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An Administration Enthusiastic about Sanctions

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I missed the news, during my summer vacation, that Monica Crowley had become the Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs at the Treasury Department. Today she emailed out the text of an article in The Economist noting that this administration “has been more enthusiastic than any other in history in using financial sanctions” on foreign officials and businessmen.

I have rarely seen any administration rush to highlight media coverage that includes so many negative notes. The article concludes that the administration’s sanctions are “a bright spot” but immediately qualifies that praise with “in an otherwise lamentable foreign-policy record.”

Even what The Economist says about the sanctions is not entirely positive. It notes that sanctions can penalize people on the basis of classfied information with no possibility of appeal. And “in a strategic sense, it is really not so clear that sanctions are achieving much.”

Either Treasury is touting this article because it is unusually large-minded in wanting people to be able to see both the pros and cons of its policies, or it is so unused to anything but wholly negative coverage that it wanted to highlight the first thing it found that was instead mixed. Or this was not fully thought through.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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