Dissertation Title: The Sources of US Trade Sanctions
My dissertation examines the international and domestic determinants of US-imposed economic sanctions. Traditionally, the literature on economic sanctions has focused on such things as their economic or political consequences, or their overall effectiveness. Consequently, there exists remarkably little work on the sources of sanctions. My research aims to address this imbalance.
Specifically, my dissertation asks two questions. First, why are some states targeted with sanctions but not others? Second, what determines the types of sanctions used against a given target state? To answer these questions, I first develop a theory of sanctions imposition, arguing that both the decision to impose sanctions, and the types of sanctions chosen in a given instance, are a function of systemic pressures affecting the interests of both the state and variable coalitions of societal actors. State leaders, charged with conducting foreign policy and in possession of private information concerning the nature of a given threat, can define that threat as either a security threat or a competitive threat. Security threats are those involving military power, global or regional stability, or the relative military position of the US. Competitive threats, on the other hand, are those relating to economic policies that unduly harm domestic economic actors or otherwise undermine the relative economic position of the US. However, while the state possesses the power to define a threat, as well as the authority to outline a response, it is relatively limited in its ability to extract and mobilize the resources necessary to respond to that threat in the manner it so desires. Instead, it must often bargain with societal coalitions in order to formulate a mutually acceptable response.
In general, I expect coalitions to form in favor of both action and inaction in response to a given threat. I expect an outward-oriented coalition, consisting of those with interests in export-oriented industries and those who have extensive international portfolios, along with those who favor free trade ideologically, to form in opposition to retaliatory action against a target state. Conversely, I expect an inward-oriented coalition, comprised of those with economic interests in import-competing industries, along with those who lack significant international portfolios or otherwise hold to economic nationalist beliefs and/or particularly strong national security views, to favor retaliatory policies against the offending state. These coalitions will compete in lobbying the state in order to realize their preferred policies, and it is this interaction between the interests of state and society that determines sanctions outcomes.
Using this framework, I then develop and test four hypotheses. In response to security threats, if the inward-oriented coalition is dominant, an embargo is the likely outcome. However, if the outward-oriented coalition is dominant, export or financial sanctions are the likely outcome. In response to competitive threats, if the inward-oriented coalition is dominant, import sanctions are the likely outcome. However, if the outward-oriented coalition is dominant, it is unlikely that any sanctions will be imposed. I first test these predictions using multinomial logistic regression on a country-year data set of US sanctions from 1960-2000. Following this, I conduct four case studies of US sanctions: import sanctions against Japan, export and financial sanctions against India and Pakistan, an embargo against Nicaragua, and a case of failed sanctions against China.