Friday, April 06, 2007

American plot to start Iranian war foiled!

Sir Richard Dalton analyses the Iranian sailor-kidnapping fiasco.

It is a human instinct to construct a narrative to try and make sense of events. The Iranians were planning to get x and have achieved y. The Brits knew what was going to happen all along and played a good diplomatic game.

9/11 Conspiracy types took about two minutes to proclaim that it was all a set-up by the Americans to justify bombing Tehran*.

But as with so many things, the truth is rather more prosaic. It was just another sorry series of stupid, make-it-up-as-you-go-along cock-ups. Plus a healthy dash of pathetic personal hubris on the part of Ahmadinejad.

(*Some of the sailors themselves clearly forgot to read this script. The Stockholmish toadying to their captors from one man in particular was bizarre and difficult to watch.)


Harry Eagar said...

Dalton's piece reads right out of 1935, not forgetting at the end to blame the Jooos.


Brit said...

Well yes, the last few paras are nonsense. But he's right that nobody knew what they were doing in this whole affair.

Brit said...

Are you up very early or very late, Harry?

Duck said...

Those complaining from the political Right, both here and in America, about a weak response were shown to be opportunistic and out of touch. Whether it was John Bolton, the former American ambassador to the UN, complaining about European resolve in general towards Iran, or editorialists regretting that there were no Palmerstons to defend the rights of Britons, such critics never set out a credible causal link between their preferred tactics and how to get Iran to release the captives.

There was no credible link because there are more things at stake than just the release of the captives. When someone breaks into your home and steals your stuff, is the only focus of law enforcement to get your stuff returned?

The number one responsibility of the British government in responding to the capture of its sailors should be to extract a high enough price from the Iranian regime to dissuade them from ever trying to kidnap British sailors again. You can't make the safety of the hostages your overriding concern. Britain has lost much prestige in this episode, and prestige is what helps nations protect their citizens and ther soldiers from calculating enemies. These 13 are safe for now, but British soldiers and sailors are now fair game for any other radical group or governments wanting to score points off of them.

David said...

Duck stole my thunder.

When Dalton says [S]uch critics never set out a credible causal link between their preferred tactics and how to get Iran to release the captives he shows that he entirely misses the critic's point. As important as it was to get the 15 service people home safe, it is more important to convince Iran that it will pay a price for being an international criminal.

Harry Eagar said...

That post was composed around 10 p.m., sorta late for me as I rise with the chickens.

The point should not be restricted so narrowly as Iran-UK or just 15 sailors.

Iran has been at war with civilization since 1979. Iran is so weak that civilization has not deigned to notice. Relative weakness can change over time.

Eventually, we'll notice. It would be a mercy, especially for Iranians, if it happens sooner rather than later.

Peter Burnet said...

Fine and dandy, but it isn't clear to me what the other options were. Assuming we can agree kidnapping fifteen sailors doesn't merit a general declaration of war, what were they supposed to do? In days gone by, this would have been met by a punitive response like a reciprocal kidnapping or sinking a ship or shelling a coastal installation, etc., but even if such a warning had been taken seriously, we (the West) have pretty much written ourselves out of that game. Part of the problem is lack of military capacity, but politically Britain has been all tied up by tranzi/international law thinking which makes all that aysemmtrical stuff verboten. In the States, SCOTUS, the Dems, the MSM, special prosectors, etc. seem to be ensuring more or less the same fetters. Nothing to do but threaten yet another level of ineffective sanctions and lobby France for support.

This is what happens when material rationalism and narrow self-interest become the guiding ethos and issues like honour and pride are not only viewed as unimportant, but downright dangerous and jingoistic. It's been interesting to compare the tepid reaction to this from even conservative columnists in Britain with the humiliated rage expressed in the comments that follow. We're all materialists now and when somebody asks "Why should we risk the lives of other soldiers to free these guys?" or "Why should the sailors risk torture or death by showing defiance?", fewer and fewer of us can articulate an answer that resonate with the electorate or the beautiful people or even ourselves.

Dalton is right. The solution was logical, well-executed, perfectly defensible, solicitous of the sailors, calm and dispassionate, and in Britain's immediate, measurable self-interest. If everybody is feeling like the Iranians just walked on their faces, they should just tune into American Idol and forget about it, or maybe start an international human rights lobby group committed to teaching the Iranians all about modern notions of conflict resolution. At least they have been spared the madness of that crazy, irrational, profitless, dangerous Falklands War that caused so many "unnecessary" deaths while making everybody feel so proud to be British. The diplomats were sure asleep on that one.

Duck said...

So materialism was the cause of the most destructive wars in history, and now materialism is to blame for the wimpiest response to a warlike provocation in recent memory? Flexible stuff, that materialism.

Brit said...

I'm with Peter. It went ok - problem solved. You hawks are so very, very hawkish.

Duck said...

Peter's not with you. His point is that you Brits became so wimpy because you stopped reading your Bible.

Peter Burnet said...

No Duck, materialism didn't start any wars. It led (several times) people to march happily into slavery and compromise their moral compasses. When the wars came, they were just helpless fodder.

The modern version says there is nothing except my self-focussed pleasure and I'm darn well going to interpret the world in the way that lets me pursue that without guilt.


Yes, the Bible would do you a world of good, but I'm realistic. How about we settle on your Hornblower?

Brit said...

Oh yes - Peter's just saying it in a more roundabout way.

We're already in Iraq and Afghanistan. Cannons at dawn are only one form of international aggression. Hornblower knew that well enough.

Peter Burnet said...

Diplomats at dawn, eh? I must have missed that episode.