what's left

Sophists for sanctions

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By Stephen Gowans

Tony Hawkins, a professor of economics at the University of Zimbabwe, thinks that Western sanctions on Zimbabwe should be maintained but that their effects “are minimal” and that “their continued existence really plays into the hands of some people in Zanu-PF.”

You would think, then, that Hawkins would favor the lifting of sanctions. After all, why continue to play into the hands of Zanu-PF, if, like Hawkins, you’re opposed to the party, its direction and its program, and the sanctions’ effects are minimal anyway?

For decades, supporters of the U.S. economic war on Cuba have lied that a near total U.S. blockade of the island has had little effect on the Cuban economy. On the contrary, they say, the blockade has actually worked against the U.S., by handing Fidel Castro, and now his brother, Raul, a way of diverting attention from their “failed” economic policies. The Castros, they say, blame Cuba’s problems on the blockade and thus evade responsibility for their much larger role in crippling the island’s economy.

Yet none of these people has recommended that the blockade be lifted, a measure you would think Cuba-opponents would immediately latch onto for its supposed benefits in making clear to Cubans that socialism, not the U.S. blockade, is the source of their poverty, something that might impel them to fulfill U.S. foreign policy goals by overturning socialism. So, why aren’t these people, if they truly believe what they’re saying, pressing for the blockade to be lifted?

The answer is simple: they don’t really believe the blockade has minimal effects, but have to say it does, so they can blame Cuba’s poverty on the Castros.

Likewise, people like Hawkins don’t really believe sanctions on Zimbabwe have minimal effects, but have to say they do, so they can blame Zimbabwe’s economic troubles on Zanu-PF policies, particularly land reform.

Hawkins acknowledges his position is “a bit of a contradiction” (a bit?) but that he opposes the lifting of sanctions because ending them “would convince Zanu-PF that they are winning and make them even more intransigent than they are already.”

But you would think that if the effects of the sanctions were truly minimal, that Hawkins could scarcely care if lifting them allowed Zanu-PF something so insignificant as to think it was winning, when, by being denied the sanctions issue, it would really be losing. For how could Zanu-PF blame Zimbabwe’s troubles on sanctions if sanctions no longer existed? Surely, Hawkins can see that ending the sanctions has little downside (the effects are minimal anyway, he says) and a huge upside (Mugabe would no longer be able to blame the country’s difficulties on sanctions.)

To be effective, a sanctions regime requires more than sanctions alone. It also requires an understanding of the sanctions’ effects: are they devastating the economy or only creating inconvenience for a few highly placed political operatives? And what is the cause of the country’s economic woes: sanctions or failed policies?

The purpose of sanctions is to force a change of government. It’s critical that the people the sanctions are imposed on attribute the effects of the sanctions to their government’s policies, not to the sanctions themselves, otherwise, they won’t act to change their government, as the imposers of the sanctions intend.

This is where Hawkins comes in. Washington, London and the E.U. impose sanctions to wreck the economy. Hawkins’ task is to persuade Zimbabweans that sanctions aren’t devastating, and that the problems Zimbabweans face, come from within the country (Zanu-PF’s policies), not outside (sanctions). But in trying to make his case, he ties himself into knots – just as proponents of the U.S. blockade on Cuba do.

Hawkins wants Zanu-PF gone for the same reason the U.S. State Department, Whitehall and other supporters of the U.S. blockade on Cuba want the Castros gone: to create political jurisdictions congenial to Western investors, where the interests of the domestic population don’t matter. Hawkins says Zimbabweans “need a return to conditions that will attract investment that will foster confidence and so on.”

A return? Does he mean to go backward, to a time when the land and resources were in the hands of the British and their descendants, when indigenous Zimbabweans were relegated to roles as farm-workers, miners and employees, never owners?

It should be recalled that the British government, in the person of Clare Short, refused to back Zimbabwe’s fast-track land reform program because returning the land to the people British settlers stole it from would, she said, damage “prospects for attracting investment.”

Returning to conditions that will attract investment is code for undoing Zimbabwe’s land reform program, and giving the country back to the British. Making the case for so regressive a program could only rest on the kind of sophistry Hawkins, and other promoters of neo-colonialism, are prepared to try to bamboozle the Zimbabwe population with. Pity for them they keep tripping over their own contradictions.

Written by what's left

February 9, 2010 at 11:39 pm

5 Responses

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  1. One thing I’ve learned in studying foreign relations at the doctoral level is how much actually knowing what is going on is a liability. These people are almost as bad as the US banksters whose complex derivatives are supposed to hide the fact that these people are doing little more than high stakes gambling.

    I think most of what these people do is confuse people about the fundamental reality of the international system. US and now multinational corporate investments are a major factor in how countries are treated. The US is what is called a hegemon in the literature. In reality it is the militarized force that keeps those investments safe. If a country infringes on those investments, it will be demonized, attacked– both militarily and through sanctions- and destabilized through “pro-democracy” movements. If you want to know which countries are going to be demonized for lacking democracy or having poor development, it will be those that have done something to reduce profits for some corporate interest. If a country proves to be a real challenge to the international capitalist system, it will be totally demonized. It will also have experience trade embargoes and internal destabilization, both of which make it very hard for a totally free and democratic society to function. The Soviet Union was the most successful socialist country, not because it was a utopia for civil rights but because it acted to ensure its own survival.

    The only exceptions to this are European countries, and the only reason why this is tolerated is that Europe is fully capitalist but also has a tradition of social democracy. Attempts to make Europe totally free market have only resulted in strengthening revolutionary movements there. Because Western Europe was on the border with the socialist governments of the East, allowing them to have some social developments was a way of staving off these radical left (and often pro-Soviet) movements. It was a design of the Marshall Plan. However, even today, with no Soviet Union and its allies around to challenge things, it is impossible to rid Europe of social democracy. It has been pared back, no doubt. Of course, even the most social democratic governments take orders from the United States. Denmark was one of the countries that was most eager to get involved in Iraq.

    And even within Western Europe, the literature is not exactly balance. I remember reading something in my early days of grad school about how the British economy was terrible because it was heavily nationalized, and West Germany’s system was better because it was not so nationalized. I thought this was a bit strange, but then I began to think about it. The reason why West Germany was so great is because it was being propped up much more with US funds. It was right on the border with the dreaded Communist Bloc. Britain was not. Britain didn’t have to act as a bulwark against anything. West Germany was being heavily propped up, not just with foreign aid and guarantees about purchasing exports. It was also getting a major stimulus to its economy from the US bases within its borders. Much talk in the literature talks about the West German economic miracle, but it wasn’t so much a miracle as a design.

    I know too many people who are very good at not thinking about these things. That’s really what goes on in graduate programs in the US for international relations. They train their students not to think about these things. On universities in the US, you can find larger “Save Darfur” and “Free Tibet” organizations than any antiwar or anti-imperialist organizations. At the institution with which I am the most familiar, the pro-Israel student organization is very powerful. If a professor deviates from orthodoxy about the Israel-Palestine issue, the department and that organization will make that professor’s life miserable until he or she leaves. As I do remember, the professor clearly (and correctly) stated what Iran’s president said about the Holocaust and whether the he wanted to wipe Israel off the map. That statement got twisted around into blaming the Jews for Iran’s aggression.

    I can tell you it is one thing that made me sick of academia in this country.

    I’m just glad that one person is out there trying to make the waters less muddy. That’s really the asset of this blog and your writing.

    SW

    February 16, 2010 at 2:59 pm

  2. Excellent comment SW.
    US imperialism/militarism has been the dominant political ideology in the USA since at least 1898, possibly earlier if one includes the genocide/ethnic cleansing of the aboriginal people.
    Unconditional US support for the zionist colonial project has existed since 1967 (see USS Liberty).

    Ted

    February 18, 2010 at 3:25 pm

  3. What next a press release on Cuba? Kronstadt? Iran’s 72 million get boxed in more.

    For Immediate Release – February 18, 2010

    Contact: PaFor Immediate Release – February 18, 2010

    Contact: Paige Cram, Communications Coordinator, 212-679-5100, ext. 15, communications@nlg.org

    New York–On the opening of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s 7th Session Universal Period Review of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the National Lawyers Guild calls upon the Iranian government to halt the execution of and to immediately release those detained arbitrarily for engaging in peaceful protest, to investigate reports of their ill-treatment, and to fully respect the Iranian citizens’ right to freedom of expression and assembly.

    The National Lawyers Guild reiterates the grave concerns of UN experts about reports of killings, ongoing arrests, use of excessive police force, and the ill-treatment and possible torture of detainees. “We would like to emphasize the UN High Commissioner’s reminder to the government of Iran that it is obligated to protect human rights defenders, as well as the press, from any form of violence, intimidation, or discrimination, and to hold accountable those who engage in such activities,” said Jeanne Mirer, Co-Chair of the National Lawyers Guild International Committee.

    “Today, we join international human rights organizations in condemning the extra-judicial executions and arbitrary convictions of political activists aimed at intimidating and silencing the people of Iran,” said Nancy Hormachea, Co-Chair of the Iran Subcommittee of the National Lawyers Guild. “In particular, we are gravely concerned for the fate of at least 16 defendants who face imminent execution or harsh and repressive punishment for participating in peaceful post-June 12th rallies.” More than 3,000 peaceful political activists remain in detention and are at grave risk of mistreatment.

    The National Lawyers Guild was founded in 1937 and is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.

    ###ige Cram, Communications Coordinator, 212-679-5100, ext. 15, communications@nlg.org

    New York–On the opening of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s 7th Session Universal PFor Immediate Release – February 18, 2010

    Contact: Paige Cram, Communications Coordinator, 212-679-5100, ext. 15, communications@nlg.org

    New York–On the opening of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s 7th Session Universal Period Review of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the National Lawyers Guild calls upon the Iranian government to halt the execution of and to immediately release those detained arbitrarily for engaging in peaceful protest, to investigate reports of their ill-treatment, and to fully respect the Iranian citizens’ right to freedom of expression and assembly.

    The National Lawyers Guild reiterates the grave concerns of UN experts about reports of killings, ongoing arrests, use of excessive police force, and the ill-treatment and possible torture of detainees. “We would like to emphasize the UN High Commissioner’s reminder to the government of Iran that it is obligated to protect human rights defenders, as well as the press, from any form of violence, intimidation, or discrimination, and to hold accountable those who engage in such activities,” said Jeanne Mirer, Co-Chair of the National Lawyers Guild International Committee.

    “Today, we join international human rights organizations in condemning the extra-judicial executions and arbitrary convictions of political activists aimed at intimidating and silencing the people of Iran,” said Nancy Hormachea, Co-Chair of the Iran Subcommittee of the National Lawyers Guild. “In particular, we are gravely concerned for the fate of at least 16 defendants who face imminent execution or harsh and repressive punishment for participating in peaceful post-June 12th rallies.” More than 3,000 peaceful political activists remain in detention and are at grave risk of mistreatment.

    The National Lawyers Guild was founded in 1937 and is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.

    ###eriod Review of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the National Lawyers Guild calls upon the Iranian government to halt the execution of and to immediately release those detained arbitrarily for engaging in peaceful protest, to investigate reports of their ill-treatment, and to fully respect the Iranian citizens’ right to freedom of expression and assembly.

    The National Lawyers Guild reiterates the grave concerns of UN experts about reports of killings, ongoing arrests, use of excessive police force, and the ill-treatment and possible torture of detainees. “We would like to emphasize the UN High Commissioner’s reminder to the government of Iran that it is obligated to protect human rights defenders, as well as the press, from any form of violence, intimidation, or discrimination, and to hold accountable those who engage in such activities,” said Jeanne Mirer, Co-Chair of the National Lawyers Guild International Committee.

    “Today, we join international human rights organizations in condemning the extra-judicial executions and arbitrary convictions of political activists aimed at intimidating and silencing the people of Iran,” said Nancy Hormachea, Co-Chair of the Iran Subcommittee of the National Lawyers Guild. “In particular, we are gravely concerned for the fate of at least 16 defendants who face imminent execution or harsh and repressive punishment for participating in peaceful post-June 12th rallies.” More than 3,000 peaceful political activists remain in detention and are at grave risk of mistreatment.

    The National Lawyers Guild was founded in 1937 and is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.

    ###

    nuclear war

    February 19, 2010 at 4:09 pm

  4. Hi Steven,

    Excellent comment on Tony Hawkins, who has an article on what he thinks the effects of ‘international pressure’ were supposed to be on the government of Zimbabwe. Listed of course at SW Radio Africa.

    http://www.swradioafrica.com/Documents/ProfHawkins.pdf

    MonsieurK

    February 20, 2010 at 4:17 pm

  5. Tony Hawkins is in the news again:

    No, I can’t take such racism: Kasukuwere
    Sunday Mail Reporter
    Monday 29 March, 2010

    Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment Minister Cde Saviour Kasukuwere and black empowerment activists on Friday stormed out of a meeting with white entrepreneurs over what they termed “racist and backward” comments made by economist Professor Tony Hawkins. The meeting had been organised by a group of mainly white entrepreneurs to discuss the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act.

    http://www.zwnews.com/issuefull.cfm?ArticleID=22345

    Tony Hawkins offside
    The Herald

    EDITOR — I read with utmost disgust the story about a certain economist called Professor Tony Hawkins comparing the indigenisation laws of this country with apartheid.

    Are we missing something here?

    http://www.herald.co.zw/inside.aspx?sectid=17076&cat=10

    MrK

    March 30, 2010 at 3:21 am


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