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Published on Sunday, April 30, 2000 in the Times of India
Worldly Americans Against Unilateral Sanctions
Editorial
 
The more worldly Americans become, the more likely they are to favour diplomacy over unilateral punitive sanctions to punish "bad" foreign countries, according to a poll to be released this week.

The survey found that these Americans felt that sanctions and embargoes not only isolate the nations against which they are aimed, thus minimising any engagement to influence them, but also ultimately results in hurting American business and costing American jobs.

The survey was conducted by First International Resources, an international business and risk management company based in Fort Lee, New Jersey, and the polling organisation Penn, Schoen & Berland.

Sanctions have been a major political tool of the Clinton administration, whether imposed unilaterally or collectively through the United Nations or groups like the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialised countries.

But in recent years, Congress, which ironically passed these laws have become critical of these sanctions, as lawmakers have found that their constituencies have lost jobs and markets to European and other countries in Asia that have picked up the slack when U.S. goods have been banned from being sold or exported to certain countries.

Last year Congress moved within a day to lift some of the economic sanctions against India and Pakistan, when it was found that American grain farmers in the mid-west were losing out on exporting to India and Pakistan.

Since then there has been a loud cry in Congress to lift all the other remaing sanctions against India in particular, since it's a democracy, while Pakistan hasn't got much sympathy since the overthrow of a democratically elected government in October last year by a military junta.

The survey found that when Americans remain parochial about foreign affairs, or when their leaders do not adequately provide information or publicise and explain their policy thinking, they become wholly dependent on the long-established stereotypes of "bad" and "good" nations, reminiscent of "the good guys" and "the bad guys" during the Cold War when any country not siding with the U.S. against the erstwhile Soviet Union were considered the latter and surrogates of Moscow.

Donny First, vice president at First International Resources, told India Abroad News Service in an interview that the focus of the survey was on the U.S. punitive sanctions imposed against Iran. A question on the favourability or unfavouribility of sanctions was also asked in a "general way" about Iraq, Libya, Serbia, China and Israel, "and a couple of countries in Europe like England and France."

He said India or Pakistan, slapped with sanctions after their tit-for-tat nuclear tests in May 1998, were not mentioned at all in the survey.

The respondents in the general public, the survey found, knew very little about Iran and the recent political changes there, including gains by moderates in parliamentary elections. Meanwhile, among the so-called "knowledgeable elites," 58 per cent had heard about the shifts towards moderation in Iran.

"Both the general public and the elites believe it is extremely important to keep channels of communication open with countries like Iran," the poll concluded, "and that penalising or isolating rogue countries is not the way to get them to change."

The New York Times, which had published the survey, said it found that while Americans continued to think that sanctions should remain a tool of foreign policy and that big business would from time to time have to make sacrifices because of embargoes, respondents in both groups preferred sanctions to be imposed through international organisations.

They also expressed concern about the use of sanctions if American jobs were at risk, and when presented with facts about American losses, were more likely to want sanctions lifted, or at least eased.

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