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34 J. Conflict Resol. 3 (1900)

handle is hein.journals/jcfltr34 and id is 1 raw text is: 










Are Sanctions Effective?


A  GAME-THEORETIC ANALYSIS



GEORGE TSEBELIS
University of California at Los Angeles




   Although economic sanctions have been quite frequent in the twentieth century, a close
examination of the low success rate (33 out of 83 cases) indicates that sender countries are not
able to select the appropriate cases. Moreover, analysts sometimes offer contradictory advice
for such selection. This article provides a game-theoretic explanation of these phenomena. Six
different game-theoretic scenarios lead to the same equilibrium outcome. This is a mixed strategy
equilibrium. The success ratio is the outcome of the selection of mixed strategies by both sender
and receiver countries. Under a wide range of (specified) circumstances, the size of the sanction
has no impact upon the behavior of the target country. Finally, some empirical implications of
the game-theoretic analysis are compared to existing empirical generalizations, and further
implications for empirical research are discussed.




Dating as   far back as 432 B.C., when  Pericles enacted  his Megarian  decree
prohibiting  Megarians  to trade or travel on Athenian  land, economic   sanc-
tions have  been an important  ingredient of foreign policy making.  In recent
history, sanctions  have  been  applied for military purposes,  to destabilize
foreign  governments,   protect human   rights, and  retaliate against terrorist
activities. They have been  applied collectively by actors such as the League
of Nations  and  the OPEC countries, and unilaterally by individual nation
states such as the United States, Soviet Union, United Kingdom,   and Canada.
In the post-1960  period,  sanctions were  used as frequently  as two or three
times  per year.
    One  would  expect that such a long and  dense experience  would   provide
accurate  answers to the questions of whether sanctions work,  and if so, under

   AUTHOR'S NOTE: Financial  support for this project was provided by UCLA's Academic
Senate. I would like to thank R. Bates, J. Frieden, J. Grieco, D. Lake, L. Martin, E. Rogers, and
S. Telhami for many useful ideas, comments, and bibliographical references.

JOURNAL  OF CONFLICT RESOLUTION, Vol. 34 No. 1, March 1990 3-28
( 1990 Sage Publications, Inc.

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from the SAGE Social Science Collections. All Rights Reserved.

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