I want to give Andrew Kahr a pass on his spurious attempt at scholarship at the BankThink blog, but I can’t.

Kahr lays into President Obama’s plan of tightening economic sanctions on Iran, making allusions to FDR’s policy of containing the Empire of Japan nearly 70 years earlier and in general trying to scare the reader into a panic.


Apart from its timing, which seems likely to provoke an international crisis immediately before our presidential election, this use of the payments system to punish or coerce another country raises fundamental issues.

News alert to Kahr: elections aren’t timed to happen with international events. That’s called the world goes on without any input from you. The almost clinical need some have to see President Obama as a Machiavellian plotter who keeps the world fraying at the edges in order to satisfy some hunger for power before the onset of a new world order is becoming uneasily more accepted by conservatives.

Kahr: Predictable consequences: anti money laundering, the “war on terror” and other ongoing programs dependent on the difficulty and cost of transferring money away from bank systems could be permanently weakened. Confidence needed to support international investment and “free trade” policies will be eroded. Valuable international payment data, such as is compiled by the Bank for International Settlements, will become less complete and reliable.

In 1941 Roosevelt undertook to embargo oil shipments to Japan, supposedly in order to discourage Japanese aggression in distant Asian lands such as Manchuria, remote from core American interests. The direct result, many historians assert, was Pearl Harbor —one of the most destructive attacks we’ve ever suffered. Plus a two-front war with many millions of casualties that might well have been mitigated or avoided

Last time I checked, Iran had not recently invaded and plundered its neighbors, committed war crimes on unimaginable scale and threatened to upend the entire balance of trade and power in one half of the globe.

As one of the worlds largest economies, what is the problem with using dollars instead of bullets to advance American interests abroad? Is Kahr arguing that the use of money to influence foreign policy is sacrosanct and instead young men and women should be put into harms way when it is easier (and far more legal) to use dollars?

As an aside, what is with Kahr calling it, “the war on terror”? I thought American troops were pretty real in Afghanistan and not an abstraction.

I have always argued that what is most important when we try to link history to current events is the manner in which we speak about that event. Kahr tries very hard to scare readers into believing that Iran is another Japan through his not too subtle use of the economic conditions that forced the Empire of Japan to attack the United States. There is a huge difference between Japan in 1941 and Iran in 2012. The most prescient image is the obvious lack of an pan-pacific empire or imperial ambitions by Iran.

Kahr’s solution to preventing a war in the Pacific was to increase trade with the Empire of Japan? That’s the only conclusion I can get from as convoluted and historically short sided an essay as this.

Like I said, I would love to give Kahr a pass, but his rambling attack piece seems to fall apart within seconds of analysis. I feel almost sorry that Kahr feels he has to shout at the wind and pretend it will listen to him.