Message From the Director
USA*Engage, was established in 1997 to address the recurring imposition of unilateral economic sanctions as a substitute for the rigors of diplomacy. A broad-based coalition of manufacturing, agricultural and services producers, USA*Engage continues to advocate that the people-to-people intelligence and understanding conferred by commercial engagement trumps the demonstrable failure – witness Cuba and Iraq – of interdictions on commercial activity.
As a legislative stratagem, sanctions are in fact unfunded mandates whose costs are borne by individual enterprises and communities and whose stated goals and benefits fail to materialize. The historical record demonstrates that unilateral sanctions hurt the innocent and further empower the governing elites in the targeted country. Furthermore, once legislated and implemented, sanctions acquire a bureaucratic and political critical mass that makes them exceedingly difficult to stand down.
Extraterritorial ("secondary") U.S. sanctions that necessarily offend allies, invariably the product of parochial Congressional concerns, undermine the fundamental American commitment to national sovereignty. Moreover, the Congressionally approved authority for state and local governments to legislate such sanctions increase the challenge for any Administration to conduct foreign policy coherently and consistently, despite a Supreme Court decision to the contrary. In addition, unilateral sanctions shrink diplomatic space and become a barrier to intelligence that can inform negotiations over core geopolitical differences. U.S.-Iran relations are a case in point spanning decades.
USA*Engage continues to advocate for the primacy of normal commercial relations among countries; for diplomacy and engagement as our primary tools of foreign policy; and for the ability of the Executive Branch to conduct foreign policy in the spirit of the late Senator Arthur Vanderberg's observation that politics stops at the water's edge, and for adherence to the rule of do no harm, when it comes to attempting economic blackmail to realize foreign policy goals.