. The United Nations has increasingly resorted to economic sanctions in response to violations of international norms such as territorial aggression, human-rights transgressions, and weapons proliferation. The scholarly consensus, however, is that coercive economic sanctions are rarely successful. This volume looks at recent episodes and finds a mixed but more successful record than most critics would admit. Sanctions made some headway with Iraq, Yugoslavia, Libya, and Cambodia but were less successful in Haiti, Angola, Sierra Leone, and Rwanda. The authors argue that sanctions work best when they are swift, forceful, and pursued in cooperation with frontline states. Not surprisingly, comprehensive and rigorously enforced sanctions are more likely to succeed than limited unilateral actions. The authors also call for a more workable sanctions regime, offering useful recommendations for strengthening Security Council policymaking and member-state cooperation. But they only hint at what might be their most important point: even when sanctions do not achieve their narrow goal of inducing change, they are a useful symbolic tool for isolating violators of internationally accepted norms of behavior.