Today’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has an article on why sanctions only help tyrants, specifically the Iranian ones.
This seems to me to be a rather curious position to be taken by folks who twice in the past century were brought to and in fact past the brink of starvation and collapse precisely by successful efforts to intercept their trade relationships. In both those situations the Germans were the subject of dictatorships, in the Great War a military dictatorship run through the mouthpiece of a monarch and in the second round by a political dictatorship. In both instances the final collapse of the system was brought about by battlefield collapse which had its origins in economic collapse.
By March 20, 1918, the German civil populace had survived the “turnip winter,” in which that’s exactly what they were reduced to eating in their freezing houses, coal being almost unobtainable across wide areas. But they’d knocked Russia out of the war and in fact were in the process of establishing military occupation of parts of the country to ensure the timely delivery of supplies which the Bolsheviks had agreed to fork over. That military occupation wasn’t just a bunch of desk-jockeys, either. The Germans, down to their last throw of the dice in the West, devoted dozens of thousands of troops (and their associated supply chains) to that occupation of a defeated enemy. Why? The British blockade had reduced their war-making capacity that far that the Germans absolutely, at whatever cost, had to have those supplies. It was a race to see whether they could get them flowing in time.
The thousands upon thousands (I’m thinking it was well over 100,000, but I’ve slept since I last read the specifics, so don’t hold me to that) of coal-scuttle helmets remaining in the East to pacify and plunder prostrate (but thoroughly chaotic) Russia were not in the line on March 21, 1918, when Ludendorff launched his last gambit against the Western allies. He almost won the bet, too. Exhausted, famished, unreinforced, the German offensive petered out just a couple of miles from breaking the line between the British and French. German soldiers were literally stopping in the middle of battle to raid Allied kitchens, they were that hungry. What difference might — say, another 50,000 — fresh troops have made? How different might European history for the last 90 years have looked with the British pinned against the Channel ports, and French armies collapsing back on Paris (sort of like what happened in 1940), and the Kaiser in a position actually to negotiate if not from a position of strength then at least not from desperation?
Fast forward to 1944. Albert Speer has taken over German war production. It’s going through the roof. There are more guns, more tanks, more aircraft coming off the assembly lines than ever before. Production would continue to rise until the very end, by which time, with the transportation network wrecked by Allied air forces, the factories literally choked on their own output. But there was a problem: Germany couldn’t make enough synthetic fuel to run its tanks or aircraft. It had no domestic supplies of chromium and several other strategic minerals. When it lost access to Ploesti (the Romanian oil fields) and imports of Turkish chromium, Speer went to Hitler and explained to him, down to the day, how long Germany’s war effort could continue. By the end Germany’s armies were reduced to foot and horse transportation. A good part of the reason that the Western allies so rapidly advanced across France was air superiority. When they didn’t have it, as in the Ardennes in December, 1944, they didn’t do so well. And it took Hitler just about siphoning gas from every tank he could lay hands on to scrape up the fuel to launch the offensive we know as the Battle of the Bulge.
Compare and contrast: In Italy, where the terrain was much less favorable to the material preponderance the Allies brought to bear, and aircraft, while important and operational, could not exercise nearly the dominance of the battlefield they could on the open plains of northern Europe, it took the Allies nine months to advance from the Straits of Messina to Rome, and then even by the end of the war, nearly ten months later, they’d still only fought their way into the northern reaches of Italy.
To put a bow on it: Both World Wars were first and foremost battles of material. It took a lot of bleeding and dying by the “P.B.I.” (as the other British services called the “poor bloody infantry”), but in both cases the winner was the guy with the biggest shopping basket.
The FAZ article, written by some fellow identified as a German-Iranian political scientist currently earning his doctorate at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, recites all the usual theoretical objections to sanctions — they hit the “innocent” civilians; they only widen the disparity in power between the tyrant and his subjects; they don’t even stop the tyrants from in fact achieving the material advances in aggressive capacity which is the principal moral foundation for them; by demoralizing the civilians they make it less likely rather than more that the middle orders which have without exception been the backbone of democracy everywhere will rise up against their tormenters. The author observes (truthfully) that thirty years ago when sanctions were first pasted on Iran, it had no centrifuges; now it has thousands. He recites (again, truthfully) that the Revolutionary Guard, far from being hollowed out, has taken over enormous swathes of the Iranian economy.
The author allows that with sanctions, the West has constructed a “narrative” under which both it and the Iranian regime may “conveniently” live. From the regime’s side arises the author’s objections that sanctions don’t work. From the Western side arises the objection that it’s a question of “human rights” which are being denied to the Iranian people, and the author turns his cards face-up in rhetorically asking whether everyone, no matter under how oppressive a regime, has or does not the same human rights.
As an initial matter, the reader can draw some very useful conclusions about this author’s understanding of the world in his pretty-much explicit moral equation of the West with the Iranian theo-criminal thugocracy, which has announced as its objective of state the eradication of Israel from the map and the slaughter of every Jew it can lay hands on. He sees no worthwhile distinction between the two sides, or at least not one he thinks sufficiently exercised to comment on. He points out that the Iranian populace suffers under the regime, and it suffers under the sanctions. Therefore both sources of its suffering are morally equivalent. I’m sure there’s an expression in formal logic for this sort of fallacy, but I prefer Lincoln’s comments: “‘Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.’ If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him?”
Allow me to repeat a point I made a number of years ago to someone, genuinely pious, who stated, in exactly so many words, that there was “no difference” between “Christian fundamentalists” and “Muslim fundamentalists.” Seriously; this person actually said that. I allowed that I was not (and remain not) interested in any god who cannot discern any distinction between a group of people on the one hand who express the opinion that homosexuality is sinful and should be discouraged, or that abortion is the killing of a human being, or that the Ten Commandments should not be hustled off from every location where they might be seen by a random passer-by, and on the other hand people who will slaughter a fifteen year-old daughter (mom doing the holding down, dad doing the stabbing) because she dated someone from another faith, or will strap a remotely detonated explosive vest to a retarded child and send him into a crowded market place, or throw sulfuric acid in a woman’s face because she had the effrontery to show it in public. I’m not interested in that god; I’m not interested in his teachings; I’m not interested in worshipping him.
On a more practical level, I’ll just observe that nothing works that is not taken seriously by the person doing it. You’d think that dynamic would be sufficiently obvious that someone getting his doctorate would have tumbled to it by now. But no. And here we must ask just how seriously has the West taken its sanctions against Iran? Well, not very, if what you’re thinking of is the € 25 billion in business that Germany has done with Iran just since 2005. It’s currently running at € 3 billion per annum. And Germany’s not the only sinner, not by a long shot. The Chinese are propping them up, as are the Russians. In fact, Germany’s not even the only Western country merrily doing business while wiping the blood off the currency they get. Through the end of 2009, the EU had done € 65 billion of business with Iran in the preceding three years. Top traders? Germany, Italy, France, Holland, Spain, and Belgium.
The author of the FAZ article mentions none of the above in his denunciation of sanctions as ineffective. Of course they’re not effective, if your own side is undercutting them.
In terms of whether the populace is so demoralized as to be incapable or unwilling of uprise, the author also (“conveniently,” to use his own expression) omits to mention the massive uprising of summer, 2009. Millions of Iranians took to the streets, at first to protest vote fraud in elections, but then rapidly expanding their demands for fundamental changes in government. And what did the West do to help them? Beyond words, nothing of any substance. It came out later that Dear Leader at the time was trying to initiate negotiations with the folks killing the protesters (much in fact as he’d announced as a candidate, to meet with them “without preconditions”). This past fall Romney foolishly claimed Dear Leader had been “silent,” when in fact — after dithering for weeks, while the Revolutionary Guard slaughtered the protesters in the streets — he offered them . . . words. No, what Romney should have claimed was that Dear Leader was inert. But Dear Leader was in good company; no one in the West did a damned thing to help the people in Iran throw the bums out.
It’s those two omissions in the FAZ article which reveal it to be no more than propaganda. In tyrannies the effectiveness of propaganda relies on deprivation of alternative sources of information; in societies which at least nominally endorse freedom of speech its effectiveness must rely on ignorance. Fortunately for our German-Iranian omissionist, he’s got extremely fertile soil to plow in that respect.
While we’re at it let’s . . . ah . . . contrast how the West responded to civilians trying to overthrow an overtly Islamist regime (nothing more than words) with how it responded to Islamists trying to overthrow non-Islamist regimes (active military intervention in support of the terrorists, expressions of “relief” by Dear Leader, and money, always money). The U.S. is in the process of handing over top-of-the-line F-16 combat planes to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, in fact. A man (former Sen. Hagel) is presently still in the running to be appointed Secretary of Defense, when he has a long, long track record of vehement anti-Israel statements and actions to his credit.
Dear Leader and his ilk can’t quite seem to make up their mind on Syria, though. The people on both sides want to slaughter Jews. It must be so confusing for the Deep Thinkers in the West.
I don’t know whether the author of today’s FAZ article is just a conventional lefty Jew-hater, or whether he’s a paid stooge for the likes of the Muslim Brotherhood. Someone’s paying his tuition, after all. Maybe he’s working down the local Tesco’s. Maybe not. But no matter his motivation, his article is demonstrably nonsense.