In July, the EU caved to pressure from the U.S. and Israel and added Hezbollah’s “military wing” to its blacklist of terrorist entities subject to financial sanctions. The U.S. and Israel applauded the move; Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah shrugged it off as meaningless.
Nasrallah is right: It is meaningless. The first reason it’s meaningless, as noted elsewhere, is that Hezbollah is a fully integrated political and military organization, and there is no real way to enforce sanctions against the “military wing” by itself.
The second and more important reason is that, as a policy tool, terrorist blacklists in general are at best ineffective and at worst counterproductive, as U.S. experience demonstrates well. The main thing terrorist blacklists do is freeze the assets of the groups or individuals listed, under the logic that terrorism costs money, and cutting off the money suffocates the terrorism. This logic is so entrenched that an executive order to “starve terrorists of their support funds” was actually the opening salvo the U.S. launched in the “war on the global terror network” in September 2001, before the October invasion of Afghanistan.