Slapping sanctions on a country sends a clear signal of displeasure but as a means of effecting productive change, it can be severely overrated.
Our sanctions against Iran for its actions to develop nuclear bomb have brought them to the negotiating table after many years. But whether the sanctions will bring an ultimate accord remains to be seen.
Our sanctions against North Korea seem only to have inflamed that backward nation and spurred them on to renewed development of multiple nuclear weapons, not to mention their recent exploration of cyber warfare against Sony for its film, “The Interview.”
And whether the sanctions against Russia will bite and cause them to reverse their action against Crimea, not to mention eastern Ukraine, seems to be a distant dream at best.
There are multiple factors to consider to determine the efficacy of sanctions.
First of all, the number of nations participating in the sanctions determine whether the target country will be able to effectively ignore them and engage in trade elsewhere.
Second, the geographic nature of sanctions can affect the result. Cuba, as an island nation, was vulnerable to a blockade during the Cuban missile crisis.
And finally, the broadness of the sanctions will affect their efficacy as well. Just targeting a few officials or one sector of the economy may be a proportionate action, but it may defeat the power of the sanctions and their ability to affect change.