TWQ: Diplomacy Derailed: The Consequences of Diplomatic Sanctions - Summer 2010
July 1, 2010
The U.S. government has recently begun to emphasize the need for greater engagement with problem states. Proponents of this approach argue that diplomacy is necessary, even with these regimes. Critics, however, maintain that engagement with these regimes is tantamount to appeasement and signals acceptance of behavior that ought to be condemned. In their view, there is little to be gained by talking to these states. Thus, diplomatic sanctions—or sanctions characterized by political disengagement—are seen as a low-cost means of isolating and delegitimizing regimes.
Diplomatic sanctions, however, entail a number of often overlooked consequences for the United States. The potential costs of diplomatic sanctions include not only a substantial loss of information and intelligence on the target state, but also a reduction in communication capacity and a diminished ability to influence the target state. Ironically, diplomatic sanctions may even undermine the effectiveness of other coercive policy tools, such as economic sanctions. These adverse effects ought to cause policymakers to reassess the value of diplomatic isolation as a tool of foreign policy and recognize the inherent value of diplomatic engagement.