… believes that all is made right and proper if he labels as “pragmatic” the plunder of D by C in response to the plunder of B by A.
The protectionist has no principles beyond this: plundering innocent individuals at home is ethically acceptable if (1) innocent individuals abroad are plundered, and (2) the ‘retaliatory’ plundering of innocent individuals at home enables the protectionist to sell more output. The protectionist doesn’t give a damn about the welfare or the rights of those who are plundered, either at home or abroad. The protectionist greedily cares only about himself. And, again, the protectionist supposes that his vile behavior is transformed into acceptable behavior by his calling it “pragmatic.”
The protectionist has the ethics of a thug, for thugs have no qualms about coercing innocent people to serve the interests of the thugs. Such coercion is what thuggery is all about. Only two differences separate ordinary thugs from protectionists. First, unlike ordinary thugs, protectionists (ironically!) outsource the actual carrying out of their plunder to others (namely, state officials); second, unlike ordinary thugs, protectionists insult their victims’ intelligence by telling their victims that plunder enriches everyone, including the victims.