Measuring the Effectiveness of Arms Embargoes

Michael Brzoska 1 , 1
  • 1 IFSH, University of Hamburg, brzoska@ifsh.de

Arms embargoes are often said to be ineffective but mandated fairly often. A sample of 74 arms embargo cases between 1990 and 2005 is analysed in order to assess effectiveness. The analysis shows that such embargoes had notable effects on arms import patterns in about 30 percent of all cases. However, effects on targeted policies are much more limited. The link between arms embargoes and targeted policy change grows stronger over the lifetime of arms embargoes. The paper also uses a third measure of arms embargo success, initiator satisfaction. Arms embargoes are comparatively cheap for senders, and thus even only partially enforced embargoes may be seen as a success by the initiators of such a sanction. The analysis confirms the hypothesis that multilateral arms embargoes are more successful than unilateral ones. Multilateralization increases supplier satisfaction with an embargo, it raises the likelihood that there are significant changes in arms import patterns and even increases the possibility that there is policy change in the target. Related to multilateralization is arms embargo implementation. A higher degree of participation of countries and a stronger effort at implementation by participants increase the effectiveness. Arms embargoes are more effective when they are embedded in consistent policy packages. Arms embargoes in and of themselves will rarely affect target policies.

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