Which Britain?

Hey readaz.

I went through a series of feelings on Iran’s catch and release of the British sailors in the Persian Gulf in the past month. At first, I wondered how Iran, which has displayed no shortage of savvy in taking advantage of its shifting regional reality, could be so unaware as to play directly into the plans of Cheney and other American planners looking for a pretext for war with Iran. Had the sailors been American, the Tomahawks would be flying within about three days. But, being sailors from America’s closest ally, it was still a possibility that the U.S. would take action on Britain’s behalf. So at first, the atmosphere was one of dread that another war was about to begin, and disbelief that Iran would be equal parts defiant and self-immolating.

But then as time went by, and the Iranians paraded their apologetic captives while the British government kept nearly silent in terms of displeasure at the situation, I worried less about war and more about how great of a propaganda victory this was going to be for the Iranians. And sure enough, Iran released the hostages with perfect timing, allowing Ahmadinejad to come out looking benevolent (even though it was likely Khamenei and Ali Larjani who pushed him into the release) and–even though they got what they wanted and avoided a broader conflict–Britain looking supplicant. With the sailors selling their stories to the Daily Mirror, there’s no shortage of criticism of their behavior. I can’t speak to that, mainly because I don’t know the full circumstances of their capture and that makes me hesitate to join in the chorus of boos. But seeing things go down as they have is still surprising in contrast to the behavior of British civilians in the July 2005 London bombings.

After that terrorist attack, British stiff-upper-lipism was in full swing. Workers and residents wasted no time going back to their daily routine, very publicly demonstrating their resolve not to bow to those who would call for Britain’s destruction. One of TIME’s cover subjects from that attack stopped by the office in New York, and he was the most chilled-out guy, both in general and about what had happened and how he had helped the injured woman through the whole ordeal.

It’s some weird stuff here to see expected societal roles turned on end, in this case the civilians playing stoic in contrast to the anxiety-ridden military. I give credit to Britain for avoiding a wider war, but I don’t think this is the public image they wanted to present, nor does it fit in with how they’ve reacted recently on the world stage.

Tags: , | Link

Leave a Reply