Reasons For Restraining The Economic Weapon

By Michael Youhana

In March, Eric Levitz of New York Magazine published a widely read and lengthy critique of dovish policies promoted by the Democratic Socialists of America in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  Levitz’s sprawling challenge to the DSA’s proposals is thoughtful, and merits a rebuttal from those who support a more measured response to Russia’s war of aggression than the bellicose strategy adopted by the Biden administration. 

I am not offering a comprehensive rejoinder to the piece in this essay. Rather, I aim to reply to a specific question posed by Levitz: How can the DSA “reconcile its moralistic objections to sanctions against Russia with its support for” the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel? The question is generative. It requires the identification of a universal standard for justifiable sanctions in response to international crimes, and an evaluation of the ongoing and proposed economic penalties on Russia and Israel against that standard. 

So let us begin with a rough sketch of a universal sanctions standard: the only sanctions socialists (and everyone else) should support are those that 1) have the backing of the international community, and 2) are narrowly tailored so that their impacts fall primarily on culpable elites and militaries. We can call the first clause the “Legitimacy Clause,” and the second the “Distinction Clause.” While the sanctions on Russia fail on both counts, BDS more closely comports with the second principle. Let us consider each in turn.

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Walking the Walk on Climate Change

By Tim Hirschel-Burns

This November, nations will come together for the international climate summit in Glasgow. The summit is the most significant since the 2015 conference that produced the Paris Agreement, and the recent wave of climate disasters only underlines the extreme urgency of global action to fight climate change. The US, now back in the Paris Agreement after the Trump Administration withdrew, aims to play a leading role in the negotiations. But as the US attempts to return to the head of the table, one key question will be in other countries’ minds: why should we believe what the US says?

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How the Blob Maintains its Grip

By Blaise Malley

On Friday, March 5, two scholars at the Atlantic Council, Emma Ashford and Matthew Burrows outlined a US approach to Russia with a striking headline: — “Focus on interests, not on human rights with Russia.” Still, the ideas put forth in the piece were hardly explosive — “perfectly anodyne” in the words of Dan Drezner. 

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