Use of Economic Sanctions Against Renegade Nations

For centuries, nations have employed economic sanctions as a military tool against other nations. From ancient times until the late 19th century, economic sanctions were used to weaken adversaries without direct conflict, often serving as a military tactic to gain an upper hand in conflicts. However, over time, the nature and goals of economic sanctions have evolved significantly. The League of Nations marked a turning point, using economic sanctions as a means of achieving foreign policy objectives.  “Renegade nations” is a term that is not commonly used in official international discourse, but it might refer to countries that are perceived as rogue or acting against international norms and agreements. Economic sanctions are a common tool used by countries and international organizations to exert pressure on these nations in order to change their behavior. These sanctions can range from trade restrictions to financial measures and travel bans. The United States has often employed economic sanctions as a part of its foreign policy strategy.

In my recommendation, I argue against the aggressive application of economic sanctions by the US against renegade and adversarial countries. This approach has led to severe humanitarian crises. Examples from regions like Iraq, Libya, and Syria demonstrate a lack of globalization due to the halting of economic progress by these sanctions. Despite their resource-rich nature, these regions remain economically stagnant due to ongoing conflicts, akin to the resource curse seen in parts of Africa. I outline my recommendation through three lenses: Rhetorical, Economic, and Political.


The globalization movement that emerged in the 1980s reached its zenith in 2015. The 1990s played a pivotal role, fostering economic interdependence and the global economy’s rise. The G20, led by the US, oversees this global economy. However, the US has imposed an abundance of unilateral economic sanctions, with 1992 marking a peak year. Over four decades, the US has sanctioned Iran, yet these measures have led to a more hostile attitude. Sanctions have reinforced the idea that the US caused hardships, eroding the potential benefits of globalization. It’s essential for the US to reconsider these sanctions to maintain a stable global economy and address calls for a new system of global governance.


Economic effects underscore the need to curtail the frequent introduction of legislation that strengthens sanction regimes. Historic acts like the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the Trade with Enemy Act (TEWA) provide the US a means to freeze assets. While IEEPA replaced TEWA in 1977, their application needs reevaluation. Sanctions’ severity can drastically impact trade balance, as seen in North Korea and Europe. Despite achieving predictable responses like agitation, economic sanctions often backfire, leading to political turmoil. These measures also curtail job creation, obstructing both tyrants and governments from addressing their people’s needs. Inappropriately wielding economic sanctions disrupts international organizations and raises legality concerns.


Excessive reliance on unilateral and multilateral economic sanctions is counterproductive. We must innovate economic remedies to alter the behavior of renegade states, focusing on changing their behavior rather than exerting political pressure through economic means. The legality of sanctions is contentious, particularly when used for foreign policy objectives. The US-Iran rivalry exemplifies this, with the US implementing prolonged sanctions. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action provided temporary relief in 2015, yet the Trump administration’s withdrawal rekindled tensions. The global economy is Western-centric, but relying on sanctions solely for political purposes risks humanitarian disasters and resource deprivation.

The confluence of renegade nations and economic fraud represents a persistent challenge in the realm of global politics and economics. The United States’ use of economic sanctions as a response raises vital questions about the effectiveness, ethics, and humanitarian implications of such measures. As the international community grapples with these issues, it becomes crucial to find strategies that not only curb economic fraud but also safeguard the well-being of innocent civilians caught in the crossfire. Achieving this delicate balance demands creative diplomacy, international cooperation, and a commitment to upholding human rights on the global stage.

In conclusion, there must be a strategy to adapt a policy of smart sanctions rather than a blanket sanctions strategy. Economic sanctions have been criticized for their unintended consequences on civilian populations, leading to calls for more targeted and refined approaches. Some experts advocate for “smart sanctions” that specifically target individuals and entities responsible for objectionable behavior, rather than imposing broad-based measures that can harm innocent civilians.

Additionally, diplomatic engagement, dialogue, and humanitarian assistance can be alternatives or complementary approaches to addressing the issues posed by renegade nations while minimizing the suffering of civilians.

It’s important to note that the specific circumstances surrounding each case of economic sanctions and their humanitarian implications can vary greatly, and the effectiveness and ethics of such measures are subjects of ongoing debate in international relations and policy circles. The humanitarian consequences and legal implications make a compelling case for pursuing alternative methods to address foreign policy objectives and promote global stability. Economic sanctions should be wielded judiciously, taking into account their potential impact on both geopolitical dynamics and human welfare.

Waqas Jan
Waqas Jan
The writer is a graduate of National Defence University Pakistan. His research interests include Arms Control Verification, Compliance and Enforcement, Humanitarian Arms Control, Export Controls and Disarmament Machinery.