Commentary Magazine


Hands Off Iran!

Check out the melodramatics that have followed the introduction in the House of Representatives of a bipartisan, non-binding resolution calling on President Bush to levy stronger sanctions on Iran.

The resolution urges the President to impose sanctions on Iranian banks which are implicated in terrorism and — this is what has set consciences aflame — “demands the president lead an international effort to cut off exports of refined petroleum to Iran.” Shouldn’t sanctions, which occupy a middle ground between diplomacy and war, be the preferred strategy for liberals who wish to defuse the nuclear confrontation without shots fired? Well, maybe sanctions are only preferred in theory.

The non-binding resolution was too much for a group called the National Iranian American Council, which is more or less a contemporary iteration of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. NIAC has posted on its website a silly reaction to the House bill, titled “Is a New Congressional Resolution Declaring War with Iran?” which announces that the bill “effectively requir[es] a naval blockade on Iran.” How, one might ask, does Congress go about “effectively” requiring action of the magnitude of a naval blockade? (NIAC’s larger strategy is something of a reverse image of the Bush Doctrine, in which America preemptively capitulates to everything the Iranian regime wants.)

Okay, so one shouldn’t look to Trita Parsi & co. for serious thinking about Iran. But now comes M.J. Rosenberg, who appears to have been drinking strong spirits rather than cappuccino in the TPM Cafe:

Both the House and Senate are considering legislation that would put us in a state of war with Iran. Right now. . . . The bill’s “action clause” would put us at war with Iran by immediately imposing a blockade.

The Fifth Fleet is encircling the port of Bushehr as we speak! Well, actually it’s not. So, in the hopes that Mr. Rosenberg will take a break from stockpiling bottled water and flashlight batteries in his basement long enough to read this, here’s a basic lesson in logic: Refusing to export a good to a country is not the same thing as militarily blockading the import of that good to a country. It is, in fact, exactly the kind of non-military pressure which responsible liberals uphold as an ideal form of collective international action, which if pursued with confidence and unity can prevent war. But one gets the feeling that some people find it more satisfying to make false accusations of warmongering than to join a genuine effort to prevent war.