Rich Lowry makes a remarkably silly statement:

To oppose striking Iran militarily for fear that it would be ineffectual and unloose baleful consequences is one thing. To oppose sanctioning Iran is lunatic.

If sanctions are also futile, as the record tells us they are, it hardly seems lunatic to deny their efficacy. Since sanctions also have baleful consequences on the civilian population of the targeted country, worsen the political climate in that country, and strengthen the regime’s ability to tighten its grip on power, the real lunacy would be to keep advocating for a cruel, useless policy that has failed time after time. That’s the point of the campaign against Hagel: to make sure that no consensus view, no matter how insane it is, should ever be seriously questioned or challenged by someone in the position Hagel had in the Senate.

Support for sanctions against a “rogue” state is perceived as a symbol of the intensity of a person’s hostility to a foreign regime. It has no connection to the effect that the sanctions have on the other regime’s behavior or the damage that it does to the civilian population. It is entirely an exercise in signaling “seriousness” while doing something that is almost certain to fail on its own terms. It is the most mindless, unoriginal policy position one can take, and of course Lowry faults Hagel for not holding it. There is someone acting the part of “a tiresome purveyor of conventional wisdom overly impressed with his own seriousness” here, but it isn’t Hagel. Indeed, Hagel is being chastised by Lowry because the former dissents a little too much from conventional wisdom on the correctness and necessity of sanctions on Iran.