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Is America Waging Economic War on Iran? Article Critique Example

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Article Critique

“Is America Waging Economic War on Iran?” by John T. Bennett, U.S. News & World Report, July 2, 2012

In his July 2, 2012 article for the U.S. News & World Report, the author John T. Bennett examines U.S. economic governmental policy towards Iran, concluding that it is a form of “economic” warfare. Relying upon definitions of war by classical military theorists such as Carl von Clausewitz, Bennett implies that economic policies such as sanctions are themselves a form of war: it therefore can be concluded that U.S. policy towards Iran has taken a militant position, despite the lack of armed conflict. As Bennett states, “the shooting hasn’t started but the United States, fueled by an expanding industry in Washington, already is attacking Iran.” In a world of ever-increasing inter-related economies and globalization, economic sanctions become a form of armament; from this perspective, the U.S. is already at war with Iran, according to Bennett.

Bennett’s text thus provides an intriguing view into how war has changed in definition, from being an armed conflict between two sides, to a conflict that takes into account all the parameters of modern society, from economic segments to the reliance upon governments on computer networks. For example, Bennett notes that

“many national security experts believe American and Israeli intelligence agencies collaborated on a cyber attack that allegedly did damage to Tehran’s atomic weapons program.” Bennett’s article traces an important point in today’s analysis of international relations and politics: it is as though countries with hostile relations exist in a constant state of war, although war may never be declared explicitly. U.S. policy in regards to Iran, as Bennett chronicles, has taken an aggressive form, attempting to wound the country from economic and cyber-technological angles.

Insofar as Bennett’s main thesis is that these actions taken by U.S. policy makers in regards to Iran is already a form of war, this means that the U.S. if not explicitly, is implicitly at war with Iran. This is a provocative thesis, because it suggests an ongoing war that has no official framework, such as a declaration of war. Bennett’s analysis of U.S. policy, as mentioned above, is based upon the theories of von Clausewitz, the great Prussian military theorist, in this article. The key point in Bennett’s argument is therefore his application of one of von Clausewitz’s central hypotheses to the decisions of U.S. governmental policy makers in relation to Iran, namely, the hypothesis that “war’s application knows no bounds.” In other words, von Clausewitz, writing almost two centuries ago, advanced a theory wherein war can never be defined by, for example, the exchange of firearms: rather, war can take a diverse number of forms, and U.S. economic sanctions in relation to Iran is one example of this “war without bounds.”

When considering how interrelated the world’s governments, policies and markets have become, von Clausewitz’s thesis, as used by Bennett seems entirely legitimate. The U.S. economic sanctions against Iran, coupled with EU sanctions against Iran “are designed to hit Iran’s leaders financially, and to sow the seeds of domestic ill will.” In other words, these policy decisions have all the hallmarks of typical strategies and tactics used in standard forms of military conflict. They attempt to disrupt the regime and command-and-control structure of the enemy nation, with the intent of overthrowing the hostile power. One of the key aspects of any country is the economy: economic hardship leads not only to the hardship of individual citizens, but also creates a distrust and anger at government policy. One only has to look at the United States to understand this. By taking this approach to Iran, it appears that Bennett’s Clausewitzian thesis is entirely correct: these economic policies are a form of war that are being performed against Iran, attempting to topple a regime that is viewed as hostile.

However, the economic sanctions by the U.S. against Iran are not only a policy decision: as Bennett notes in his article, many private industries specializing in business sanctions are gaining lucrative contacts from the U.S. government, offering their so-called “expertise” in how best to injure Iran from an economic perspective. Once again, as Bennett, shows it appears that war remains good for business, irrespective of policy decisions.

Bennett’s thesis – that economic sanctions are also a form of warfare – thus appear entirely legitimate. The notion that wars are only fought between armies is simply out of date. There are many ways to attack an opponent, by demoralizing him, cutting off needed supplies, and fermenting dissent. All of these notions should be included into war because they all have the same aim as armed combat: to immobilize the enemy. Bennett’s article is thus valuable in noting that the U.S. is already de facto at war with Iran, and in the purpose he expands some of our all too limited definitions of what war actually mean in the present era.

At the same time, Bennett opens a number of relevant questions that we can now pose for discussion: what can we say from an ethical position about these types of economic warfare? In other words, what kind of ethical high-ground may the United States take when they are essentially attempting to debilitate a country through sanctions, forcing regime change in a sovereign country, through primarily economic means? In addition, does this new definition of war mean that all countries of the world are ultimately always at war, playing geopolitical strategic games in order to forward their global ambitions?

Works Cited

Bennett, John T. “Is America Waging Economic War on Iran?” U.S. News & World  Report, July 2, 2012. Retrieved at:http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/dotmil/2012/07/02/is-america-waging-economic-war-on-iran

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