Comparing regimes to the Soviet Union seems to be all the fade nowadays. For so long the USSR played the Tom to America’s Jerry that any comparison is understood in a particularly American us-them/good-evil binary. So, typically, the way to deal with unfavorable states is to relate them to the pink ghosts of enemies past.
[tweetmeme] Rep. Charlie Rangel – who is all about protecting his country’s boarders from terrorists (Israel is part of American right?) – compares the Gaza blockade to the American embargo of Cuba in the video embedded above. He says:
Not too long ago for us old timers the USA was threatened by the Soviet Union as it was reported that they had missiles on the island of Cuba. It didn’t bother any Americans at all when we supported the late President Kennedy as he imposed an embargo to prevent anyone from going into Cuba for the purpose of supporting the missiles that were there to destroy America. Imagine if you could if we thought the Cubans were terrorists. What would happen if the Cubans had said that their mission in life was to destroy the USA and worst still what would we think if there were attempts that they tried to do it?
This is an obvious comparison: both situations had boats. Of course, the US didn’t bombard Cuba and refuse to allow in any reconstruction materials. And Cuba wasn’t denied statehood. And the US didn’t storm humanitarian ships on their way to Cuba, killing nine civilians – many execution style. But, Schumer is right. You really can not deny that both the Cuba embargo and the Gaza blockade involved boats.
Perhaps a little more sensibly, Joe Klein says that Iran should be treated like the Soviet Union. Containment is the wave of the future:
No, Iran is more like a baby Soviet Union. A regional power, with ties to a dangerous terrorist network–Hizballah–but one that will respond to international diplomatic pressure. It is also a real country, with real assets, and unlikely to take actions that will result in a devastating attack by the U.S. or Israel. It is not Al Qaeda. If it continues to be recalcitrant–and there is no reason to believe it won’t–the strategic answer is containment, just as we contained the Russians. This would involve a regional defensive alliance against Iran–an informal one, perhaps–involving Iraq, the Gulf States and the Sunni powers (plus Israel), a project that David Petraeus has been quietly pursuing as head of Centcom. It would include the provision of anti-missile capabilities and the guarantee of American support if Iran moves on any of these nations. It also assumes that Iran will develop a nuclear weapon, which–as things stand–seems a probability. Most experts believe that Iran’s aims here are defensive, as Hashemi Rafsanjani–the only Iranian leader ever to publicly mention the possibility of a bomb–said in 2001: as a deterrent to Israel’s nuclear arsenal. Any nuclear proliferation is potentially destabilizing–although it is also potentially stabilizing, preventing adversaries from going to total war, as war the case in the Cold War and now seems to be holding firm (in a nervous-making way) between India and Pakistan.
The argument behind the comparison makes sense. Dulled down sanctions will do little to prevent a determined Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons so the best path is to prepare for a nuclear Iran and hope it never materializes. I would say that Iran is a lot closer to the Soviet Union than Hamas (though I suppose Schumer was arguing that Hamas was Cuba), but there are many differences in this case too. An important difference is that the USSR had unquestionable regional and global power. Iran has Hezbollah and Hamas.
I propose a ban on USSR comparisons. I say be more creative. Schumer could have used the British, French and Russian blockaded the Ottoman Empire in 1827, supporting Greek rebels. Not perfect? True, but at least more satisfying than the Soviet stuff.