In a recent post, Bruce Ross of the Redding Record Searchlight documented how North State Congressman Doug LaMalfa co-sponsored the United States-Iran Nuclear Negotiations Act. The misleadingly-titled Act appears calculated to sabotage promising negotiations and make war more likely at a time when there is actually a serious prospect of a breakthrough in relations with Iran.
That LaMalfa has chosen to associate himself with war-mongering legislation is illuminating. He entered Congress with a rich history as a pledge-signing, oath-swearing economic fundamentalist, dedicated to shafting his constituents for the benefit of the wealthy. But on foreign policy he was something of an unknown quantity. Promisingly, he voted to restrict the NSA’s spying efforts, positioning himself with the libertarian wing of the Republican Party—which for all of its talk about civil liberties is largely immorally isolationist on foreign policy, and unswervingly radical on economic policy.
But by joining Republicans and a group of right-wing Democrats in an effort to sabotage negotiations with Iran, LaMalfa is showing a willingness to join with those who believe that the United States can only make itself secure by waging war, even if that requires inventing a case for war and pressuring the President to take a militant stand at a time when diplomacy would yield better results.
Scholar Stephen Zunes of the University of San Francisco has the following to say about LaMalfa and his fellow-travellers: “Hardliners in Tehran are not happy with the recent rapprochement between the United States and Iran and the related progress in negotiations to address Western concerns about the Iranian nuclear program. But the bigger threat may come from hardliners in Washington...”
Writing in Foreign Policy, John Hudson quoted a Congressional saying of the Republicans’ efforts, “‘It’s hard to imagine a more counterproductive effort to slow the development of Iran’s nuclear program—especially when sanctions have succeeded in bringing the Iranians back to the negotiating table”. One U.S. official, long involved in talks with Iran said, “I have never had such intense, detailed, straightforward, candid conversations with the Iranian delegation before”.
In explaining why they want to force an angry-sounding, counterproductive Act on the President in a way that demonises the people with whom he is negotiating over matters of global importance, GOP sponsors demonstrate that while some of the Republicans behind the bill are the war-crazed neocons, possessed of an as-yet unsatiated bloodlust even after their wars of aggression against Iraq and the ongoing wars in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere, others are simply interested in leaping at this opportunity to undermine the President’s efforts. Why? Because as one of their unofficial standard-bearers put it four and a half years ago, the GOP’s primary policy is to ensure that President Obama fails at whatever he does.
I don’t know whether LaMalfa would be more accurately grouped with the true-believers, who glory in death, destruction, and savagery, and who find peace and prosperity and governance to be unbearably dull stuff. A part of me believes that he would be more accurately lumped with the ugly, small-minded caucus of relentless saboteurs, who operate on autopilot and would be happy to sacrifice the lives of their constituents—as LaMalfa’s predecessor and his party sacrificed the lives of too many North State citizens—so long as it keeps them in lockstep with the right wing of their caucus.
Rather than admit that the President’s diplomatic efforts might succeed, this group of tawdry opportunists would rather do what they can to ensure that he fails, thus fulfilling their argument that the President is weak and ineffectual.
Does that sound familiar? It’s the same strategy the Republican Party used during the government shutdown.
Their domestic politics are based on a lie about the inevitable ineffectiveness of government and of public institutions, just as their international politics are based on the lie which holds that war is better than peace and that diplomacy equates to weakness. Because they are liars, and because their political edifice is built on a mountain of falsehoods, the best thing the Republican Party can do is to sabotage government and actively undermine public institutions to bring their lies about government to life on the one hand, and to agitate for conflict and wars of aggression to bring their lies about international relations to life on the other. They have, in other words, created a parallel political universe in which when the United States loses, the GOP “wins”. If our country’s youth die in war, the GOP gets to be “right”. If they can make our economy collapse, the GOP is “vindicated”.