Would UN sanctions on the US have any effect?

Well, it seems like we’ve covered a number of bases in the “Could the US invade the world”/“Could the world invade the US” threads. ButI think this one worthy of some discussion:

Consider for a moment that a year from now, the UN decides that the unilateral American military action in Iraq was a bad thing, and that GWB et al are power-mad despots rather than the last, best hope for world freedom.

So the UN passes Resolution 1999, which imposes econimic sanctions against the US until the US dismantles its weapons of mass destruction and/or pulls its troops out of Iraq, Afghanistan, the UK (at least north of Watford) and various other places.

Then what? I know that many here feel the UN to be a toothless old dog that should be put to sleep, while others still think that having the world leaders sit round a table talking rather than fighting is a good thing. And still others think that as the world’s one remaining superpower, the US can do what it wants.

What effect would economic sanctions have on the US?
Do you think that the people of the US would rise up to overthrow the aforementioned despotic government (or at least vote them out at the first opportunity – ballots are so much nicer than bullets)?
Or do you think the US would retreat into isolationism?
Or do you think that the US would use military might and/or strong diplomacy to set up a “new and improved United Nations”?
Or would everyone just ignore them?

They’d just veto the resolution.

There would be a race to see who could smuggle into the United States the fastest. Within a couple months imports would be back to normal, albeit illegal according to the UN.

The UN cannot sanction the US unless we choose not to veto. We could not veto any restrictions on imports anyway, because China would beat us to it. China, of the 100 billion(ish) dollar trade surplus to the United States.* So, assuming we do not veto 1999 due to a groin pull or something, China slips and falls on the way to the podium, and the UK passes out, the sanctions would be toothless within a short time anyway.

*I heard this figure on TV, if it’s wrong I’m not surprised. It’s BIG, that I know.

Well… If the UN wants to sign the worlds death warrent, then let them. If you cut away the economic superpower, you sign the world to death.

Plus, it would never pass… Good ol’ United Kingdom!

Even if they did, how would you enforce it? Kind of unlikely that you are going to enforce embargos against the strongest economically, politcally, and militarily country, that this world has ever seen.

Nothing would come from it…

Well first off, this would never happen for a million and one reasons…
But… The US economy, like every other modern industrialised economy trades heavily overseas. Sanctions would be a unmitigated disaster for the US economy, although i suspect the US could weather having no trade far better than any other country due to its natural resource deposits.

God knows what it would do to the people of the US. Make them justifiably angry at the rest of the world i imagine.

The UK would veto it.

Failing that; the UK would ignore it. So anyone wishing to break the sanctions would sell to a UK company who would then re-export it.

I think between the Royal Navy and the US navy we could keep the sealanes open.

On the wildy unlikely assumption that nobody vetoed the resolution imposing sanctions . . .

And on the even more unlikely assumption that the sanctions are effectively observed and enforced . . .

Then it must depend on what form exactly the sanctions take. Assuming they are stringent economic sanctions affecting trade between the US and other nations, the US has a large and diverse domestic economy, and could, in theory, withstand these better and for longer than many other countries. My guess is that inability to import oil would definitely be a problem, however. The seizure of the (very considerable) assets which US citizens and corporations hold outside the US would also be painful.

My guess is also that the US government is more accountable to domestic public opinion than many others, and the American people would need to be convinced that whatever stance of their government had led to the sanctions warranted the degree of economic pain they would suffer.

But the two assumptions that I have set out above that you have to make in order for this to be a relevant question are so wildly unlikely that it isn’t really a relevant question in any credible scenario.

Every diplomat who signed off is taken for “their own safety” and the UN loses one third of its budget. All foriegners stop recieving medical care at US hospitals. Things go back to normal tommorow.

This is an interesting question. The following is all speculation on my part, as I am nowhere near an expert on economics. This is just what I think would happen.

Assuming that every country in the world abides by it (highly unlikely IMO), the world would probably be plunged into a economic downturn that would make people long for the days of the Great Depression. Eventually the U.S. would probably recover, since I don’t think there is very much that we import that we couldn’t make ourselves, although prices would probably be quite a bit higher due to the lack of competition and alternative products. I’m guessing that most of western Europe and the Far East would eventually recover as well. The rest of the world would probably be up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

If this resolution would pass, it would be a cinch for the U.S. to pull out of the United Nations as well. I would guess that this would mean the U.N. would probably eventually collapse, meaning the embargo would be null and trading would commense as usual.

Just a few wild guesses on my part here. Perhaps a few of the Dopers out there who know more about economics that I could chime in?


Actually, foreigners would stop seeking medical care at US hospitals (because they couldn’t pay for it). Remember, we are assuming here that the sanctions are effective.

I don’t think the US would arrest the diplomats of states which had voted for the resolution; apart from the fact that it would be wrong, stupid and petty it would pose obvious dangers for US diplomats abroad.

I don’t think the UN would lose one-third of its budget. The US is only supposed to pay about 25%, and I gather they don’t pay a lot of that anyway.

The US, UK, Russia, and China would scramble to veto it. Heck, even France would consider vetoing. But even so, sanctions would only work if the individual countries voting for the sanctions actually imposed the sanctions. If no one enforces the sanctions then they might as well not exist. The various governments of the various sanctioning countries would have to do it, seize American assets, etc. All the while, America is seizing THEIR assets, etc.

What it would mean is the end of the UN as a universal organization. The US would of course drop out, and form its own pet organization, this time with provisions that keep the US and its allies firmly in charge. Global cold war, devastating worldwide depression, huge upward ratchet in arms sales, saber rattling, a sudden uptick in third world border disputes, the world goes to hell pretty quickly as world standards of living plunge.