Thursday, April 28, 2011


“We’re talking about a country whose economy is the size of Pittsburgh’s,” Times reporter David Sanger quotes an official, “who spoke on the condition of anonymity,” as saying about Syria (“U.S. Faces a Challenge in Trying to Punish Syria,” NYT, 4/26/11). “There are things you can do to amp up the volume,” the official goes on to say about the effectiveness of U.S. sanctions, “but the financial impact is slim.” Sanger compares the difficulty of U.S. relations with Syria to similar impasses with North Korea and Myanmar. Where do sanctions work? What wealthy societies have succumbed to sanctions in order to preserve their hegemony? Human rights abuses in China have intermittently been addressed in summit conferences, but who is going to relinquish market share to make a statement against an economic giant? If we embargo China’s microprocessors, they’ll always find someone else willing to buy them. So you don’t attack the strong, since there’s no real way to make them weak, and you can’t threaten the weak, since the result is nil. Our embargo of Cuba has gone on for decades and has merely made a poor country poorer. Nietzsche said that what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. All the resistance in the world is like a weight pulling a muscle taut. So what to do? We end up as children back in the playground, frightened of the big kids and powerless to do anything to the little squirts, who realize that their power lies in their weakness.

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