Let's define 'sanctions'

The media have this habit of latching on to words without clarifying their context, meaning or importance.

The word of the day is “sanctions.”

President Obama today announced he is expanding the sanctions being leveled on high-level Russian officials who have played any important role in Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

Being a reasonably well-read individual, I think I know what he means by “sanctions.” The president is using executive authority to freeze assets of individuals high up in the Russian government. They’ll be unable to move money around. They’ll be hit where it hurts, in the bank account.

I think that’s what the word means.

The media, though, ought to explain these sanctions and how the U.S. government intends to inflict enough pain on Russia’s government to make it stop interfering in Ukraine’s internal affairs. If the media cannot do it, then they should ask White House officials, Treasury Department gurus, Federal Reserve Board brass, high-level Ivy League economists or anyone else with intimate knowledge on how these things work to explain to us unwashed masses.


It’s a nice word. It seems so clinical, so clean and so, oh, bordering on meaningless unless you can define how the sanctions actually work.

I’m all ears.

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