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Post Sanctions Against Japan, 1941
Created by John Eipper on 10/10/18 4:32 AM

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Sanctions Against Japan, 1941 (Tor Guimaraes, USA, 10/10/18 4:32 am)

When an intellectual giant like Alain de Benoist says sanctions are an act of war, I listen very carefully because he probably knows what he is talking about.

This "sanctions equals war" discussion is very interesting, because the issues involved are like an iceberg, mostly hidden. Undeniably, one nation imposing sanctions on another is a clear indication of superiority. At the very least, the leadership in power wants to impose their will (for good or evil) on the nation in the inferior position. The leadership in power in the latter is forced to accept humiliation and quit, or resist the aggression by sanction.

As my friend Ric Mauricio aptly illustrated on October 9th, "On July 26, 1941, Roosevelt 'froze Japanese assets in the United States, [bringing] commercial relations between the nations to an effective end... The British and the Dutch followed suit, embargoing exports to Japan from their colonies in Southeast Asia." Clearly sooner or later Japan would be destroyed; thus sanctions were a severe act of non-military aggression. But, we must dig deeper. Why were the sanctions introduced?

At the end of WWI Japan was a well-respected nation, and the Japanese leadership learned from the British that first-rate nations build empires. So they wanted to do the same. So first they invaded Manchuria then tried to pretend they had been provoked into invading China. Then the sanctions escalated.  In turn, the Japanese went all-out and took over the colonies under European control (including Vietnam). The Pacific at the time was already designated as mare nostrum by us peace-loving Americans.

There are many lessons to be learned, I detected at least three:

1 Just because someone got away with murder (European empires) does not mean you (Japan) will be able to do the same.

2. Generals and political leaders will be happy to engage in devastating wars, because it might be perceived as their duty and obligation, regardless of the costs in lives and resources. Once it starts that is uncontrollable, thus it behooves the people to stop the craziness of war before it gets out of hand. Because of the lunatic Hitler, WWII was inevitable. Thank God it turned out in our favor.

3. Sanctions are indeed an act of aggression (if not open warfare) against the whole nation, particularly the most vulnerable and mostly innocent people: children. The leaders are the last to suffer.

JE comments:  Can we safely say that Italy (1935) and Japan (1941) were the first nations to suffer sanctions in the "modern sense"?  (Let's put aside the question of what "modern sense" means.)  Germany post-Versailles had to live with back-breaking reparations, occupation, and all sorts of outside control, but these weren't exactly sanctions.

Both Italy and Japan chose war, and eventually suffered total defeat.  Was it because of the sanctions, or would war have occurred anyway?  You be the judge.

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  • Deciphering "Sanctions Equal War" (Timothy Brown, USA 10/11/18 4:11 AM)
    On the question whether or not a "sanction equals war," I think it would be helpful to define the words "sanction," "equal," and "war," since they seem to be being used by different commentators in different ways.

    I suggest that measures taken by a sovereign nation solely, or primarily, for purely national purposes such as protecting the well-being of those it governs, is not an act of aggression.

    If any and all sanctions imposed by any country on another for any reason whatsoever regardless of its intent, is "an act of war," then I say no, if its purpose is to protect its own people.

    The trick is how to tell the difference.

    JE comments:  Yessir, these are the bedeviled details. Can we at least agree on the definition of "equals"?  Another term for our brew of lexical confusion:  to "protect."  Does this include the pre-emptive attack?  Striking out against sanctions can also be construed as protecting one's citizens.

    Next on the bellicosity or benignness of sanctions:  José Ignacio Soler.

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    • Are Sanctions a Form of Terrorism? (Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, USA 10/13/18 4:24 AM)
      In response to Alain de Benois't excellent essay on sanctions, various WAISers have responded in agreement or in opposition to Alain's views.

      I am left feeling very flattered, given that not a single WAISer argued with my definition of sanctions as terrorism. This would indicate they all agree.  Or else, no one read it, which is the more probable and less flattering scenario. But as Winston Churchill famously said: "The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.".

      Drawing on national (US) and international definitions of terrorism, I equate sanctions to terrorism. I attach the link to my article/argument here again, with JE's permission. https://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2015/09/10/sanctioned-terrorism/ I will provide a couple of citations from the article. "In 1937, the League of Nations Convention defined terrorism as: 'All criminal acts directed against a State and intended or calculated to create a state of terror in the minds of particular persons or a group of persons or the general public.'"

      Kofi Annan, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, conveyed the findings of a high level UN panel: "A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility" (2004) as having defined terrorism to be: "[A]ny action intended to kill or seriously harm civilians or non-combatants, with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling action by a government or international organization."

      Section 1.B of 18 U.S. Code § 2331 on international terrorism includes the following: (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping.

      No US president has been as vocal about his goal as Mr. Trump. He announced to the world that he would impose sanctions on Iran and North Korea until they change their behavior. Other presidents have been more diplomatic, but their intentions have been the same.

      Timothy Brown wrote on October 11th: "I suggest that measures taken by a sovereign nation solely, or primarily, for purely national purposes such as protecting the well-being of those it governs, is not an act of aggression." My response to this statement is also addressed to others who have implied that this act of terrorism is for the good of the nation.

      Terrorism (here sanctions), like pollution, does not recognize boundaries. Many countries in the world have realized this bitter fact, including Russia. And today there is talk of sanctioning Saudi Arabia. It is not clear to me how this inhumane act can be considered "for the good of the nation" for various reasons.

      Let us first recall that the United States and the Soviet Union did not engage in a military confrontation. America did not defeat the Soviet Union on the battlefield. It was America's soft power that prevailed. How can the killing of half a million Iraqi children help the United States maintain its image--which is the source of its power? A Gallup poll (cited by various websites) presented America as the biggest threat to world peace. As cited in my article, Kofi Anan claimed that " any event or process that leads to deaths on a large scale or the lessening of life chances, and which undermines states as the basic unit of the international system, should be viewed as a threat to international peace and security." Such threats include "economic and social threats."  Sanctions do precisely this.

      But should some take comfort in the fact that sanctions do not affect them as they only harm or kill people in target countries and keep them safe at home, without sparing the life of soldiers, they should bear in mind that sanctions do bite at home.

      In a 2008 paper developed by economists Dean DeRosa and Gary Hufbauer, it was proposed that if the United States lifted sanctions on Iran and the nation liberalized its economic regime, the world price of oil could fall by 10 percent which would translate into an annual savings of $38-76 billion for the United States. For an advanced country, and the world's lone superpower, the lack of health care, the alarming rate of poverty and homelessness, and the crumbling infrastructure should be alarming for those who justify sanctions. This is especially worth considering as Mr. Trump has announced his oil embargo on Tehran.

      Moreover, during the 1978-79 revolution, Iranian oil production dropped 3.8 million barrels per day for 3 months. Although outside production increased by 1.8 million barrels to make up for the loss, the net loss to the world was 150 million barrels of oil. However, the compounding results of the production loss were significant around the world, and the loss to US economy which is estimated at many billions of dollars in 1979 and 1980 (Deese and Nye, Energy Security 1981).

      To assume that sanctions/terrorism is for the good of the people, is ignoring reality.

      More importantly, sanctions are not "an act taken by a sovereign nation." Demanding that others comply with sanctions (as US does) is extraterritorial reach aimed at undermining the sovereignty of other nations.

      So regardless of how we want to categorize sanctions, we cannot avoid their impact both at home and the target country.

      JE comments:  Terrorism is a tactic of the weak, while sanctions are the privilege of hegemons.  The former requires stealth and surprise to function.  The latter is done in the open, in the hope that the psychological pressure can bring about the desired result.  I will admit that both terrorism and sanctions impact the victim population indiscriminately.  "Targeted sanctions" could be an oxymoron, although José Ignacio Soler recently commented on Venezuela, where the sanctions are limited to Mr Maduro's inner circle.

      Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich mentions the Saudi Arabia crisis.  In your view, Soraya, how should Turkey respond if its claims of Saudi guilt in the Khashoggi murder are proven?  Also, what is the Iranian press saying about the case?

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      • Are Sanctions a Form of Terrorism? No (Brian Blodgett, USA 10/14/18 4:53 AM)
        I admit that I had not read Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich's posting on that covered sanctions being equated to terrorism, but now that I see her follow-up post of October 13th, I must disagree that sanctions are terrorism. For if so, then the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States are all guilty of conducting terrorism due to their passing of sanctions against various countries.

        Per the EU, sanctions may "target governments of third countries, or non-state entities and individuals, such as terrorist groups and terrorists. These measures may include arms embargoes, trade restrictions such as import and export bans, financial restrictions, and restricting movement such as visa or travel bans" (European Commission - Sanctions, 2018).

        Additionally, the EU's overarching objectives of imposing sanctions are to "promote international peace and security; preventing conflicts, defending democratic principles and human rights; preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs); and fighting terrorism." Thus, if we believe the last overarching objective by the EU is valid, then how can a sanction itself be an act of terrorism.  Wouldn't the EU then place a sanction upon itself?

        When Kofi Annan stated his opinion on terrorism that Soraya quoted, he was no longer the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Additionally, the US Code that defined international terrorism may be irrelevant because the term "international terrorism" is related to the definitions that occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, and involve "violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State, or that would be a criminal violation if committed with the jurisdiction of the United States or of any State" (Section 1.A of 18 U.S. Code § 2331).

        In the quote by Timothy Brown (2018, October 11), "I suggest that measures taken by a sovereign nation solely, or primarily, for purely national purposes such as protecting the well-being of those it governs, is not an act of aggression," there appears to be a general agreement by the governing bodies of the United Nations and the European Union.

        The United Nations currently has sanctions against Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Eritrea, Iran, Libya, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan.  Such a definition would make the UN a terrorist organization. Likewise, the European Union would be guilty of terrorism due to thematic restrictions (sanctions) against Venezuela, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Sudan, Egypt, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Burma (Union of Myanmar), Russia, Ukraine, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Belarus, and Democratic People's Republic of Korea.  As a note, Russia placed sanctions on the EU and the USA in 2014 due to sanctions on their country.

        While I believe, as stated in a previous post, that the view of sanctions and if they are an act of war or not is in the eye of the beholder, to me they are clearly not acts of terrorism.

        European Commission. 2018. Sanctions. Retrievable from http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/fpi/what-we-do/sanctions_en.htm

        18 USC - Crimes and Criminal Procedures. 2018. Retrieved from http://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?path=/prelim@title18/part1/chapter113B&edition=prelim

        JE comments:  Who would have estimated nearly two dozen (I count 23 above) for the number of countries under EU sanctions?  One thing we haven't specifically pointed out in our analysis:  almost all the sanctioned states are poor, and probably would be poor even without sanctions.  The sanctioning states are invariably rich.  What can we conclude from this?  Let's discuss.

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        • Are Sanctions a Form of Terrorism? Yes (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 10/15/18 2:53 AM)
          Yes, the UN, EU and US are all guilty of conducting terrorism due to their passing of sanctions against various countries.

          Do not pay attention to the nice words with which they present their actions. The Atlantic Charter of 1941 was full of nice words, but in practice at the end of the war it was just BS. For confirmation of this, just ask Poland and many other countries worldwide.

          JE comments:  I still don't see the connection between sanctions and terrorism, other than their scattershot approach to victimizing a population.  Granted, the two tactics have a certain symbiosis.  Do you believe a state supports terrorism?  Slap on some sanctions.  Are the sanctions inflicting pain on your country?  Respond with terrorism.

          Do I oversimplify?

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          • Sanctions Have Nothing to do with Terrorism (Istvan Simon, USA 10/18/18 3:47 AM)
            In reply to Eugenio Battaglia (October 15th), sanctions have zero to do with terrorism. That sanctions are terrorism is a distortion of the meaning of terrorism beyond recognition.

            Now to turn to John E's comment:

            "I still don't see the connection between sanctions and terrorism, other than their scattershot approach to victimizing a population. Granted, the two tactics have a certain symbiosis. Do you believe a state supports terrorism? Slap on some sanctions. Are the sanctions inflicting pain on your country? Respond with terrorism.

            "Do I oversimplify?"

            Yes, I think you oversimplify.  Sanctions are simply a form of economic pressure to try to induce change in the behavior of a country's government. It often fails and only punishes the people of the country rather than their dictatorial governments, in which case it is counterproductive, because that is never the aim of sanctions. But there are examples of successful outcomes of sanctions as well. For example, the campaign against Apartheid in South Africa.

            Terrorism and sanctions have no symbiosis. Sanctions are not imposed only for state-sponsored terrorism, so that is a red herring right from the start. For example, I do not think that Russia significantly sponsors terrorism (except terrorism of its own, like the murders of Litvinenko, Anna Politkovskaya, Boris Nemtsov, and so many others.) Yet in my opinion we should impose severe sanctions on Russia for multiple reasons.

            That sanctions hurt and bother Putin is evident from his efforts to revoke the Magnitsky act. It is now law not only in the United States, but in many other countries. Putin is terrified of what might happen to his ill-gotten billions if it spreads really widely. Putin can utter all sorts of lies about why we imposed the Magnitsky act, but the same arguments sound plainly ridiculous against Canada for example, so Putin fears it will spread further.

            JE comments:  I'm not as categorically certain as Istvan is.  Couldn't we also say that terrorism is a form of economic pressure to induce change in the behavior of a country?  Look at the financial, as well as human, cost of 9/11.

            Can we revisit the topic of sanctions vis-à-vis Putin?  Ordinary Russians are absolutely feeling the pain, but the suffering is not hurting Putin's popularity at home.  Once again, do I oversimplify?

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            • How Effective are Sanctions? (Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, USA 10/19/18 3:23 AM)
              I am delighted to see that topic of sanctions has gained some traction on WAIS.

              Sanctions have been described as many things by various players. Alternate to war, prelude to war, war itself, economic terrorism, economic blackmail, terrorism, and so forth. So not everyone can agree on a single definition and so it is useful topic to discuss.

              Regardless of where we stand on the issue, there are facts that are irrefutable, even though we may want to ignore them or brush them aside. What is required is to simply put aside bias, apply intellectual honesty, and take a close look at facts available to us.

              On October 14, Brian Blodgett simply brushed aside Kofi Annan's description of terrorism I had cited, by stating that Anna was no longer Secretary-General of the UN. He was not the Secretary-General at the time of my writing the piece, but he defined it in 2004 when he was most certainly the UN chief (as well as a recipient of the 2001 Nobel Peace prize).

              Brian Blodgett further wrote: "Additionally, the EU's overarching objectives of imposing sanctions are to "promote international peace and security; preventing conflicts, defending democratic principles and human rights; preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs); and fighting terrorism."

              I have to ask how death by sanctions of 500,000 children in Iraq prevented the proliferation of WMDs? Or promoted peace? In fact, Denis Halliday, former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations, and many other top officials resigned from their posts in protest to the sanctions, saying: "The policy of economic sanctions is totally bankrupt. We are in the process of destroying an entire society. It is as simple and as terrifying as that."  In 1999, seventy members of Congress appealed to President Clinton to lift the sanctions and end what they termed "infanticide masquerading as policy."

              But Madeline Albright felt it was "worth it"--as it would seem, did others.

              So how do we reconcile taking hundreds of thousands of innocent lives, infanticide, and claim to be "defending democratic principles and human rights"? Ditto all the other nations we impose sanctions on.

              I have to ask if arming Saudi Arabia and the UAE to bomb Yemeni children promotes peace and security, human rights and democracy. It does not. But it does recycle a whole lot of petrodollars.

              As for the proliferation of WMD, one has to ask if this is the objective of the EU (and US), then why does Europe trade so extensively with Israel, India, and Pakistan--rogue, nuclear-armed states? Not left unstated the horrific violation of human rights in those countries.

              Brian also argued that sanctions cannot possibly be terrorism because the that would mean "the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States are all guilty of conducting terrorism due to their passing of sanctions against various countries." This is an odd argument. If we do it, then it can't be bad? This is precisely why I called my article "Sanctioned Terrorism"--terrorism sanctioned at the very top.

              For decades, the false notion of "foreign terrorist" has been driven home. "Terrorists" are always the other, justifying our actions while ignoring our crimes. It is far easier to brush aside all concern for human life, for the wrongs we are committing, by believing that we are punishing bad actors.

              We then reinforce our self-righteousness and justify our crimes by stating that sanctions brought down Apartheid South Africa. The former is simply wrong, and the latter grossly inaccurate.

              Sanctions did not put an end to Apartheid, though they were a factor, perhaps a relatively minor one compared to other factors. There is extensive literature on the topic (for example http://www.econ.yale.edu/growth_pdf/cdp796.pdf ).

              Researchers have presented other factors, more important ones, such as divestment, boycott, as well as South Africa's extensive external borrowing, and not least, the demise of the Soviet Union, which removed any fear of opposition getting support from the Soviet Union and tilting the balance of power.

              The success of BDS has not been lost on Israel. This is why there are extensive attempts by supporters of Israel and Israelis themselves to stop BDS.

              I don't believe it is constructive to deny reality if we are to make our world a more livable one. We many not like the definitions, but surely we must face the impact and consequences of our actions.

              JE comments:  The paper linked above argues that more than sanctions, the collapse of the USSR brought down Apartheid.  In brief, the end of the Cold War took away Western fears of Soviet influence in a post-Apartheid South Africa.  The correlation is there, but the causality?  We'll never know--history rarely allows for control groups.

              Remember the Peace Dividend of the 1990s?  How remote and quaint it sounds.

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