With the Obama Administration pushing for additional UN Security Council sanctions against North Korea, to punish them for their defiance, officials are expressing concern that the government is actually “too defiant” for the sanctions to even work.
“As long as the regime doesn’t care about what the outside world thinks of it, as long as it doesn’t care about the well-being of its people, there is not a lot you can do about it,” warned Gates, “unless you are willing at some point to use military force.”
This is actually a long-standing knock on the concept of sanctions in general, as the US has been quick to sanction nations in the past but rarely have they accepted any reconciliation with such nations.
In Iraq, for instance, over a decade of harsh sanctions killed a large portion of the Iraqi population, culminating in the 2003 US invasion of the nation. Even now, over seven years into the US occupation, many of the anti-Iraq sanctions are still in place, ostensibly to pressure them into abandoning a nuclear program that they don’t have.
According to Gates the sanctions are important primarily because “to do nothing would set the wrong precedent.” Yet having acknowledged that the sanctions will harm North Korea’s civilians while doing nothing to change its government’s policy, can it really be justified purely as a face-saving measure for the Obama Administration?