In a Washington Post op-ed, former Senator Charles Robb and retired General Charles Wald — the Chuck & Chuck show — align themselves with those for whom sanctions against Iran are not enough. It’s not that they don’t welcome the sanctions that President Obama signed against companies that provide gasoline to Iran, as well as again financial institutions that handle Iran’s nuclear transactions. But without “a broader and more robust strategy. . .” they write, “sanctions alone will prove inadequate to halt Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. … Similarly, even many supporters of the new U.S. law acknowledge that without multilateral participation and enforcement, Iran will continue to evade many of these new U.S. restrictions and acquire gasoline . . . beyond the reach of U.S. law.”
First, no matter how targeted sanctions are, the ruling classes always seem to find a way to pass the hardships they cause along to the public. Besides, it’s true that sanctions are as unlikely to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons as they are Burma from improving its human rights record (or, for that matter, developing nuclear weapons as well).
As Alastair Crooke wrote at Foreign Policy: “No one really believes sanctions will force a change in Iranian policy; nor will they improve the chances of renewing real negotiations.” But the “single-minded furor to impose these sanctions. … speaks to us about something other than Iran.” In part, “the rush to sanctions [was] hurried forward to torpedo the Turkish and Brazilian” nuclear fuel swap deal those states brokered with Iran.
This “speaks to us about rising American fears . . . about the evaporation of deference toward American leadership, and the concern about the rise of ‘the new powers.’ In fact, Crooke notes, the “bringing forward of sanctions were intended to ‘stiff’ two of these new powers — Brazil and Turkey.” [Emphasis added.]
While many of us on the left agree with Chuck & Chuck that sanctions will once again prove ineffective, few of us would see eye to eye with them about a solution: “The stakes are too high to rely on sanctions and diplomacy without credibly preparing for a potential military strike as well.”
Then they add: “We cannot fall prey to the inertia of resignation.” If I were charitable, I wouldn’t have included that last line. It’s just too funny, though, how flat their attempt at a rallying cry falls. Even more humorous — in a vein as bleak as it is unwitting — they write:
“An even more likely scenario, however, is that Israel would first attack Iranian nuclear facilities, triggering retaliatory strikes by Iran and its terrorist proxies. This would put the United States in an extremely difficult position. [It] could be dragged into a major confrontation at a time not of its choosing.”
Do you catch their meaning? The United States should bomb Iran to keep Israel from bombing Iran. I think we’ve caught Chuck & Chuck in a true “Are you even listening to yourselves?” moment. All frivolity aside, it’s discouraging that in the 21st century a strategy such as bombing Iran is being discussed in U.S. policy circles. It’s just so, I don’t know, stone age.
Meanwhile consider what the New America Foundation’s Michael Lind wrote at Salon in How I learned to stop worrying and live with the bomb.
“Genuine great power status today requires massive, expensive conventional forces. Iran would be much more alarming if instead of trying to obtain nuclear weapons it were building up a first-rate navy, a long-distance air force and an enormous army capable of occupying one or more of its neighbors. The fact that it is not doing so suggests that the nuclear weapons capability it evidently seeks is for deterrence, not offense.”
I’m the last one to make excuses, as some progressives actually do, for Iran developing nuclear weapons. But if the world is doomed to grow ever more nuclear, Lind’s observation can be the source of some small measure of solace.