Most Christians assume that imposing economic sanctions is a good thing that good governments should do. That is not true. God created people free. Taking actions to prevent people in other nations from doing what they freely choose is morally wrong. The government of a nation does not have the moral authority to prevent people from other nations from trading. The US government has authority over US citizens, but it does not have authority over citizens of other nations.

These days most people believe that war is nasty and morally undesirable so they prefer that their government avoid it, but they want the results that war achieves. They want to make other nations do what they want them to do, and economic sanctions seem like a less evil way to make them do it.

Christians have jumped on board and now expect their government to impose sanctions on nations that they believe are evil or doing bad things. There is never any debate about whether economic sanctions are morally right are wrong. Most people assume that they are a weapon that should be used, but the fact that they are referred to as a weapon tells us something about them.

Stealing is always wrong. It is wrong when people do it. It is wrong when governments do it.

You must not seize (Lev 19:13).
Seizing financial reserves or assets that belong to the people of another nation is wrong.

Total War

In ancient times, war was mostly a struggle between kings and their armies. Ordinary people were not affected unless the battle took place where they lived. War became total when a city was besieged. A siege brought a terrible toll on civilian populations, as the soldiers always demanded the last of the food. In some cities, "useless mouths", such as the elderly and handicapped were pushed outside the cities walls, where they would be killed by the besieging armies. Those who remained were forced to eat dogs, rats and dead birds. Leather and paper were ground up and made into soup.

Thousands of people died of starvation and disease. People who lived outside the city were not much better off, as the land within fifty miles of the city would be cleared of all food to support the army enforcing the siege.

The allied powers imposed a siege on Germany during the First World War. This siege was continued on after the armistice had been agreed, doing huge harm to the civilian population, especially children.

Since the American civil war, the nature of war has changed. War between armies became a total war between two populations and no one could remain apart from the turmoil and destruction. Factories were targeted to weaken the war effort. Cities were burned to weaken the opposition.

During the second world war, civilian populations were bombed to weaken morale and to undermine support for the leaders. The cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were totally destroyed even though they had very little military significance. During the twentieth century, total war destroyed the lives of millions of citizens. Economic sanctions take these attacks on civilians a step further by using economic weapons to fight wars, rather than military ones.

Economic sanctions are the modern form of the siege is the sanctions imposed on many nations. These are used most actively by nations with a strong Christian influence, but they are not much better than a siege, because the worst effects are felt by the civilian population, and especially children.

Immoral Weapon

Economic sanctions are immoral. No person or nation has the right to prevent other people or nations from buying and selling. The person who owns something does not have to sell it if they choose not to, regardless of the price that is offered. But if they choose to sell to someone, they are free to sell. No political power has authority to prevent them from selling.

Economic sanctions are a form of blackmail. It is ironic that the nations, which claim to believe in free trade, are the most active in enforcing economic sanctions against others.

Economic sanctions are a nasty and ineffective way to bring political change. They inflict pain on or dinary people, while the political leaders they are directed against, usually find ways to get around them. Some even become rich through trading in the black market.

Some nations have developed what they call smart sanctions, but they are about as accurate as smart missiles and bombs. Their victims find that they are not nearly as accurate as the people who launch them claim. The powerful people in the nation that is attacked with sanctions can use their wealth to escape their consequences. The worst burden is always born by the poor and the vulnerable.

Christians in the nations that impose them most often like to pretend that economic sanctions are more humane than military weapons, but that is hypocritical. Military weapons theoretically strike military targets, whereas economic sanctions kill innocent people. By trying to weaken the economy they are imposing the sanctions on they deliberately take actions that will that will harm the poor and vulnerable.


Economic sanctions are ineffective. They have rarely achieved the outcome they were introduced to achieve. The economic pressure often makes their target more belligerent.

Most Americans have forgotten that the Japanese (an ally in WW1) attacked Pearl Harbour after President Roosevelt imposed economic sanctions against them by cutting off their access to oil imports that were essential for the functioning of their economy. The Japanese believed that they had nothing to lose so they invaded SE Asia to gain access to oilfields there. The outcome was not what Roosevelt expected.

Academic studies show that economic sanctions rarely achieve the objective for which they were imposed. They cause a lot of pain for no real benefit.

In many cases, economic sanctions strengthen the hand of the hard-line leaders are they are intended to weaken. They often benefit the people they are trying to bring down.

War with military weapons often fails to achieve its aims and usually does more harm than good. Economic war with sanctions has an even worse record.

The main benefit of sanctions is that people in the country imposing them feel good because they are doing something about a problem that worries them. They forget that the sanctions usually hurt the wrong people. Harming people to feel good is perverse.

Perpetual Punishment

A big problem with economic sanctions is that they are very difficult to remove once they have been put in place. In a militaristic nation like the United States, it is much harder to win a vote in Congress to lift economic sanctions than it is to impose them in the first place. One of the best ways for a representative to ensure their re-election is to vote for economic sanctions against the nation that is currently out of favour.

Some of the economic sanctions imposed by the United States have been in place for more than fifty years. Most people have forgotten the purpose for which they were imposed and many of the people they were directed against are dead, but the sanctions are still enforced.

Economic sanctions imposed against Cuba have been in place for more than 60 years, but they have not changed the political situation, but have caused enormous pain and suffering for economic people. Despite this failure to achieve their goal, it would be impossible to get the Congress to vote against them.

United States

The United States uses economic sanctions more than any nation in history. It pressures other nations to join its sanctioning efforts. The US is currently the most powerful nation and strongest economy that the world has ever seen. It controls the financial and banking systems that are used by all the nations of the world. In addition to exercising military power in many nations, it uses its place at the centre of the world financial system to control other nations. Presidents have begun preventing people and nations from using the SWIFT system for interbank transactions, which prevents them from trading.

Sanctions are imposed on nations that will not submit to the dictates of the United States to prevent them from trading. Nothing like this has been done before. The irony is that the nation that claims to be the champion of free-market economics is blocking people from buying and selling.

Economic sanctions are directed at nations, but they are imposed on people and businesses. The list of people and businesses that are banned is thousands of pages long. Some of the bans have been in place for nearly fifty years. Businesses in other nations are also prevented from trading with them too.

The United States uses control of the financial system to prevent people and companies from other nations trading with the nations on the list of baddies. This change is spreading the net of sanctions much wider.

The Evangelical Church provided moral support for this behaviour by declaring that the sanctioned nations are evil. Many churches advocate the full use of economic power to implement American power in the world, but their selection of targets is highly selective and often xenophobic.

The following quote comes from a book by Richard Nephew, who was responsible for designing the economic sanctions against Iran.

Notice the dishonesty in his words. He talks about "vulnerabilities" and "interests" but does not mention that he is imposing as much pain and suffering as he can on people and children who have no control over what their nations leaders do. This is warped moral thinking.


The modern use of economic sanctions involves considerable hypocrisy.

In the last three decades, the United States has illegally invaded several nations (Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen) and have bombed numerous cities (Raqqa and Mosul were almost totally destroyed) but it has never had economic sanctions imposed against it. Yet when other nations do these things, the US imposes sanctions on them.

Russia has not done anything in Ukraine that the United States has not done several times in the last few decades. Russia is accused of using cluster bombs in Ukraine (without much evidence) but the people of Vietnam are still be killed and maimed by the cluster bombs laid by US Troops, and the US has refused to sign the UN treaty banning cluster bombs. Russia is accused of using hyperbaric bombs in Ukraine (without much evidence) but the United States used them extensively in Iraq.

Beast of Revelation

The Beast of Revelation uses political and military power to prevent people from buying and selling (Rev 13:16-17). If John was recording his vision in English today, he would say that the beast imposes economic sanctions on peoples and nations that refuse to submit to his authority. It is odd that a Christian nation is the leading expert on the use of these terrible economic weapons. Economic sanctions are what the Beast from hell does, not what Christians should be doing (See Mark of the Beast).