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Sanctions That Sting: Private Sector Solutions to the Paper Tiger Problem

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Whether used to draw Iran into nuclear talks or condemn apartheid in South Africa, economic sanctions have assumed an increasingly important role in our national security strategy. For one thing, their effectiveness has grown markedly, thanks to today’s global financial interdependence. Moreover, in light of this country’s war-weariness, sanctions provide an alternative to the use of force. Given these two trends, the outsized role of economic sanctions in our national security strategy is not surprising. What may surprise, however, is the fact that sanctions remain under-enforced. This Note offers four innovative solutions to that problem. Taken together our proposals demand greater cooperation on the part of the private actors subject to sanctions as well as the government branches that levy and enforce them. Along the way, our solutions raise compelling questions about what role–if any– private citizens ought to play in the traditionally public domain of national security. In the end, we don’t claim to have struck upon any fail-safe solutions to the problem of under-enforcement. Rather, we hope to direct the conversation toward a sanctions system that is both more economically efficient and more effective at achieving our foreign policy objectives.

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