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The Destruction Is the Point

It doesn't matter to hard-liners if the policy actually achieves anything as long as it does damage.
Mike Pompeo

Nicholas Miller has delivered a devastating response to Pompeo’s pitiful propaganda op-ed from earlier this month:

Given these statements, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that Pompeo is not being entirely honest when he claims the maximum pressure campaign is succeeding. Rather than leveling with the American people and making an argument about why the administration is persisting with the policy in spite of the lack of progress, he has chosen to deceive the public in order to defend a dangerous policy.

Pompeo has made a habit of deceiving the public as Secretary of State on a range of issues from Yemen to North Korea, but for the most part he has been allowed to get away with that. He probably thinks that there is no price to be paid for constantly lying and misrepresenting things to the public and Congress, and so he keeps doing it. The more important reason why Pompeo keeps deceiving the public is that he is also eager to please the president, and so he has to keep claiming success for failing policies because reports of success are what the president wants to hear. When Pompeo’s ridiculous op-ed came out last week, one of the common questions that many people asked was, “Who is the audience for this?” The point these people were making was that the “argument” in the op-ed was so facile and nonsensical that it can’t possibly have been intended to persuade anyone, so the purpose of it had to be to placate Trump and reassure him that the policy “works.”

Miller does an outstanding job picking apart Pompeo’s various claims and using Pompeo’s previous contradictory claims against him, and he shows that the Secretary’s defense of “maximum pressure” is a joke to any minimally informed person. But as far as Pompeo is concerned, all that matters is that Trump sticks with the policy. When Pompeo has been asked for proof that the sanctions are “working,” he cannot point to any positive change in the Iranian government’s behavior, and instead he boasts about the harm that has been done to Iran’s economy and its people:

I remember, David – I’m sure no one in this room, but many here in Washington said that American sanctions alone won’t work. Well, they’ve worked. We have taken over 95 percent of the crude oil that was being shipped by Iran all around the world, and we have taken it off the market.

Miller addressed Pompeo’s use of economic damage as proof of the policy’s success this way:

Using economic damage to gauge the success of sanctions is like using body counts to measure success in counter-insurgency — it’s an indicator that your policy is having an effect, but does not necessarily imply you’re any closer to achieving strategic objectives.

For a hard-liner like Pompeo, continuing with a destructive and bankrupt policy is a matter of ideology and an expression of hostility towards the targeted country. It doesn’t matter to hard-liners if the policy actually achieves anything as long as it does damage, and so they take pride in the damage that they cause without any concern for the consequences for the U.S. and Iran. Rational critics of this policy rightfully object that this is just aimless destruction, but the destruction is the point of the policy.