This article reviews the literature on the 'smart sanctions' approach developed in the late 1990s in response to the failure of conventional sanctions and questions the efficacy of this instrument. Smart sanctions modify the conventional sanctions tool by targeting the culpable political elites by means of arms embargoes, financial sanctions, and travel rstrictions and by cushioning vulnerable groups (children, women, the infirm, and the elderly) by exempting specified commodities such as food and medical supplies from embargoes. This two-pronged sanctions approach is designed to hit the real perpetrators directly and spare potential innocent victims, thus leading to the speedier change of sanctionee behaviour. Although the special design of smart sanctions may seem logically compelling and politically attractive, this article argues that the numerous operational problems involved, combined with the intricacies of the political processes of the UN Security Council, will make a smart sanctions regime difficult to establish and enforce effectively.

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