Originally appeared on The American Conservative.
John Bolton used a vindictive WWI-era slogan while threatening Iran with harsh sanctions enforcement:
The U.S. intends to double down on sanctioning Iran, pressuring the nation until it submits, National Security Adviser John Bolton signaled on Tuesday.
“We think the government is under real pressure and it’s our intention to squeeze them very hard,” Bolton said Tuesday in Singapore. “As the British say, ‘squeeze them until the pips squeak’.”
The phrase Bolton quoted was used as a campaign slogan in 1918 to describe the harsh postwar treatment of Germany that the British coalition government wanted to inflict. It was a prelude to the “Carthaginian peace” imposed on the Central Powers. As such, it is usually seen as the start of a disastrous postwar settlement that destabilized Europe for the next twenty years and helped to create the conditions for the next war. Sane policymakers do not aspire to imitate this example, but then this is Bolton we’re talking about here.
It is not surprising that Bolton would admire one of the most vindictive Allied slogans from WWI, but it is still a jarring statement for a US official to make on the heels of the sober commemoration of the centennial of the end of the war. Bolton’s use of this phrase in connection with Iran sanctions is obnoxious but quite revealing. If the Trump administration seeks to “squeeze them very hard,” as Bolton says, it is inevitable that the civilian population will suffer greatly as a result of that “squeezing.” It confirms that Trump administration Iran policy is intended to inflict maximum collective punishment on all Iranians in vain attempt to force their government’s capitulation, and it reflects a degree of hostility that is normally reserved for bitterest wartime enemies.
Bear in mind that the sanctions Bolton is talking about are being reimposed without justification despite more than three years of Iranian compliance with the JCPOA. If this is what the US does to the states that honor their agreements, why would anyone make a deal with the US ever again? This vindictive and cruel policy doesn’t have any connection with US security interests. Strangling the Iranian economy and depriving innocent people of their medicine won’t make the US or anyone in the Middle East more secure. All that it will do is cause pointless misery and preventable deaths among the weakest and most vulnerable Iranians while having relatively little effect on the behavior of the regime.
Daniel Larison is a senior editor at The American Conservative, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and is a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Dallas. Follow him on Twitter. This article is reprinted from The American Conservative with permission.