Friday, September 4, 2015
Shooting Ourselves in the Foot and Other Low Places
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce – a GOP stalwart – gets it some of the time. If stupid U.S. policies catering to special interests with an axe to grind have enough money (or enough financing to buy influence from well-heeled billionaires), they will endure. We had over 111 thousand “killed or missing” in the Japanese theater during World War II. We had over 47 thousand combat deaths during the Vietnam War. The Emperor of Japan still rules Japan (although under a democratic government). The same Communist Party still rules Vietnam. We have full diplomatic relations with both nations, lots of mutual tourism and trade, no sanctions and friendly relations. U.S. trade seriously opened freedoms and standards of livings in both countries.
We lost 4 soldiers in the Bay of Pigs invasion (1 during the Cuban Missile Crisis) in Cuban conflicts. We just created diplomatic ties with Cuba after half a century, but there are inane idiots in Congress who think that we need to continue to press that impoverished Caribbean nation with continued sanctions to bring them to heel, purportedly on human rights matters, while we continue to recognize dictatorships with brutal track records all over the rest of the world. Even Putin’s Russia! Oh, Cuba only has nice beaches, sugarcane, and no oil or other valuable mineral rights. Screw them, right?
Meanwhile, as trade opens up in Cuba, Canadians, Europeans, folks from other Latin American nations, China, etc., etc., etc. have no restrictions from their governments in investing, traveling and general trade. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce gets it and opposes the stupid limitations that continue to impede Americans operating with and within Cuba, while the rest of the world is laying their stakes in that tiny island nation. So you can pretty much label as an idiot anyone in Congress who thinks continuing a boycott against Cuba is in our best interests, just because some very old families, mostly in and around Florida, want their pound of flesh from the Castro regime. Who cares?! Or should we break ties with Japan and Vietnam too, lands where Americans suffered a whole lot more casualties than we have in Cuba.
So now we come to Iran, which is much more malevolent that mini-Cuba, and most of the developed world knows that. Switzerland has already lifted sanctions against Iran – opening up their incredibly important banking system to Tehran – and tons of European nations have given pretty clear signals that if Iran accepts the new nuclear containment accord, no matter what the United States does, they will lift their sanctions against this rogue nation. I have read stupid editorials how Iran will then have enough new money to fund a Hezbollah attack on Israel, so war with Israel is inevitable if the sanctions are released, or that when the accord expires (if not before) Iran will immediately unleash their nukes on Israel.
If we are worried about trigger-happy regional players, you only have to look at the Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been actively lobbying the US to reject the Iran accord: “Israel's political leaders pushed to attack Iran at least three times in the past few years but had to back down on the advice of the military and due to concerns about its ally the United States, former defense minister Ehud Barak said… In interviews to his biographers aired late on [August 21st] by Israel's Channel Two, Barak said he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had wanted military operations against Iranian nuclear facilities in 2010, 2011 and 2012.” Huffington Post, August 22nd. War may be their priority, but it shouldn’t be ours.
I am never going to tell you we should trust Iran. They are self-declared enemies of the United States. Verbal barbs fly back and forth all the time. I will never suggest that Iran does not foment global terrorism, although they now have their own terrorist group with Tehran’s destruction high on the priority list (even before turning on either the U.S. or Israel): ISIS. But since the sanctions we have driven the world to impose on Iran have failed to change their ways, knowing that most of the world is going to lift those sanctions no matter what we do, and unless we are willing to go to war unless we get 100% of what we have demanded from Iran – which demands will never be conceded without a complete and total military victory and regime change – exactly what is in it for us by going it alone against Iran?
Meanwhile, what would happen if Iran grew in economic stature? Would it be exempt in the rather dramatic changes have tamed rogue attackers of the United States over the years? Look at China, Vietnam, Germany, and Japan. Their economic success has given them too much to lose by drawing the United States into another massive war. Think if Cuba makes a pile of money through international trade, will they get more or less repressive? Precisely. Wouldn’t be a bad experiment in Palestine… if and when the ISIS threat is contained.
Forces inside Iran – powerful interests that will create jobs and stability for the country – are looking towards a brighter future. “When Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps took over the nation’s telecommunications monopoly in 2009, the move was denounced as another dark step in the hard-line military group’s seizure of the levers of power.
“‘It’s not just a matter of the Guards dominating the economy, but of controlling the state,’ Alireza Nader, an expert on Iran and the co-author of a comprehensive RAND Corporation report on the Revolutionary Guards, said at the time.
“Last month, however, the company, the Telecommunication Company of Iran, was put up for sale, as the Revolutionary Guards now seem more interested in cashing in on what Iranian leaders are hoping will be a flood of foreign investment if a nuclear deal with world powers gains final approval and sanctions are lifted.
“And it is not just the Revolutionary Guards. During the past decade, well-connected Iranian investors amassed undervalued assets in poorly executed and frequently corrupt rounds of privatization, buying insurance companies, hospitals, refineries and public utilities, among other things previously run — usually poorly — by the state.” New York Times, August 21st. So if we are trying to tame the extremists in Iran, it would seem a really good idea to (i) raise the stakes of what Iran could lose by fomenting global aggression and (ii) to elevate a new class of economic power brokers able to challenge and perhaps tame the Revolutionary Guards and their religious leaders. How subversive! Cackle cackle.
The horse is contemplating leaving the barn: “But with Western sanctions putting an ever-tightening stranglehold on the Iranian economy, finding buyers for the assets became next to impossible, especially in recent years. In the absence of outside investors, and no deep-pocketed private buyers in the country, Iranian investment companies fronting for state pension funds, military cooperatives and religious foundations bounced shares back and forth on the Tehran Stock Exchange just to make small profits.
“‘They had no one to sell to inside Iran but now, with the nuclear deal done, everything is falling into place,’ said one well-established Iranian-American consultant who asked to remain anonymous because his business activities are punishable under United States law as long as sanctions remain in place. ‘A lot of people here have started pulling out their calculators.’
“The potential sell-off began to take shape in July, as the nuclear agreement began to move toward a conclusion, economists say. That was when the Etemad-e-Mobin investment company, part of a cooperative fund belonging to the Revolutionary Guards Corps, put the Telecommunication Company of Iran on the selling block.” NY Times.
What is supremely lacking among American policy-makers, particularly in Congress, is pragmatism. We have so created an American electorate that passionately believes that they should elect politicians with slogans that sound good, ignore facts and the truth, and then complain vigorously when these politicians actually make things worse, much, much worse, by adhering to their inane slogans. Until Americans stop being repulsed by facts and truth, they will continue to unravel one of the greatest nations in the history of the earth.
I’m Peter Dekom, and leadership is not about following the polls or trying to “out-extreme” your opponent; it is doing what needs to be done for the betterment of the nation and convincing the American people that facts and truth are the real playing field… not meaningless and impractical slogans that make you feel good without a prayer of working.