Tuesday, April 10, 2007

What the 15 mean

So, is Iran's release of the 15 sailors a triumph for British diplomacy? For Iranian diplomacy? A humiliation for Britain? An indication that Iran blinked? Symptomatic of the long decline of British prestige? All of the above? None of the above?
There has been a lot of ink spilled to the effect that the sailors first of all should not have surrendered (though I doubt many servicemen would propound this - it's easier to be insouciant over other people's lives), then should have offered nothing but name, rank and number in captivity, and finally should have kept their mouths shut when they finally did get released. I disagree with the first proposition - though I strongly believe that the fact that they were put in such a vulnerable position indicates a cock-up somewhere along the line.
Despite the harrumphings to be heard, once in captivity the sailors were in something of a bind: they had no sensitive information to spill, they were not being held prisoner by an enemy state (in the legal sense of the word anyway) and it is therefore understandable that they took the route that promised a speedy conclusion to their captivity. It's easy to criticise this on the grounds of spinelessness - but which of us are prepared to sacrifice 7 years in an Iranian prison in return for our pride? Some of us possibly, but it's again a decision that's easier to make in the comfort of our living room.
An awful lot of Krugers have been killed by the mouths of the press on both sides of the Atlantic over this affair. But it's worth remembering that America didn't go to war over the hostages in Iran in the 1980s, Britain never went to war for Terry Waite, and even Victorian Britain preferred targets like Theodore of Abyssinia - rather than the estimated 350,000 strong Iranian army. Iran went into this for a propaganda victory, and it's worth reflecting that, as has been said about blogging, that's a little like wrestling with a pig - you both get muddy, but the pig likes it. As a bonus, that comparison ought to irritate Ahmedinajad.

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