Embargoes Don't Work

April 15, 2001
By Doug Newman

Letters to the Editor
Denver Rocky Mountain News
P.O. Box 719
Denver, CO 80201


A few months ago, Mike Rosen described a certain proposal pending before the Colorado Legislature as "feel-good legislation, rife with unintended negative consequences, born of desperation to 'do something' about a problem." These words apply to the majority of laws on the books.

They are especially significant with the recent clamor to cut off trade relations with Communist China. The rulers in Beijing are part of a 52-year legacy of mass murder, denial of human rights, and religious persecution as hideous as any in the history of the world. However, I would invite anyone who proposes a trade embargo with China to ask what they really intend to achieve by such an action.

Consider the history of trade embargoes. After nine years of sanctions (over twice as long as we fought a war with Hitler), Saddam Hussein still rules in Iraq. After a 40-year embargo, Fidel Castro still rules Cuba. After 55 years of no trade, the playboy psychopath Kim-Jong Il continues his father's Stalinist legacy in North Korea, the most isolated society on earth. America had no trade relations with Communist China for over 20 years after Mao Zedong came to power in 1949. If embargoes worked, China would have been a free country by 1955. Embargoes do not topple bad guys.

Embargoes are acts of war. In the absence of a congressional declaration of war with China (for which there is no justification at this point), those who make and influence foreign policy need to think twice -- and three and four and five times -- before calling for such measures. Congress has the constitutional authority to regulate trade with China, and I firmly support the prudent exercise of such authority. However, an embargo on Red China would constitute pure recklessness. It may soothe the consciences of its proponents, yet it would do nothing to topple that evil regime, or foster any extension of human rights.

One other point: it is fashionable in Christian circles to support an embargo with Communist China on the basis of religious persecution there. However, too many Christians do not realize that, if products do not cross borders, neither do Bibles or missionaries. Do American Christians really want to give up the ability to influence events in China, which is home to more born-again Christians than any other nation on earth? This is exactly will happen if we ever implement embargo of trade with China.

Douglas F. Newman

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Doug Newman

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