Editor's note: by Ken Blackwell and Bob Morrison.
The idea behind economic sanctions is simple: If you deprive the people in a warlike country of enough “stuff,” they’re rational actors and they’ll stop their aggression. Or at least make their leaders stop. The only problem with this theory is that it doesn’t work.
President Obama and Secretary Clinton are touting the latest round of sanctions against the human rights violators in Tehran. They are “rational actors,” says Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Whether it is rational to shoot down your own people in the streets of your capital, threaten nuclear war against your neighbors, and unleash terror attacks on your opponents we leave to others to decide.
The real question is: Are we rational actors? What experience of sanctions and stuff has convinced us that this course of action will work? We’ve noted how it didn’t work with other dictators in the past.
Not with the Soviets, not with Saddam Hussein, not with Mussolini in the 1930s. The U.S. imposed sanctions with real teeth on the Japanese militarists in the 1940s. Does anybody remember “Torah! Torah! Torah”? Pearl Harbor was their answer to our cutoff of petroleum exports.
We need to consider this scene: It’s July, 1914. Wilhelm II is Kaiser of Germany. He’s taking a leisurely cruise in frigid Norwegian fjords. He does this every summer. The Kaiser’s yacht is named Hohenzollern. Unlike most royal pleasure craft, however, the Kaiser’s 380-foot vessel is bristling with armament. Cannon, machine guns, torpedoes.
And belying the pacific appearance of this white, swan-like ship, radio traffic to and from the yacht’s radio room crackles trough the air, furiously preparing for war.