Before he became a hack, Michael Chabon wrote two good novels: The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, an appealing sentimental education that manages to be lyrical without being too overwrought (although like most first novels it is on occasion), that fnds pathos without becoming mawkish or maudlin, and that features an idiosyncratic cast without succumbing to twee quirkiness; and Wonderboys, a great shaggy-dog novel about weed, misplaced affection, and failure. The former also holds one of my favorite sentences in recent literature: "In Pittsburgh, perhaps more than anywhere else in our languid nation, a barmaid does not care."
This line kept coming back to me as I read that
Even as the United States imposes new sanctions on Iran, one of the biggest gaps in the American strategy is on full display here in Iraq, where hundreds of millions of dollars in crude oil and refined products are smuggled over the scenic mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan every year.Oh my. Capital doesn' care. If anything belies the West's blithe insistence that it embraces the ideology of trade and capital, especially here in the States, where the demise of a countervailing Soviet "socialism" has only made the Free Marketeers more hysterical, prone to finding the devil, Communism, in the extremely wealthy societies of Western Europe, it is our concurrent evident belief that the State can simply interdict capital's flow. And I suppose you could argue that North Korea is extremely isolated, or that Cuba is kept poor, but of course North Korea doesn't have anything that anyone needs, unlike Iran, which sits atop fine reserves of the most important commodity. And occupies a geographic position of obvious strategic importance. This is not to say that blockades are impossible or that sanctions cannot function to isolate and punish a population, cf. the Gaza Strip. However, when a place possesses something that capital requires, capital will acquire.
Even as the United States imposes new sanctions on Iran, one of the biggest gaps in the American strategy is on full display here in Iraq, where hundreds of millions of dollars in crude oil and refined products are smuggled over the scenic mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan every year.The assumption that such smuggling represents a "gap" is contradicted by its persistence. If the outcome of a policy is the opposite of the stated objective of the policy, it is equally if not more likely that the outcome, rather than the statement, represents the actual objective. So we return to the fact that the capitalist West appears--appears--to seek to prevent money from flowing into Iran and commodities from flowing out. But the practical effect of Western policy in that part of the world is to greatly enhance the ability of at least one commodity to move unfettered by legal regimes and national borders. Is that simply an unintended consequence of an incompetent foreign policy? Is it just a flaw in the plan? Is it a bug?