By Jimmy Carter, The Washington Post, 27 December 14
s we contemplate how to strike back at North Korea because it is believed to be behind the hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s computer network, the foremost proposal is tightening sanctions. In my visits to targeted countries, I have seen how this strategy can be cruel to innocent people who know nothing about international disputes and are already suffering under dictatorial leaders.
The imposition of economic embargoes on unsavory regimes is most often ineffective and can be counterproductive. In Cuba, where the news media are controlled by the government, many people are convinced that their economic plight is caused by the United States and that they are being defended by the actions of their Communist leaders, who are therefore strengthened in power. I have visited the homes of both Castro brothers and some of the regime’s other top officials, and it is obvious that their living conditions have not suffered because of the embargo. Many Cuban families are deprived of good incomes, certain foods, cellphones, Internet access and basic freedoms, but at least they have access to a good education and health care, and they live in a tropical environment where the soil is productive and where some fortunate families may have trees that bear bananas and other fruit. In addition, Cubans receive about $2 billion annually in remittances from friends and relatives in the United States.
The situation is more tragic in North Korea, where none of these advantages exist. The U.S. embargo, imposed 64 years ago at the start of the Korean War, has been more strictly enforced, with every effort made to restrict or damage North Korea’s economy. During my visits to Pyongyang, I have had extensive discussions with government officials and forceful female leaders who emphasized the plight of people who were starving. …
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