Murkowski and Sullivan: Dabbling in Warmongering


Both Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan “the Carpetbagger” Sullivan plan to vote against ratifying the international agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. WC thinks that among all of the serious misjudgments this pair has displayed recently, this one could be the worst.

Let’s examine the facts and the lessons of history.

Iran was brought to the bargaining table by an international coalition that imposed fairly tough economic sanctions. But economic sanctions will only get you so far. A regime that is willing to impose enough grief on its people isn’t deterred by economic sanctions. North Korea is Exhibit A. It has brutalized its people and now has atomic weapons. So the first lesson of history is that if a regime wants the bomb badly enough, it will get it. Economic sanctions are a limited tool.

For economic sanctions to work, there has to be near-unanimity among the possible trading partners. The Bush and Obama Administrations negotiated that near unanimity. Now that consensus is breaking down; the United States’ allies are persuaded the proposed settlement with Iran is pretty good. They are willing to accept it, and lift the sanctions. In fact, so far as WC is aware, only some of the U.S. Congress think otherwise. But, good or bad, it doesn’t matter because the other U.S. trading partners are going to resume trade. The economic sanctions are going to be lifted for all practical purposes. The deal we have is the best deal we are going to get because the sanctiosn are dissolving. The United Stats, by itself, cannot impose meaningful economic sanctions on Iran. The lesson of history here is Cuba, where incomplete, non-unanimous sanctions has allowed the Castro regimes to survive despite decades of United States economic embargoes.

So the United States is boxed between the limited utility of economic sanctions and the opinions of its allies. And when diplomacy reaches it limits, all that is left is war.

This isn’t the diplomatic equivalent of rocket science. So why are Senators Murkowski and Sullivan refusing to endorse the deal? The deal has the support of our allies, the leading experts on nuclear inspection, most former ambassadors to Iran and a majority of the American people.

WC will offer two reasons: one is borderline criminal, the second is cynically selfish.

The borderline criminal reason is that they want to embarrass the President with a political defeat, and don’t really care about anything else. Put another way, they are willing to risk yet another land war in Asia to politically injure an outgoing  president. Because that’s what an significant number of Republicans want. Those jingoist buffoons want the U.S. to invade Iran. The same war criminals that got us into Iraq are now trying to posture us to go to war with Iran.

The cynically selfish reason is that they worry Iran will produce enough oil to hold down or lower further the price of crude. The would make Alaska’s fiscal problem even worse; our state’s economy is built on the premise of high-rpiced crude oil. Bringing Iraq’s production back to the international market, increasing the supply and, by the inexorable laws of economics, lowering the price. A war with Iraq, on the other hand, would keep Iraq’s oil off the market and probably destabilize the Middle East enough to even further limit supply. Murkowski and Sullivan would go to war to help the Alaska economy. That is cynically selfish.

The excuses Murkowski and Sullivan offer are irrelevant. WC thinks the deal is pretty good, but it doesn’t matter if it could have been better. It’s the best diplomacy can get, because the U.S. can’t succeed unilaterally.

WC’s daddy taught him to hold the door for ladies, to apologize at once in an argument with his wife (especially if WC is right), and never to get involved in a land war in Asia. It’s a shame Alaska’s U.S. senators didn’t get the same instructions.

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