For some reason, media outlets are more than happy to provide an outlet for hawk and provocateur extraordinaire John Bolton. His ranting would be entertaining for its ridiculousness if it weren’t for the fact that some people actually take him seriously. We are in rare agreement, however, on one point in his recent OpEd, titled “Sanctions Won’t Work Against Iran,” a point I’ve been making on this blog and to members of Congress.
Bolton lists various reasons why sanctions prohibiting gas imports to Iran would be ineffective, from the reluctance of Russia and China to work against their own political and economic interests to the fact that Iran is building new refineries to expand its capacity and undercut the impact of sanctions.
From here we part ways, as John Bolton takes this argument to a dangerous conclusion:
For Washington, the question should not be whether “strict sanctions” will cause some economic harm despite Iran’s multifarious, accelerating efforts to mitigate them. Instead, we must ask whether that harm will be sufficient to dissuade Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons. Objectively, there is no reason to believe that it will.
Adopting tougher economic sanctions is simply another detour away from hard decisions on whether to accept a nuclear Iran or support using force to prevent it.
Bolton dismisses negotiation as a viable option, as he always does. He is ahead of the curve in the sense that he wants to jump right over the sanctions debate to using military force, something he has advocated for years.
One reason so many people get on the sanctions bandwagon is that they think ideas like Bolton’s are untenable, and find sanctions to be some kind of nonviolent middle ground. By moving the debate so far to the extreme, hawks like Bolton hype the threat from Iran and push generally reasonable people toward supporting a “get tough” approach like harsh economic sanctions. However, both of these approaches are misguided. Military force would be disastrous, sanctions would be counterproductive, and neither would reach any goals related to resolving tension between the US and Iran or increasing security for the people of both countries.
We must get the message to Congress that sanctions are not a viable middle ground, but a dangerous effort that will likely backfire, and could even bring us closer to the debate Bolton wants us to have. Join us in telling Congress to “can the sanctions.”