Author (Your Name)

Hailey ReedFollow

Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Government Dept.


Milan Babík

Second Advisor

Kenneth Rodman


While some US policymakers argue that economic sanctions always work and continue to use them as a key foreign policy tool, and while some other scholars argue that sanctions never work, this thesis focuses on when, not if, sanctions work. Contextualizing a discussion of the effectiveness of sanctioning undemocratic regimes in the Middle East and North Africa around the early 2000s shift away from US hegemony back to multipolarity, I conclude that the rise of Russia, China, and smaller states in the early 2000s affected the process through which the US is able to sanction adversarial regimes. Through an analysis of six case studies, I show that pressure to adopt political reforms more favorable to the US through economic sanctions alone has not been successful regardless of global power dynamics. Although such sanctions consistently have limited success, the end of unipolarity gave previously less powerful states room to not only oppose but actively work against US sanctions regimes. The governments of Sudan, Syria, and Iran were given more opportunities to work around US sanctions legally through access to markets in other states. This ability of US adversaries to affect its sanctions regimes alters the costs imposed on the states targeted by sanctions and makes it more likely that the US will act alone in its imposition of sanctions. In a multipolar world, as opposed to a unipolar one under US hegemony, the US will encounter not only more difficulty in garnering international support for its policies, but also more difficultly in bringing about lasting change in the states it sanctions.


US Foreign Policy, Geopolitics, Sanctions