In time of war sanctions may sound like an ethical solution, and I agree that there are moments when sanctions might be beneficial in politics. For example, getting those who have for amassed fortunes at the expense of others and in this way reducing their economical, political and military power. However, sanctions are one of those tools that can cause more harm to those who are not directly causing the conflicts.

Some thoughts:

  • What happens when applying a sanction interferes with a human basic needs? Let's say a state imported all their drinking water because they couldn't get it themselves from their own territory. Is it acceptable to cut drinking water then? My personal view is that it should not be acceptable, and it should be considered a war crime. Not every person in a nation stands behind their leaders, and just because they are not able to get rid of them, should they be "destroyed". For me this is a western neoliberal mentality. It's just like saying: "you are poor because you want to". We should consider what this means for other basic needs like food, gas, health, education, internet access and others.
  • Why would it be ethically OK for a country to apply a sanction against another country, when they themselves have produced the same amount of harm (war, invasions, colonisations, etc) to other countries?
  • What if many countries would prefer to abstain themselves from sanctioning other countries but only do it because if they don't they might suffer repercussions from those bigger and stronger powers interested in doing the sanctions? And more important, why do we as societies see it OK for countries to become so powerful and able to drive geopolitics to their will? For example, why is it ethically OK that only a bunch of countries can use the power of veto in the UN?