Tuesday, November 6, 2018

We Have Come a Long Way (Unfortunately): George Washington vs. Steve Mnuchin

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin
From George Washington's Farewell Address (1796):
Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible...

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people under an efficient government. the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground?...

Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing...
From an op-ed by Treasury Secretary Steve Munchin which appeared on Monday, November 5, 2018 in the Financial Times:
Monday marks the heaviest economic pressure ever applied by the US against the Iranian regime. This effort is but a part of the US government’s strategy to change the behaviour of Ayatollah Khamenei, and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.

In the early hours of Monday, the Treasury department will complete its full snapback of sanctions on Iran, targeting the energy, shipping and banking sectors, among others. We are also adding back hundreds of targets previously removed from sanctions lists, as well as more than 300 new targets...

We will impose sanctions on foreign financial institutions that knowingly engage in certain significant transactions with the Central Bank of Iran and designated Iranian financial institutions...

The Treasury will strictly enforce our sanctions. We will not tolerate banks, companies or other entities that seek to circumvent our actions. We will view them as complicit in funding Iran’s malign ambitions.

The US will lead a maximum-pressure campaign to stop global funds from flowing to the Iranian regime until it is no longer a threat to international security.
RW  note:

It is impressive as to the manner in which Washington's advice, now more than 200 years old, has stood the test on time.

Our power and "distant situation" from most other countries, more than ever, make threats from overseas extremely limited.  Certainly, Iran is no threat to the United States. But as Washington feared, rather than going the route of trade, we are favoring some countries over others in a dispute that has nothing to do with our domestic situation.

If only Mnuchin and other current leaders had an ounce of the wisdom that Washington had.

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