Problems with the Squeeze Iran Strategy (And a Reluctant Hat Tip to Ron Paul)


Robert Wright in the Atlantic, expert on everything from God to foreign policy, notes that, apparently just for absolutely random reasons that have nothing to do with an actual educated and wise overall perspective on history and policy, because God forbid he have to admit Ron Paul is actually intelligent on foreign policy in a way no one else in national politics is, Ron Paul is right that we seem to be deliberately pushing Iran toward war:

A week ago Ron Paul tried to convey how the ever-tightening sanctions on Iran–which may soon include an embargo on its oil–look from an Iranian point of view: It's as if China were to blockade the Gulf of Mexico, he said–"an act of war".

This is sheer conjecture; Ron Paul is no expert on Iran. But now someone who does have relevant credentials has weighed in, and the picture he paints is disturbingly reminiscent of the one Paul painted. It suggests we may be closer to war than most people realize.

Vali Nasr, in addition to being a highly respected expert on the Middle East, belongs to a family that, according to Lobelog's sources, has "a direct line into Iranian Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's inner circle." In a Bloomberg View piece that is getting a lot of attention, Nasr reports that "Iran has interpreted sanctions that hurt its oil exports, which account for about half of government revenue, as acts of war." Indeed, the Iranian leadership now sees U.S. policy as "aimed at regime change."

In this light, Iran's recent threats–notably that it will close the Strait of Hormuz in response to an oil embargo–shouldn't be dismissed, says Nasr. "The regime in Tehran is ready for a fight."

The good news is that Nasr thinks war can be averted. The bad news is that to accomplish this America and other Western powers need to "imagine how the situation looks from Tehran"–not exactly a favorite pastime among American politicians these days…..

Iran's nuclear scientists have recently evinced a tendency to get assassinated, and a mysterious explosion at a military facility happened to kill the general in charge of Iran's missile program. These things were almost certainly done by Israel, possibly with American support. If you were Iranian, would you consider assassinations on your soil grounds for attacking the suspected perpetrators?

Well, we know that some notable Americans think assassinating people on American soil is punishable by war. After the alleged Iranian plot to assassinate a Saudi Ambassador in Washington was uncovered, Bill Kristol (whom you may recall from our previous run-up to a disastrous war)recommended that we attack Iran.

But I'm guessing that if I tried this Iran-America analogy out on Kristol, he might detect asymmetries. For example: We're us, whereas they're just them.

Underlying our Iran strategy is the assumption that if we keep ratcheting up the pressure, the regime will eventually say uncle. A problem with this premise is that throughout human history rulers have shown an aversion to being seen by their people as surrendering. Indeed, when you face dissent, as the Iranian regime does, there's actually a certain appeal to confronting an external threat, since confrontation tends to consolidate domestic support. As Nasr puts it, "the ruling clerics are responding with shows of strength to boost solidarity at home."

This doesn't mean Iran's rulers haven't wanted to make a deal. But it does mean the deal would have to leave these rulers with a domestically plausible claim to have benefited from it, and it also means these leaders can't afford to be seen begging for the deal. When President Ahmadinejad visited New York last year, he gave reporters unmistakable signals that he wanted to negotiate, but the Obama administration chose to ignore them. After Ahmadinejad "went home empty handed," reports Nasr, power increasingly shifted to Iranians who argued for confrontation over diplomacy.

Even so, Iran's foreign minister made another appeal to re-open talks only days ago, suggesting that they be held in Turkey. But, as the New York Times reported, western nations interpreted this overture "as an effort by Iran to buy time to continue its program." Got that? If Iranians refuse to negotiate it means they don't want a deal, and if they ask to negotiate it means they don't want a deal….

There are historical analogs to this sort of thing, U.S. provocation and refusal to use diplomacy intelligently contributing to the start of a war, and the outcome was bad for all concerned. While the insulting way Wright frames this infuriates the Paul fan in me, it's nice to see this outlook expressed, especially in the Atlantic, a magazine that loves nothing more than long feature articles war-gaming our looming and necessary wars with nearly everyone in the world.

Yes, intelligent application of empathy can actually help forge a foriegn policy that contributes to peace and prosperity, and it's not an accident that the only national politician who gets that talks sense on Iran.

NEXT: Chip Bok on Obama's Hawaii Vacation

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    1. Although I suspect it might be difficult to find a country or region that isn’t surrounded by US military bases.

      1. WHHHAAAAAAT???!!!!?!?! Are you saying we shouldn’t defend ourselves?

      2. Canada’s northern border remains Yank-free.

        1. Isn’t there a nuclear bomber base in Northern Vermont? And the 10th Mountain Div. at Ft. Drum in Watertown, NY? You think they don’t have plans drawn up for Toronot, Ottawa and Montreal? You hosers are pretty naive.

          1. This made me think of “Canadian Bacon”. The best thing Micheal Moore has ever done.

          2. At first I thought “Toronot” was an obscure hardened base in French Quebec.

        2. Canada’s northern border remains Yank-free.

          I assure you, we have nuclear armed submarines in the Arctic Ocean.

    2. Bok Sux,

      I agree that we should stop using our military to defend the Gulf Countries.

    3. What’s with the bases in Pakistan?

    4. You confuse correlation and causation. Iran had a military alliance with us; they ended that by taking US citizens on US soil hostage and funding terrorist groups that attacked American targets as well as our allies throughout the Middle East. Although they’ve stopped most of the terrorism in the Gulf, they still continue backing it in Lebanon and Gaza. These terrorist attacks, in addition to killing hundreds of American troops (the Beirut bombing) threatened international shipping, especially during the Iran/Iraq war.

      The entire Iranian Revolution was based on an anti-US and anti-capitalist ideology. There are plenty of reformers, but the idea that Iran’s foreign policy hasn’t and doesn’t continue to provoke caution and surveillance by the United States is laughable.

      And then of course there’s that little issue with them and the NPT…

  1. Dr Paul is right on many issues. you just have to tune out the rhetoric and examine the ideas at face value your self. the spin factor has been utilized heavily with Ron Paul.

    1. What’s the saying? None of us is as dumb as all of us. I agree, peer pressure plays a big part of the warmongering. Nothing fuels the stupid like a good old fashioned Red Scare.

  2. This is sheer conjecture; Ron Paul is no expert on Iran. But now someone who does have relevant credentials has weighed in, and the picture he paints is disturbingly reminiscent of the one Paul painted.

    wow. it’s like fallacious snobbery distilled

    1. I originally read the author’s name as Robin Wright and thought she got out of Sean Penn’s life too late.

  3. This is sheer conjecture; Ron Paul is no expert on Iran.

    What an asshole.

    I really can’t put it any better than Brian already did on the pure hateful disdain and unwillingness to acknowledge Paul’s accuracy on the issue.

    1. The problem is that Paul isn’t a Top Man.

      1. OB/GYN. He’s one of The Bottom Men.

        1. He’s probably seen more snatch than Gene Simmons.

          1. Yeah, but it’s white trash Texas snatch… oh, wait… that doesn’t invalidate your point.

          2. But does he have the Polaroids to prove it?

            1. Or the home videos…

        2. Well, nobody can deny that he knows a pussy when he sees one.

          1. It would be teh awesome if he used that line in a debate. 😉

  4. It’s funny how the likes of Rick Santorum want to bomb Iran in the name of Israel when at the same time Isaeli PM Netanyahu, who is no Dove by any means, and the head of the Mossad have both said Iran is no overt threat to their country.

    1. Probably because between Stuxnet and targeted assassinations of Iranian scientists and generals the threat of their nuke program has been pretty well mitigated already.

    2. Obviously he’s a self hating Jew.

  5. I don’t have any Iran credentials or anything, but here’s Robert Wright calling Paul “hero of the year” for “attacking the root of most evil”:…..&out=68:28

  6. But newsletters!

    Sorry Reason, it’s too late to paint yourselves as Paul fans. It’s mostly your fault he lost Iowa. You made your bed. Good luck with Santorum and Romney.

    1. It’s mostly your fault he lost Iowa.

      I’m pretty sure it’s mostly the fault of stupid evanginals who think abortion is their number one priority but still refused to vote for a prolife doctor who has delivered thousands of babies and coalesced around another candidate at the last second (just like in 08).

      1. Santorum has caused more abortions than Paul.

        Iowans are big into bombing other countries. After all, its not like they’re at risk or anything.

      2. I’m pretty sure it’s mostly the fault of stupid evanginals…

        I read that as “stupid evaginals” which would make me think they would be even more supportive of an gynecologist.

      3. … stupid evanginals [sic]


    2. Your subscription has been renewed…thanks!

    3. You went too far on this one. I now feel confident in thinking that you’re doing satire.

    4. B-. Try harder next time. Maybe you can post as Justin Raimondo?

  7. We aren’t pushing Iran to war, they’re dragging us along trying to make us finally recognize that they’ve been at war with us for decades. And if they need to start vaporizing Israeli cities to make us wake up and pay attention to them instead of coddling them at every turn that is what they will do.

    We’ve ended how many totalitarian threats over the last few decades, Milosevic, Hussein, bin Laden, Gadhaffi, Mubarak, Kim Jong Il, I see no reason we don’t cross the Mad Mullahs off our list next, before it’s too late.

    1. Oh, its good news that they’re just trying to help us. We’ve been so blind.

      War is the health of the state.

      1. Negative, *unfunded* wars of aggression, committed with borrowed funds, that are the health of the state.

    2. “We’ve ended how many totalitarian threats over the last few decades”

      Like the puppet dictator we propped up? You know, the one Iranians overthrew without the US’s help? If you want to end “totalitarian threats,” perhaps the US should stop acting like a imperialistic threat to third world countries in the Middle East. We haven’t coddled Iran, we’ve been trying to manipulate their government for 70 years.

      1. “Like the puppet dictator we propped up? You know, the one Iranians overthrew without the US’s help? ”

        Unfortunately for your knee-jerk troll, that wasn’t the last few decades.

        But thanks for trying so hard and failing, you amuse us.

        1. 1979 wasn’t in the last few decades? Are you fucking retarded?

      2. We’ve ended how many totalitarian threats over the last few decades

        I dunno. You tell me.

        Right now, I’m counting Libya and Egypt as leaning toward transitioning from non-threat to radical Islamist potential problem. Iraq and Afghanistan? Who the fuck knows how they will turn out, but I have a bad feeling in ten years Afghanistan will look a lot like it did ten years ago, and Iraq will have “progressed” from a tribal totalitarian state dominate by Sunnis to a tribal totalitarian state dominated by Shiites.

        1. That’s the way I see it too.

          You can almost throw Syria in that list too. We’ll see how that turns out.

        2. Yep.

    3. Say buddy, have you ever thought about going into politics?

    4. Wat? Really, you’re putting our great buddy Mubarak on that list and taking credit for waiting for Kim Jong Il to die? Talk about stealing a base.

    5. When people say Paul is right, try to remember that they’re probably talking about someone with the last name Paul, not a first name.

    6. So you’re going to make sure your sons and daughters will volunteer to be the first to go spill their blood over there in the name of freedom or whatever, right? Or is it only ok when other people’s kids get blown to bits to satisfy your bloodlust?

      1. More people should mention this.

    7. If Iran takes out an Israeli city I do believe the Israeli subs in the Indian Ocean will take out all the Iranian cities. No US involvement required.

      Is it a Boomer disease that makes them think they are still living in 1965?

      1. Hahahah! Right, now that the Boomers are getting old, the Alzheimer’s is kicking in. In their minds, they are living in 1965. It was a good year. The Browns had just shut out the Colts in the NFL championship game, Jo Collins was the Playboy Playmate of the Year, and the Kinks released this classic.

    8. Milosevic – was none of our business and didn’t represent a strategic threat to us or any of our interests; also wasn’t he ultimately arrested and tried for war crimes by the ICC?
      Hussein – opens the door for Iraq to destabilize into a total clusterfuck, and the resulting destabilization of the region has now emboldened Iran
      bin Laden – was an asshole who got what he deserved, but can he really be considered a totalitarian given that he was a “non-state” actor?
      Gadhaffi – killed by rebels supported by our air power in an illegal unconstitutional war, and the resulting power vacuum will likely be filled by Islamic radicals who hate our guts. How is this an improvement?
      Mubarak – we propped up for decades and simply looked the other way when his people got sick of taking it up their asses from him. See Libya comments above wrt potential Islamic state.
      Kim Jong Il – died of natural causes, NK still under Stalinist dictatorship.

      In most of those cases the outcomes are either TBD or worse than before we stepped in to “help”.

      1. Excellent job breaking that down, Loki.

    9. We didn’t take out Kim Jong Il. He died of natural causes and his dickhead son took over. Moron.

    10. “Mad Mullahs”. LOL what bullshit. How the fuck do you know they’re “mad”? Are you their shrink?

    11. Paul, do tell: why did the Japanese attack the US during WWII? It sure was a stupid thing to do–if you believe it was out of nowhere and wholly unprovoked or, worse yet, due to an inherent hatred of our country and its freedoms. Ignorance is a dangerous thing.

      Hussein, bin Laden, Gadhaffi, Mubarak: all supported by the US govt. at one time or another.

      And look into US-Iranian relations. We’ve been meddling in their country for decades, deposing and imposing rule. Chickens come home to roost.

  8. Iran’s nuclear scientists have recently evinced a tendency to get assassinated

    It was a known issue, ignored by Americans.  Paul must read foreign papers, instead of government-approved US editions

  9. America and other Western powers need to “imagine how the situation looks from Tehran”

    With all due respect, isn’t this part of what we pay the State Department for?

    1. I’m pretty sure we pay the State department to groom Hilliary for another run at the presidency.

      1. That is part of it. Another is keeping these guys alive.

    2. Nah. We pay the State Department to make sure that the interests of the International Communitay are always the primary concern of our foreign policy, not the interests of the United States.

      1. Libya is constitutional because the UN approved of it.

  10. Who is the expert? Ron Paul sits on the House Committee on Foreign Relations, a fact ignored by those who pretend to be experts… I would say this seat on this committee qualifies him as an expert. Seems like Wright is wrong…

    1. Ron Paul … an expert? My God, just look at the man!

    2. Sorry, Dan, there are just way, way too many counterexamples to the proposition that “Congressman X sits on Committee Y, therefore he is an expert.”

      1. My first thought as well.

  11. I detest pacifists, but Iran’s shenanigans doesn’t justify war — not even remotely.

    I’m reluctant to entertain the idea that the shitstains in power in Iran would even try direct aggression against the United States. If they try, they’ll be ground to dust, and I don’t think the theocrats over there, as awful as they are, are prepared to burn.

    1. *don’t

      fucking alcohol

      1. Isn’t it… a bit early?

        1. Let’s just hope he’s trying to type with beer bottles because yeah… it’s pretty early.

        2. Hangover

        3. Its election season. If you’re a libertarian, there is no early for drinking.

          1. I’ll drink to that.

          2. Especially with the Reason Drinking Game. Given how this election season will likely go, I’m pretty sure I’ll need a new liver by mid-November.

            1. good news though that you wouldn’t be rejected from insurance for the transplant, as they could not reject you because of your pre-existing condition.

    2. Japs knew they couldn’t win either, but it’s no help to all those who died.

      1. Only those in the navy. The army guys thought America would roll over.

        1. And we all know how well that worked out for them.

          With all the saber rattling in their direction already, the last thing they should want is to give us an excuse to pound them into dust, but then again they may not be completely rational or sane.

    3. I, for one, welcome our nu-clear overlords.

    4. You know, Dude, I myself dabbled in pacifism once. Not in ‘Nam of course.

  12. A war could shore up some of Obama’s bonafides.

    1. Another war could shore up some of Obama’s bonafides.

      1. He’s a suitor.

        1. But not the pater familias.

  13. But…empathy? That’s for fags!

  14. What a douchey way to start an otherwise sensible piece.

  15. I’m not sure if further sanctions against Iran are justified or the wisest strategy, but they are not the equivalent of blocking the Gulf of Mexico. Blocking the the Persian Gulf, which we haven’t done and should not do, would be the equivalent of blocking the Gulf of Mexico.

    1. There is a gradient of economic measures that a country can take. They should not be taken lightly. A country can impose a tariff on products from another country. A country can ban products from another country. A country can impose a “secondary boycott”. A country can impose a blockade.

      That last step is an act of war. The one before it is borderline in my opinion. Where would you guys draw the line?

      1. If I were a presidential candidate, I wouldn’t make my platform talking up a war like Gingrich, Bachmann, Santorum. Its irresponsible and they know it. They don’t have the information to make the call and inflaming the public is the worst sort of fearmongering.

        Paul may be too dovish, but atleast he’s calling them out on their bullshit.

        1. dovish?

          1. I really don’t know if Ron would take us to war if one of our friends were invaded, which I think would be a good reason to go to war, and if he steadfastly refused, I would say he was too dovish.

            1. Would not that be a manifestation of strength?

              The pussy would say let’s send young men and women to die and let’s continue to bankrupt ourselves if Russia takes down georgia.

      2. Wars involve shooting, or at least the imminent threat thereof. Buying or not buying stuff from a country is a long, long way from an act of war.

        1. A blockade is a predecessor to war though because it denies supplies that a country may need for survival.

          Sanctions freeze up trade and basically confiscate sovereign monies that happen to be in a foreign country, so its basically seizing goods that don’t belong to a country.

          All of which are unfreindly acts that fundementally are to the detriment of the country they’re imposed on. Taken far enough, a country is left with the option of surrendering or fighting.

      3. It will be correctly perceived by the mullahs as a state of crisis and war if they lose 50% of their government funding. Any country would. At that point the mullahs have nothing to lose. Bad game theory, to put the opponent in a box where he has nothing to lose.

    2. So, how do you get to the Persian Gulf? Oh yeah, through the Straits of Hormuz.

      1. Sorry, re-reading the article, I guess it doesn’t mention that Iran is very concerned that the US will attempt to blockade the Strait of Hormuz. Apologies for snarkily assuming you could read my mind.

          1. I’m not gay, but your second link was better.

        1. “Apologies for snarkily assuming you could read my mind.”

          No sweat, we’re well aware you’re an ill informed asshole.

  16. You know what would *really* thicken the plot?

    If Israel gave Iran a nuke.

  17. We gotta start dropping bombs on somebody soon.

    I mean, the stockpiles are piling up, and pretty soon there won’t be any justification for further contracts with munition makers.

    Best to start a war so the stockpiles can be used, justifying current contracts and creating a need for new ones.

    You wouldn’t want to put American jobs at risk now would you?

    1. Hey, WWII got us out of the Great Depression, right?


      But on a serious note, would the general public be as accepting of war if they weren’t spoonfed the bullshit about WWII ending the depression?

      1. So what DID end the Great Depression, tea-bagger????????????????? That’s right! WORLD WAR II! Hail Dear Leader Obama and his college professor corps!

        1. Artificially constrained consumer demand and artificially high savings rates imposed by rationing? Much like, say, raising interest rates a la Paul Voelker might do today (well, it wouldn’t be artificial, it would just push the market to tighten credit and increase savings)

        2. Hail Dear Leader Obama and his college professor corps!

          That’s pronounced like corpse, right? Not like core?

      2. It would be best if we devoted our entire economy to blowing stuff up. That way we would all become richer. Nothing creates wealth quite like destroying it.

        1. Hell, we can create “wealth” out of thin air, buddy.

        2. There is something to be said for your position being improved relative to everyone else’s position being worse. The only thing keeping us strong right now is Europe’s fantastical failures. They’re socialism is worse than ours!

      3. It’s not even a matter of how the general public is grossly/intentionally mis-educated. If the general public actually had to pay for the war in the short term, they’d quickly lose their taste for it once they realized they can’t buy loads of porn this month because loads of bombs need to be dropped on brown people.

        1. Iranians are Persians, not Arabs.

          They’re much closer to white than brown.

          1. Like that means fuck to the people who would vote for Rick “Product of Anal Sex.” For those type of people(i.e. fucking morons), Iranians are “Brown Enough” just like to liberals, Obama is “Black Enough.”

          2. There’s a hot chick at my work whose ethnicity I cannot discern. She’s possibly white, possibly “brown” as it pertains to race. I’d fuck her either way.

            And that is the same exact attitude Americans have toward Iran. Just fuck ’em no matter what they are.

        2. they’d quickly lose their taste for it once they realized they can’t buy loads of porn this month because loads of bombs need to be dropped on brown people.

          Let’s cut the racist bullshit.

          1. What, white people like porn…

            1. I think that the abundance of porn should be considered the White Man’s Greatest Achievement.

              Other than Gambol Lockdown, of course.

          2. I’m off my medication, so I can’t tell if you are being serious. When I throw the term “brown people” around its intended as a parody of how Americans view the world. Assuming your serious(bad to do on the internet, let alone, I’ll take your suggestion into consideration once White people stops being the umbrella term for…white people.

            1. your = you’re. Public School strikes again.

      4. If bombing somebody can end economic depression, let’s start by bombing Chicago.

        1. Smile when you type that.

        2. Sounds like a good place to start. A friend and I were just talking yesterday about how nice it would be for the rest of IL if Chicago was given to WI (that’s the state, not the gamboling asshat).

          1. Ohioans are always trying to sell Cleveland to Canada.

            1. Didn’t they lose a war to have it in the first place? Or is that Toledo?

              1. Toledo – and Michigan “lost”, if you can call keeping Toledo “winning”.

          2. Like WI would take that cesspit.

            1. Wisconsin, land of gun prohibition and union whining? Yeah, no way they’d take Chicago.

        3. DC first

        4. Sounds like a plan as long as Gary, Indiana goes with it. Then we can move on to the true enemy. Newark, NJ.

        5. Don’t forget about Detroit. Although it’s already a post-apocalyptic shit hole, so would bombing really be necessary?

  18. Both sides approach to Iran is simplistic nonsense. Maybe they think the voters are too stupid to hear the truth, or maybe politicians are really that dumb. Or maybe they don’t want to tip their hand.

    Iran has been at war or hostile to the U.S. since 1979. In ’79 the new Islamic government discovered they could make big points with the general population by making a common enemy of the U.S. The embassy / hostage situation was truly an act of war but Carter failed to respond.

    Now Iran and Syria are facing revolution and civil war. To retain power, the mullahs are back to the old formula – provoke a confrontation with the U.S. to unite the country against a common enemy.

    Only an idiot (maybe Santorum) would grant their wishes and openly attack Iran. On the other hand, it makes sense to keep up the pressure on the current regime so they cannot focus all their efforts on internal oppression.

    We should be quietly and covertly helping the Iranians and Syrians push over their totalitarian regimes.

    1. God you’re ignorant:

      In 1954 The U.S. government attacked the Iranian people and installed a puppet governemnt.

      To help the unpopular king they had installed keep hi grip on power, the assisted him with weapons, training and money. This included setting up a secret police that brutalized, tortured, kidnapped and murdered the population – with overt U.S. government support.

      The notion that the mullahs decided to gin up anti-American sentiment is laughable. The U.S. started the war, and lost a major battle in 1979.

  19. Old Soldier:

    Or we could just leave them to their civil wars and stop giving a shit.

    1. I anoint you Threadwinner.

    2. I love how one sentence can crush the entire essay of a smug asshole.

      1. get out of my head

        1. Not one of your sentences has done that.

    3. just leave them to their civil wars

      Right. I can never remember whether it’s the Shiites who are the good guys, or what.

      1. Kurds, we love the Kurds..get it right.

        And whey.

        1. If Nixon had had balls, Kurdistan would be a US state.

    4. Or we could just leave them to their civil wars and stop giving a shit.

      ^This. Thanks, RPA.

  20. If ur not first ur last!

  21. Nuts. The Iranians have been threatening to block the Strait of Hormuz for years, and they’ve been amassing a force–actually two forces, the Iranian navy and the Navy of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution–and training for just such an action, testing the defenses of US and British ships. They’re hostile towards their neighbors–not just Israel, so all you antisemitic twerps can pull your heads out of your asses. They’ve repeatedly threatened the very existence of Bahrain, they’ve meddled in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. By meddle, I mean serious hostile shit that results in many deaths and lives marred by violence. They’re hostile to other Arab states in the Gulf. They’re hostile to Europe, which gets much of its oil from the Persian Gulf, and they’re hostile to the US. They’re not just totalitarians at home. Like so many totalitarian governments throughout history, they’re militaristic and they’re expansionist. They want to exercise regional and global influence where they can’t overpower their adversaries by force of arms alone. If you’re operating from the position that the Iranian government just wants to live and let live, you’re not exercising empathy, you’re just being stupid.

    1. Other than “hostile to the US”, I fail to see how A) any of that is our concern and B) how it necessitates war.

      But cool story bro.

      1. A) Your view of US interests is parochial and, taken to the extreme, unhealthy.

        B) I’d like to believe that war isn’t necessary, but the point I’m making in this post is that Iran is preparing for war, and indeed has been making war throughout the region. To argue that Iran is only preparing for war because of a provocation from the US and Europe is mindbogglingly stupid. If the Iranians opt to block the Strait of Hormuz, that’s their act of war, their military strategy, their policy, their aggression. No diplomatic or economic sanction placed upon them by their trading partners can justify it or make them primarily responsible for Iran’s bellicosity. Furthermore, one ought to see proposed economic sanctions in light of Iran’s attempts to construct a nuclear arsenal, to develop the capacity to deliver nuclear weapons to distant targets, and in light of their threats to use nuclear weapons to obliterate a foreign country. Perhaps it’s de rigueur among libertarians to believe that everybody has the right to keep a nuclear weapon in his garage, even those who act outside the bounds of law and sanity. I hold out hope that some libertarians are more sensible than that.

        1. To argue that Iran is only preparing for war because of a provocation from the US and Europe is mindbogglingly stupid

          No one said that.

          In the interest of dialogue, do you in any way see the United States as somewhat responsible for the ratcheting of war talk? Because if you don’t, then there is no point in continuing this discussion.

          Your view of US interests is parochial and, taken to the extreme, unhealthy.

          Stunning rejoinder. Couldn’t you have just said “nuh-UH!” and saved us all some digital ink?

          1. In the interest of dialogue, do you in any way see the United States as somewhat responsible for the ratcheting of war talk?

            It’s important to note that in this regard, people who call out the “United States” are usually criticizing the monstrous cancerous growth that is the U.S. Government which, at this point, is not synonymous with the people. I don’t see how the Government can be criticized for the planetoids of domestic bullshit it’s responsible for, but somehow, it becomes saintly in the foreign sphere and should not be held accountable for anything.

          2. In the interest of dialogue, do you in any way see the United States as somewhat responsible for the ratcheting of war talk?

            Sure, but in the interest of dialogue we should distinguish between acts of aggression and acts of defense, and threats of aggression and promises of defense. I think the case that the Iranians’ militarism is primarily defensive in nature is exceptionally weak when it’s not ridiculous. If that’s the basis for portraying the Americans as unreasonably aggressive–and I rather think that’s the nub of the argument here–then I’ve had my say.

            Stunning rejoinder. Couldn’t you have just said “nuh-UH!” and saved us all some digital ink?

            I know you are but what am I?

    2. …not just Israel, so all you antisemitic twerps can pull your heads out of your asses.

      So not wanting to possibly die or have my kids die for Israel makes me anti-Semitic? You’ll be the first person to volunteer to go fight, right?

      …they’re militaristic and they’re expansionist. They want to exercise regional and global influence where they can’t overpower their adversaries by force of arms alone.

      You just described US foreign policy. Should someone come blow us up now?

      1. You just described US foreign policy since the first tribes had a potlatch to divvy up their hunting grounds.

      2. I said pull your head out of your ass, not push it in deeper.

        The fact that your response to Iranian aggression is a cry that you don’t want to fight for Israel does suggest that you’re motivated by antisemitism. Why single out Israel? Why not Bahrain? Do you want to die for Bahrain? Who the fuck wants to die for Bahrain? Well, the sad facts are these: (1) Iranian aggression would exist even if Israel didn’t, and whatever response the US makes should be made in light of a realistic assessment of the threats the Iranian government poses to the US and all of its allies; (2) you’re more antisemitic than you know.

        1. Why single out Israel? Because nearly every person that says we have to have a significant presence in the Middle East also says we must have said presence to defend Israel, and you’re the one that first mentioned Israel, dick. I don’t give a flying fuck about any of the countries over there. I know you probably won’t understand it, but not caring about Israel any more than any other country in that region does not equal anti-Semitic. Read your own post, you ignorant fuck.

          1. I mentioned Israel to take it off the table. I made a case that Iran is hostile to its neighbors quite apart from its hostility to Israel. You’re the one stuck on Israel. Read your own words. You say you mention Israel “[B]ecause nearly every person that says we have to have a significant presence in the Middle East also says we must have said presence to defend Israel.” I didn’t say jack about needing to have a significant presence in the Middle East. (I will admit that I mentioned that the US does have ships in the Persian Gulf; that is not the same as saying that a significant presence is needed.) I didn’t say jack about defending Israel. You chose to respond to an argument I didn’t make.

            If you want to talk about Israel, I can give many reasons why the US should be closely allied with Israel and should be concerned about threats to destroy Israel. Here’s a hypothetical for you: is being apathetic about the annihilation of 6 million Jews equivalent to being apathetic about a border skirmish?

            You don’t give a flying fuck about any of the countries over there? So what objections do you have to nuking Iran? On a less hypothetical plane, on what basis would you object to imposing economic sanctions on the Iranian government? Do you give a fuck or don’t you? What exactly is your beef?

            1. I can give many reasons why the US should be closely allied with Israel

              None of which are valid. We shouldnt be closely allied with anyone.

              Free trade with all, entangling alliances with none.

            2. So I’m responsible for Israel’s security today because 70 years ago the American public was “apathetic about the annihilation of 6 million Jews”? I suppose you think that I owe reparations to the descendents of slaves too right?

            3. Alright, asshole. My original objection to your post was your painting everyone that doesn’t think we should be marching to war with Iran as anti-Semitic. You threw it out there and tried to turn it on me as being anti-Semitic. Logic fail. You’re the one that’s all hung up on Israel. robc and Designate both make great points, but you won’t see them because you can’t get over the whole Israel thing.

              Also, chicken hawks like you are some of the worst people in the world. You have no problem sending American sons and daughters to die because “They’re hostile to other Arab states in the Gulf. They’re hostile to Europe, which gets much of its oil from the Persian Gulf, and they’re hostile to the US.” Fuck that. My kids don’t need to go die because Iran doesn’t play nice with their neighbors. Please explain how them pissing people off is justification for American deaths. What are you going to tell the families of the service members that would die because Iran was being mean to their neighbors? “Sorry your kid is dead, but at least those Iranians will be nice to everyone now.” I’m sure that will make them feel great.

              I’m sure you’ll be the first to volunteer to fight Iran, right? And you’ll gladly send your kids to get their guts blown out, right?

    3. Even if the Iranians get so crazy that they try to close the Straits, their navy wouldn’t last a week.

      Among others, I imagine the Chinese would be a little peeved. They get a lot of oil through the Strait, and just happen to have a naval force nearby. They are more active in anti-piracy than we are, for just these reasons. A joint US/Chinese naval operation against Iran would be very interesting.

      Let the mullahs make the first move, I say.

      1. Joint India/U.S. more likely – along with the air forces of the other Gulf states.

      2. The Iranians may be putting a lot of faith in asymmetric warfare, i.e. the small attack boats of the Revolutionary Guard, which are largely supplied by the Chinese, if I’m not mistaken. They may have calculated that they can lose most of their regular navy vessels and still have the capacity to cause enough damage to make it worthwhile for them. But I really couldn’t say. I do know that they have been amassing boats, testing US and British defenses, and issuing veiled threats for several years.

    4. I’m antisemitic for not wanting to fight wars for Israel? Interesting moral conundrum. Wonder what my Rabbi would say about it.

      1. “Self-loathing Jew?”

      2. Ask your Rabbi whether it’s “objectively antisemitic” to provide ideological cover for the complete annihilation of Israel, and while you’re at it, on behalf of Sullum and the editors at Reason, ask him whether there are any circumstances in which it wouldn’t be morally okay to tell a Nazi to fuck off.

        1. Objectively anti-Semitic? Cover for the complete annihilation of Israel? What if I offered to allow every Jew in Israel safe shelter here in MY country, the United States of America for the purpose of ending this petty charade of oneupsmanship that’s been going on for too long? Am I anti-Semitic to welcome them here even if it means they give up their land over there? Wanting an end to hostilities even if it means Israelis don’t “win” does not make one anti_Semitic. It makes one anti-war. The defense of Israel and all those other Arab countries Iran fucks with is not my fucking business!

          1. So your dream is to see the peaceful dismantling of Israel–because its very existence is hostile somehow?–but in the end it’s not your fucking business.

            That doesn’t make you anti-war. That makes you, at best, a person who doesn’t give a fuck about Israel.

            Do you understand that my use of the word “objectively” takes from Orwell’s critique of pacifism? He said pacifism during WWII was objectively pro-fascist, meaning that even though they didn’t shout Nazi slogans and spout Nazi political philosophy, they advanced the cause of fascism.

        2. They’re going to “annihilate” Israel? How? Why?

    5. not just Israel, so all you antisemitic twerps…

      Thanks for putting that early in your post so I didn’t have to waste any more time reading it.

    6. They can close the Strait if they want; it would take, I would guess, about 3 hours to sink their toy fleet and the rest of world, including China, would be pleased. China gets 50% of its oil through that strait. I don’t think they’re closing the strait.

      1. Touch a nerve? If you can’t take Israel off the table and still talk about Iran, what is it that you really want to talk about?

  22. I bet anonymous actually thinks that democracies are less apt to make war.

    1. what do you mean!?!

      The greeks were incredibly peacable.

      1. Yeah, I have heard that that the expression, “make love, not war” has greek roots.

        It makes sense to me. If the typical male grecian resembled Gerard Butler, one can understand why the typical male athenian would prefer love making to war.

        1. Make fuck, not kill.

  23. Underlying our Iran strategy is the assumption that if we keep ratcheting up the pressure, the regime will eventually say uncle. A problem with this premise is that throughout human history rulers have shown an aversion to being seen by their people as surrendering.

    This is half my thinking on the Iran issue–but it doesn’t address the other more important side of the coin.

    The fact is that engagement is the key. It’s not enough to simply dial down on using the stick so much; we need to get a carrot out there in front of them, too.

    While this may induce some ick factor, it’s not unprecedented. We used to play nice with dictatorships in South America and elsewhere, but in the long run, Pinochet, for example, allowed an election to be held and respected the results, in no small part, because he had a relationship he wanted to preserve with the U.S.

    Another excellent example is China. Back in the ’90s, Congress used to argue about China’s Most Favored Nation status all the time–as if punishing China by making it harder to trade with us would somehow lead to positive change? Regardless of how you feel about China’s human rights record, the fact is that China is highly dependent on the United States as market for its exports, now, and their hostility towards the United States has diminished significantly since the end of the Cold War and their entry into the World Trade Organization.

    Contrast that with the complete absence of change our embargoes of Cuba and Iraq produced. If we keep going down the Iran embargo road Obama is sending us further down, it will just end up like Cuba or Iraq.

    On the other hand, if we were to try to establish a trading relationship with the Iranian regime, that’s the sort of relationship that has brought about positive change–even in regimes that were once belligerent.

    If we could form important trade relationships with Iran and North Korea, that might bring about positive change in terms of threats to U.S. security. I know it might seem nauseating to “cozy up” with dictators, and the embargo strategy scratches people’s itch to stick it to the dictators, but it’s trade relationships that align other countries’ interests with ours.

    Every time we take a step to economically isolate Iran further, we take another step in the wrong direction.

    1. Re: Ken Shultz,

      If we could form important trade relationships with Iran and North Korea, that might bring about positive change in terms of threats to U.S. security.

      The Establishment is not really interested in trade, free or otherwise. If you take a look at most of the policies that have come out of Washington, you will see that they’re nothing more than iterations of the same old, tired and severely debunked Mercantilist thought. The American government never really abandoned its old British roots, and continues to operate under the mindset that lead to the trade wars of the 17th Century onwards.

      In other words, these guys don’t know any other song but protectionism/mercantilism, with it’s queer emphasis on “Exports! Exports! Esports!”

      1. I know the politicians don’t think about it that way, anymore. But in the aftermath of the Cold War, during the Bush the Elder administration, it really was important for a while there–thinking about trade relationships in terms of U.S. security.

        If the politicians won’t tell us about the important relationship between trade and national security, then when my family and friends bring up Iran, for instance, I guess I’ll have to tell them about it myself.

      2. If we could form important trade relationships with Iran and North Korea, that might bring about positive change in terms of threats to U.S. security.

        Bribing the leaders (which is what “trade” with totalitarian kleptocracies is) on your periphery is an old tactic of overextended empires; I believe the late Romans would recognize it as danegeld. It doesn’t really work over even the medium term.

        1. It worked with China.

          I think it worked with Chile.

          We have to give them some tangible reason to want to abandon their nuclear weapons program. It can’t just be all no, no, no, don’t do that, all the time.

          For anybody to make a deal or change course, we need to offer them something better than what they have already. All we’re offering right now is to make things worse, and that will never get us what we want.

          Just as soon as Saddam Hussein buckles under sanctions, just as soon as the Castro brothers finally give up? That’s when sanctions on Iran will start having the effect we want.

          After China made it into the WTO, how long did we have to wait for them to change their tune–five minutes?

          I’m not talking about paying them off like we did with Egypt. I’m talking about giving them access to our consumer markets. They can make stuff the world wants to buy. The Chinese started with practically nothing but labor.

          People are still getting excited about Chinese direct investment in the United States…


          The more the merrier, I say. Let’s get the mullahs’ money all invested and tied up in American assets–hopefully assets that are sensitive to swings in oil prices. Then I bet they change their tune–suddenly they’ll be worried to death about keeping the flow of oil going steady though the Persian Gulf.

          1. Well said, Ken.

          2. I don’t think Iran will abandon its nuclear weapons research. They want a deterrent to US intervention. The question becomes is this enough to go to war with them for. I don’t think so.

            1. If you’re not willing to go to war with them over it, and they’re gonna end up with a nuclear weapon anyway?

              Then we need to figure out how to live in a world where Iran has a nuclear weapon.

              Bringing them into the world economy has historically been the best way to handle that. Russia and China’s nuclear arsenals are a lot easier to live with now that they’re plugged into the world economy. The Chinese used to export revolution in an attempt to destabilize the West–much like Iran does with its support for terrorists. Now that China is so dependent on exports, the last thing it wants is instability in the West. That would happen with Iran, too–nuclear arsenal or no nuclear arsenal.

      3. Hey, worked out well for us.

      4. Old Mex, Don Boudreaux at does an excellent job of debunking the export mindset you mentioned. I think you’d like him.

    2. A foreign policy exemplified by the mayor in Foundation

  24. That makes sense, naturally they gotta be squeezing something.

  25. A week ago Ron Paul tried to convey how the ever-tightening sanctions on Iran–which may soon include an embargo on its oil–look from an Iranian point of view: It’s as if China were to blockade the Gulf of Mexico, he said–“an act of war”.

    This is sheer conjecture; Ron Paul is no expert on Iran.[WTF???]

    I understand Wright’s reluctance to accept that Ron Paul was right, but to paint him as someone who was simply lucky in his “speculation” is rather odd (and quite condescending), especially when, throughout history, economic sanctions (in the form of blockades, for instance) have been considered acts of war by leaders of Nation-States. It’s not like Ron Paul had a sudden epiphany; he is merely applying common sense and some knowledge of history; include there a little Bastiat.

    No, Ron Paul is NOT an expert in Iran, but it is wrong to think that Iranians would be so special a species of humans that would require a totally different logic to conclude if they would see sanctions as acts of war or not. I trust ANYBODY would see the undue blocking of their pathway as an act of aggression.

  26. For those who love our invading nation building policy should take a look at Wikileaks. The Bush administration (I am no lefty, but facts are facts) began the program of destabilizing the middle east, and Obama has continued it. According to intel on Wikileaks, this was done to help the war on terror. Unfortunately, it has created the “Arab Spring” which has turned into the “American Winter”. It actually has aided the Taliban, Al-Qaida, Muslim Brotherhood, etc in gaining a foothold in countries that although odious, would actually HELP us in capturing terrorists. My point, before anyone point a finger at Ron Paul, and says he is “naive” about foreign policy needs to take a really hard look at the current and prior administrations.

    1. You’re kidding yourself if you think that started with Dubya.

      1. The tribalist barbarians in the mideast have been destabilizing the joint for millenia.

        We’re just doing an amateurish job of stirring the pot.

        1. American exceptionalism at its best.

          1. Our parents told us we’re special!!

      2. Actually, active attempts to bring down (at the time) current dictatorships was “started with Dubya”. After past misteps in the past up to and including Regan (Iran Contra) US policy re middle east was to encourage stability and leave things at the status quo. I know you all know this because this has been talked about frequently on the news. This is why when Bush began screwing with the Middle east even his old man said he thought Jr. had lost his mind. Best news clip I ever saw actually, and I will try and find it if you all are interested (this would be of Bush senior not agreeing with son over Iraq).

        1. Right, cause we didn’t replace democratically elected presidents with puppet kings.

  27. A good point, Tara. Libertarians did not create the current situation. Yet we’re the ones who are somehow “crazy” for opposing the previous policies which both betrayed our principles and haven’t worked out that well anyway.

    1. Likewise, libertarians are “racist” for saying the Civil Rights Act violates property rights when consistent libertarians would have been on the front lines of the abolitionist, anti-Fugitive Slave Act and anti-Jim Crow civil rights movement from the beginning.

      Of course, that easily gets confused when libertarians hold slaveowning creeps like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson as heroes and role models, and holds the document enshrining the institution as sacrosanct.

  28. Iran threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz. Some in the US threatening to go to war if they do. Does his remind anybody else of 1984 Tanker War? Haven’t we done this before? Next thing you know Iran will start mining the Persian Gulf, and the US and Russian navies will be escorting Kuwaiti ships again.

  29. Robert Wright was being ironic with his “unfortunately.” His point: it’s unfortunate that Ron Paul is right, because no one is listening to his advice and now we’re that much closer to war with Iran. Don’t worry, I missed it too the first time around. But, my misread didn’t end up in print at

    1. My reading had nothing to do with the headline, which I didn’t even notice. It had to do with the first two paragraphs of the article, which I quoted.

  30. Vali Nasr? An individual with ties to the terrorist regime of Iran taking advice from terrorists who’s every words is used for propaganda purposes? There SHOULD absolutely be regime change. For both the sake of the Iranian people and for the sake of humanity. This is a regime who’s core ideology is bringing an end to human civilization through their “hidden imam” or “imam mahdi” ideology. There will be NO world peace without the elimination of these terrorists who are enemies to not only the freedom and aspirations of the Iranian people, but of humanity itself.

    Who’s side is the author of this article on? On the side of the terrorist Mullahs or on the side of the Iranian people and of human civilization??

  31. *sigh* so many factual issues here. Once again, Paul oversimplifies and is just as wrong as contemporary policy, albeit in the other direction.

    Economic sanctions aren’t comparable with “blockading the Gulf of Mexico.” A blockade is an act of war that involves using military force to interfere with international shipping. Sanctions only prevent a country’s own citizens and corporations from doing business with a foreign country. That’s not an act of war.

    Second, the Iranians already backed off from their Hormuz threat. Ron Paul was clearly wrong.

    Third, sanctions are often seen as an alternative to war and are used far, far more frequently than military force. Sanctions and wars share the same cause (hostility and disagree) so people see a correlation which they assume is causation– but in reality, sanctions provide a chance for states to express the credibility of their intent and to coerce a weaker state without actually shooting anybody.

    Poorly designed sanctions have disastrous consequences. Alas, the real discussion– how to design sanctions properly– is being side-stepped by the absolutism of both Paul and his opponents.

    1. I’d like to know more about this. What would make a sanction poorly or properly designed?

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