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  • James Pattison (a1)

Economic sanctions have been subject to extensive criticism. They are often seen as indiscriminate, intending the harms that they inflict, and using the suffering of the innocent as a means to enact policy change. Indeed, some reject outright the permissibility of economic sanctions. By contrast, in this essay, I defend the case for economic sanctions. I argue that sanctions are not necessarily morally problematic and, in doing so, argue that sanctions are less morally problematic than is often claimed. I go on to argue that sanctions may sometimes be morally preferable to the leading alternatives and, in particular, to wars and doing nothing. This is in part because sanctions are more likely to distribute fairly the currently inevitable harms to innocents of tackling aggression and mass atrocities. In the final part of the essay, I draw on this point to argue more generally that that we should often favor a “Harm-Distribution Approach” in the ethics of war and peace.

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Robert Pape , “Why Economic Sanctions Do Not Work,” International Security 22, no. 2 (1997): 90136.

Adam Winkler , “Just Sanctions,” Human Rights Quarterly 21, no. 1 (1999): 133–55.

Robert W. McGee , “The Ethics of Economic Sanctions,” Economic Affairs 23, no. 4 (2003): 4145.

James Pattison , Humanitarian Intervention and the Responsibility to Protect: Who Should Intervene? (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).

David A. Baldwin , “The Sanctions Debate and the Logic of Choice,” International Security 24, no. 3 (1999): 80107.

Tamar Meisels , “Economic Warfare: The Case of Gaza,” Journal of Military Ethics 10, no. 2 (2011): 94109

Jeff McMahan , Killing in War (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2009).

Gerhard Øverland , “602 and One Dead: On Contribution to Global Poverty and Liability to Defensive Force,” European Journal of Philosophy 21, no. 2 (2013): 279–99.

Claire Thomas , “Civilian Starvation: A Just Tactic of War?” Journal of Military Ethics 4, no. 2 (2005): 108118

Alison McIntyre , “Doing Away with Double Effect,” Ethics 111, no. 2 (2001): 219–55.

Amy Hagopian and Kathy Barker , “Should We End Military Recruiting in High Schools as a Matter of Child Protection and Public Health?” American Journal of Public Health 101, no. 1 (2011): 1923

Lawrence Korb and Sean Duggan , “An All-Volunteer Army? Recruitment and its Problems,” Political Science & Politics 40, no. 3 (2007): 467–71.

Jeff McMahan , “The Just Distribution of Harm Between Combatants and Noncombatants” Philosophy & Public Affairs 38, no. 4 (2010): 342–79.

James Pattison , “Bombing the Beneficiaries: The Distribution of the Costs of the Responsibility to Protect and Humanitarian Intervention,” in Don Scheid , ed., The Ethics of Armed Humanitarian Intervention (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 113–30.

Margaret P. Doxey , International Sanctions in Contemporary Perspective, 2nd ed. (London: MacMillan, 1996), 6670.

Jeff McMahan , “What Rights May be Defended by Means of War?” in Cecile Fabre and Seth Lazar , eds., The Morality of Defensive War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 115–56

Simon Caney , “Cosmopolitan Justice, Responsibility and Climate Change,” Leiden Journal of International Law 18, no. 4 (2005): 747–75

Edward Page , “Distributing the Burdens of Climate Change,” Environmental Politics 17, no. 4 (2008): 556–75

Henry Shue , “Global Environment and International Inequality,” International Affairs 75, no. 3 (1999): 531–45.

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Social Philosophy and Policy
  • ISSN: 0265-0525
  • EISSN: 1471-6437
  • URL: /core/journals/social-philosophy-and-policy
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