In November the U.S. government announced that it was relaxing some of the economic sanctions against Iran. It was responding to the new Iranian administration, which appears to have adopted a conciliatory stance. The change in U.S. policy, which is controversial, seems to be a good occasion to discuss the impact and value of sanctions and their close cousin, blockade.
Blockade—economic pressure—is the great traditional naval weapon. Now it is probably more potent than ever because all nations depend so heavily on international trade, much of it seaborne. In theory, then, economic sanctions or blockade can choke a country. They might seem to be an ultimate weapon, far more usable than nuclear weapons, and at least as effective. What government would defy a coalition capable of squeezing it to death?