President Donald Trump has threatened to use sanctions to spearhead his agenda and to force supposedly hostile governments to bend to his will. However, there is one major issue about weaponizing sanctions – the State Department’s head officials keep leaving.
Friday marks another day of departures for the Trump administration, as it sees the resignation of Joshua Black, the department’s most experienced personnel in the United Nations. Black has not mentioned a reason for his leaving, but former and current officials have said that the counterterrorism expert has “grown disillusioned serving an administration that was contemptuous of multilateral institutions,” adding that Trump’s direction “was tearing down a landmark nuclear deal” that Black was personally invested in.
Black’s departure showcased a sad reality of Trump’s organizational dysfunction. Black has catered to several administrations during his tenure, leading the department’s sanctions efforts for the past decade.
What Are Sanctions And What Are Their Limits?
Sanctions are mandates to persuade a foreign government to alter their policies by restricting trade, investments, or commercial activities. Money and economic activity is the lifeline of many countries; by putting pressure on that lifeline, a president can affect how they behave.
Some may think that sanctions are necessary or akin to war crimes, but it can be used as a helpful tool to curtail the sale of nuclear weapons or to protest countries that violate humans rights. However, many of these sanctions tend to hit poor and innocent civilians the hardest. The rich and privileged that work in government offices can insulate themselves from incoming restrictions, but the everyday civilian may not have the means to protect themselves. For example, a trade embargo directly affects local farmers who have no say as to a country’s government activities.
The End of Joshua Black’s Civil Career
The end of Black’s career at the State Department came only a few months after the closure of a dedicated sanctions office, which caused the Trump administration to be three weeks late on a Russia sanctions deadline back in October.
Was Trump not too keen on enacting sanctions on his friend, Vladimir Putin?
Featured image via Getty/ Spencer Platt.