“These are ominous developments in all of these countries,” Phyllis Bennis told The Real News following reports that Donald Trump would sign a bill slapping sanctions on Russia, North Korea, and Iran—an extraordinarily different set of state actors which pose very different foreign policy challenges.
“The notion that you can do a kind of cookie cutter attack, ‘We’re going to sanction them all in one bill, get it all done at once.’—this is insane,” Bennis said.
Bennis said she doesn’t believe that sanctions are going to help alleviate the challenge that the U.S. faces in its relationship with any of these countries.
This slap-dash sanctioning with support from both political parties, Bennis said, speaks to the inability of Congress and the White House to deal with diplomacy in a serious way.
“‘This is the answer to all the problems we have with countries we don’t like,’” Bennis said, “we’ll just sanction them all!’”
The deficiencies in this approach, Bennis said, are best exemplified in Iraq. From 1990 until 2003, U.S. sanctions on the country had a devastating impact.
“Half a million children under the age of five died from the results of sanctions,” Bennis doesn’t mince words, “they were killed by U.S. foreign policy. Sanctions were doing the job of war.”
Sanctions can antagonize decision makers, and may encourage a dangerous response. She points to the response we’ve already seen in Russia, where Putin just demanded the removal of hundreds of U.S. staff. Meanwhile in North Korea, we’ve seen that sanctions have not had an impact on the country’s nuclear capabilities. And in the case of Iran, the United States is just isolating itself by undermining a nuclear deal backed by five other countries while Iran strengthens its position in the world.
This decision will have many different impacts, and linking them all into one bill is “rather extraordinary,” Bennis said.
“We’re going to have to have negotiations. The notion that we can do something and not talk simply doesn’t work in the real world,” Bennis said.