Lots and lots of talk about the 15 British sailors who were released yesterday by Iran, how they acted while in captivity, how Britain and the EU/UN reacted, and what it all means – as evidenced by this huge link roundup from Allah.
I feel a little like I’m betraying a friend just writing about it, considering how the UK has stood by us through thick and thin, but at the same time there ares some valid criticisms out there of how everything went down that are worthy of discussing. Charles Krauthammer slams home several points here:
Iran has pulled off a tidy little success with its seizure and release of those 15 British sailors and marines: a pointed humiliation of Britain, with a bonus demonstration of Iran’s intention to push back against coalition challenges to its assets in Iraq. All with total impunity. Further, it exposed the impotence of all those transnational institutions — most prominently the European Union and the United Nations — that pretend to maintain international order.
You would think maintaining international order means, at least, challenging acts of piracy. No challenge here. Instead, a quiet capitulation.
The quid pro quos were not terribly subtle. An Iranian “diplomat” who had been held for two months in Iraq is suddenly released. Equally suddenly, Iran is granted access to the five Iranian “consular officials” — Revolutionary Guards who had been training Shiite militias to kill Americans and others — whom the United States had arrested in Irbil in January. There may have been other concessions we will never hear about. But the salient point is that American action is what got this unstuck.
Where then was the European Union? These 15 hostages, after all, are not just British citizens but, under the laws of Europe, citizens of Europe. Yet the European Union lifted not a finger on their behalf.
Europeans talk all the time about their preference for “soft power” over the brute military force those Neanderthal Americans resort to all the time. What was the soft power available here? Iran’s shaky economy is highly dependent on European credits, trade and technology. Britain asked the European Union to threaten to freeze exports, $18 billion a year of commerce. Iran would have lost its No. 1 trading partner. The European Union refused.
Why was nothing done? The reason is simple. Europe functions quite well as a free-trade zone, but as a political entity it is a farce. It remains a collection of sovereign countries with divergent interests. A freeze of economic relations with Europe would have shaken the Iranian economy to the core. “The Dutch,” reported the Times of London, “said it was important not to risk a breakdown in dialogue.” So much for European solidarity.
Like other vaunted transnational institutions, the European Union is useless as a player in the international arena. Not because its members are venal but because they are sovereign. Their interests are simply not identical.
The problem is most striking at the United Nations, the quintessential transnational institution with a mandate to maintain international peace and order. There was a commonality of interest at its origin — defeating Nazi Germany and imperial Japan. The war ended, but the wartime alliance of Britain, France, the United States, China and Russia proclaimed itself the guardian of postwar “collective security” as the Security Council.
The capture and release of the British hostages illustrate once again the fatuousness of the “international community” and its great institutions. You want your people back? Go to the European Union and get stiffed. Go to the Security Council and get a statement that refuses even to “deplore” this act of piracy. (You settle for a humiliating expression of “grave concern.”) Then turn to the despised Americans. They’ll deal some cards and bail you out.
Make sure to read the whole thing, and let me know your thoughts.
Michael van der Galien, who is European himself (I think) wonders:
How did this all happen? When did it happen, is a question many non-British like myself ask themselves. What happened to the country that once told Hitler “give us liberty, or give us death, but we will never surrender”? What happened to the country that brought forth the biggest hero of the 20th century, Winston Churchill?
If the British were still proud of their culture, their nation, and their heritage, they would have taken the streets and protested before the Iranian embassy in London. Instead of protesting, instead of condemning the Mullahs ruling over Iran with an iron fist, the British people told their leaders to negotiate with the Mullahs. To do everything necessary to get the sailors and marines back who were kidnapped by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
Of course, this is something no one has to tell Blair and Brown et al. Their natural impulse in this kind of situation is to pick up the phone and ask the Mullah-thugs why â€˜we can’t all just get along?’ Two days before the hostages were released Tony Blair said something that captures this attitude quite well: “we’re not looking for confrontation over this”, Blair told reporters, “and actually the most important thing is to get the people back safe and sound and if they want to resolve this in a diplomatic way the door is open.”
And that is where Blair is (/was) wrong. The most important thing was not to get the “people back safe and sound”. The most important thing was to “get the people back safe and sound” without giving Iran what it wants. Whatever happened, Iran could not be allowed to appear to be the winner of this crisis. Britain had to stand tall, refuse to give in and demand that the hostages would be released as soon as possible, if not â€“ Britain would have acted. This would have included, if necessary, the building of a coalition to strike against targets in Iran although that option should, of course, be a last resort.
As to my question â€˜how did Britain lose her soul’, I am inclined to believe that what caused Britains demise, what caused Britain to lose her soul, is moral relativism. Moral relativism, as taught on most universities, high schools, etc., has taught the British that their history is one of oppression of other peoples, that whatever Britain stands for is wrong and that whatever Britain’s enemies stand for is quite alright, or at least understandable and when a country like Iran does something unacceptable, well, it is most likely Britain’s fault anyway.
I could not agree more, especially on his point about moral relativism. Moral relativism is the biggest bane to civilized society because it promotes the idea that there is no right and wrong, that there are no moral absolutes, that we can’t judge another society by our standards because their culture may be different from ours, etc. Europe is filled with moral relativists, and until (if?) that attitude can be changed, we’ll see a lot more capitulation from the Brits and a lot less standing firm, especially considering that whoever takes Tony Blair’s place as Prime Minister will not follow in Blair’s footsteps – Blair’s not very popular in the UK right now, and the end to this stand off between the UK and Iran will only buy him short-term support and a mild uptick in popularity in Britain, and the person who is elected Prime Minister surely won’t want to be known amongst the Brits as Tony Blair “lite” when he takes office. Yeah, Blair screwed up in his approach to handling the hostage crisis, but as an overall unwavering ally in the war on terror, he’s been as strong as they get.
Of course, the way it was handled could be a way that the US and UK are buying time in Iraq. They obviously don’t want a confrontation with Iran right now, because their hands are full in Iraq and Afghanistan, so perhaps the US and UK are being choosy about their battles, thinking it would be simpler to get them to release hostages than it will be to get them to stop their plans for nuke development. But Iran is trying hard to force the hand of the west, and the symbolism of what’s taken place over the last week between the three countries couldn’t be overstated enough: in the eyes of the Islamos, the UK – with quid pro quo help from the US – in effect surrendered in every way but literally flying the white flag, and with CIC wannabe Pelosi thrown into the mix in Syria bumbling all over the place effectively showing Syria, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab nations on their own soil that our country is not acting with one voice on issues related to the Middle East, we’re not exactly projecting strength now either.
Unfortunately, it’s been a good week for Islamofascists in the propaganda war, and a bad one for the West.
Update: Mega-ouch. Watch this video, which contains some stinging criticism from MSNBC military analyst Col. Jack Jacobs (US Army Ret.) of the 15 sailors taken hostage. Do you think he’s on the mark? Would especially love to hear from military readers: