Friday, August 17

They're even managing to make Iran's mullacrats look like heroes: U.S. Sanctions Mania, cont'd.

How are they accomplishing that feat? Through blind application of a policy, which leads straight to its abuse. This is what's happening with the U.S. approach to Iran:
Speaking at the Thursday State Department briefing, Pompeo claimed that the world is demanding change in Iran's behavior, so that it "finally acts like a normal country."
The use of sanctions to change the behavior of an entire people or even their leaders is applying the idea of the infamous 'struggle sessions' in Mao's China to foreign policy. It is a barely disguised attempt at mind control. But at least the Maoists kept it within China's borders if you don't count Maoist American professors instigating struggle sessions in their classes against those hapless students who see nothing wrong with individualism. Now we have the United States reaching across the world to apply their version of struggle sessions to another nation's government.  

Yes, there is a rationale for applying sanctions in some cases, but it must be kept in mind that these are the economic version of a siege weapon. The catch is that nations are not fortresses that can be completely blockaded, which undercuts the rationale for siege weapons. 

So what happens when a full blockade is impossible? The sanctions don't work very well because sanctioned governments (and sanctioned individuals) find ways around them. Then it starts: they ratchet up the sanctions, which falls hard on the target nation's general populace. This makes the populace furious at the governments imposing the sanctions. The support from the populace gives the targeted government even more room to maneuver because it looks like a hero for standing up to the sanctioners. 

Meanwhile the governments imposing the sanctions come to be seen as villains trying to destroy an entire people. That is what's known as blowback. The government of the United States excels at creating blowback; it's developed a remarkable skill for taking a good idea and turning it into an awful one by applying it in 'cookie cutter' or assembly-line fashion.  

Is there an antidote? Well, human nature loves cookie cutters. So there will always be a tendency for governments (and individuals) to run a good idea into the ditch by applying it to wildly different situations. The problem for this era is when a few powerful governments gang up and start in with the cookie cutter to deal with any government that doesn't fall in line.

Add to this the famous Camel's Back problem. Unable to see around corners those abusing sanctions couldn't imagine that Donald Trump would become the U.S. president. As president Trump has been imposing retaliatory tariffs on governments that have long been getting away with patently unfair tariffs on U.S. products.

Okay, but his tariffs regime has to be seen as piled on top of the over-applied sanctions regime. Piled on top of that is the increased militarization of U.S. foreign policy, which I might add is being copied by other governments. (Saudi Arabia's is one copycat).

That's a lot of straws to pile on the camel's back, especially in an era when rumor travels around the world faster than you can say 'Hiss cat!'

To think in terms of an antidote is to fall into the trap of a one size fits all solution, which puts us right back on the assembly line or cranking out cookies that all look the same -- entirely  forgetting that this incredibly diverse thing we call human existence cannot be made into cookie dough or a factory for mass-produced gizmos.

But as a general rule humans respond well to the human approach to conflict resolution, which rests on knowing how to be self-referential at appropriate times. If you can't figure a way to show others that you know you're as human as they are, forget fruitful negotiations. 

And what kind of negotiation is it, if you use a veritable siege weapon to force people to your negotiating table? Then U.S. negotiators say, 'Oh those people break every agreement we reach with them.' 

Ya think?


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