Economic sanctions are envisaged as a sort of punishment, based on what should be an institutional decision not unlike a court ruling. Hence, the conditions for their lifting should be clearly stated and once those are met sanctions should be lifted. But this is generally not what happens, and perhaps is precluded by the very nature of international sanctioning. Sanctions clearly have political, economic, military and strategic consequences, but the question raised here is whether sanctions can also have moral justification. Illustrated by the example of international sanctions against Yugoslavia, the authors show how the process of escalating demands on a target country, inherent to the very process of sanctioning, can lead ultimately even to overt aggression. As a result of this logic of escalation, economic sanctions cannot be articulated properly in any law-like system. Economic sanctions have much more in common with war than legal punishment, and in fact represent a form of siege. As such, they cannot be ended simply on the basis of their initial rationale, for the very process of sanctions implementation opens up possibilities for setting new goals and a continuous redefinition of the goal that sanctions are seen to have.