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America’s Economic Blockades and International Law

Trump is often called an isolationist, but he is as interventionist as his predecessors. His strategy is simply to rely more heavily on US economic power than military might to coerce adversaries, which creates its own kind of cruelty and destabilization – and embodies its own brand of illegality.

NEW YORK – US President Donald Trump has based his foreign policy on a series of harsh economic blockades, each designed to frighten, coerce, and even starve the target country into submitting to American demands. While the practice is less violent than a military attack, and the blockade is through financial means rather than the navy, the consequences are often dire for civilian populations. As such, economic blockades by the United States should be scrutinized by the United Nations Security Council under international law and the UN Charter.

When Trump campaigned for office in 2016, he rejected the frequent US resort to war in the Middle East. During the years 1990-2016, the US launched two major wars with Iraq (1990 and 2003), as well as wars in Afghanistan (2001), Libya (2011), and Syria (2012). It also participated in many smaller military interventions (Mali, Somalia, and Yemen, among others). While the Syrian War is often described as a civil war, it was in a fact a war of regime change led by the US and Saudi Arabia under a US presidential directive called Timber Sycamore.

None of these US-led wars (and others in recent history) achieved their political objectives, and the major conflicts have been followed by chronic violence and instability. The attempt to force Syria’s Bashar al-Assad from power led to a proxy war – eventually involving the US, Syria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran, Turkey, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates – that displaced over ten million Syrians and caused around a half-million violent deaths.

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