GWU Issues Management

A blog established for the George Washington University School of Political Management's Issues Management course.

My Photo
Location: Washington, D.C., United States

A middle aged white guy, who likes to think, talk and, too infrequently, write about politics, religion and gadgets.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Britain and Iran

Since the "anti-Brits" were outnumbered last night, I thought it only fair to share this strong critique of the Britain Iran standoff. Anybody reconsidering their view that Britain prevailed?

I am.


Blogger rach a said...

I say more could have been done in reconciliatory fashion, I stick to my guns on this one.

Excuse the pun.

11:33 AM  
Blogger Danny said...

I don't think that article does a very good job of explaining the view that the UK was humiliated compared to other articles I've read. However, I think Britain was able to save face a bit. As I said in my post last week, the Brits needed to put the sailors and marines on TV to say that they were indeed in Iraqi waters and that they were forced to make those statements under duress. They did this and it has served to make the Iranians look considerably worse. I still believe there should have been a show of force from Britain in the form of a naval blockade or strategic bombing, but the most important thing is getting the service members back. I think if anything, it was the Royal Navy that was humiliated, which is unfortunate because the British military is man-for-man the best trained, most disciplined, and most respected in the world. It wasn't that the sailors appeared to be friendly with the Iranians that was humiliating; they are told and trained to do or say what is necessary to avoid having harm done to themselves or their fellow captives. I’d say they handled captivity rather well. The humiliation came from the sailors being taken captive in the first place. But I think that the sailors’ statements on British TV make up for a lot of that.
I agree with the author of the article that America was not in a position to use force because of their involvement in Iraq. And it's only going to get worse. After the US retreats from Iraq it will be useless as a military power internationally. It pretty much already is. It will be too weak-kneed and afraid to use force. This will probably last for a few decades just as it did after Vietnam. (This isn't a shot against the US military at all, just the politicians and government. The military could succeed if they had the full support of the government and the people.) With the UN and EU also lacking the will, hopefully the Brits can step up to the plate and fill the void as the only nation to pose a credible threat to use force. They may even get a bit of support from other members of the Commonwealth, namely the Aussies and Canucks. This isn't to say that they should use military action every time a crisis arises, but it's nice to have at least one democratic country that has the ability to do so when it is necessary. Now let's all sing God Save the Queen...

7:34 AM  
Blogger Susan said...

It really doesn't change my opinion at all. Yes it may give an alternative view that maybe the Iranians came out ahead, or that maybe Blair didn't do as good of a job. However, I think the statements about the UN leaving them in a lurch, or that the sailors/marines were unprepared for captivity...well they really don't address the issue of whether the UK handled the situation well, they just explain the situation...I'm sure that the sailors weren't expecting to or prepared to be captured, but they were, and the UN may not have done what the UK wanted them to do, but at the end of the day that is just the situation that exists, what is important is how Blair and the UK handled the situation.

I think what is more the problem now is that the sailors/marines were allowed to sell their story to the media, and then it was decided that they couldn't because of the backlash from it.

7:31 AM  
Blogger alison m said...

Remember in early March when Switzerland accidentally invaded Liechtenstein? ( Well unfortunately, Britain isn't Switzerland and Iran most definitely is not Liechtenstein. In theory, I agree that negotiations and civility is the best course of action, but we also don't live in an ideal kind of eden. In reality, we live in a world where not everyone plays by the rules; at least not by the same rules. Were the tactics used to free the sailors the best options? Maybe not. However, the end result was optimal.

1:45 PM  
Blogger alison m said...

The link didn't go through. Let me try again:

1:46 PM  
Blogger Brooke said...

Considering the current state of mind of many citizens around the world regarding the war, I still believe that Blair handled the situation well. He did not start any conflict between the two nations, and the prisoners were released unharmed. I'm not at all surprised by the actions (or lack thereof) from the UN; let's be honest, what type of authority do they really have and when have they honestly taken recent action against a country that has broken their sanctions (even if repeatedly)?

It's unfortunate that this entire incident was simply a tactic by Iran to come out looking like they did the UK a huge favor (at least that's my theory).

This was another ploy by the Iranians to flex their muscle and again declare their independence. Were the soldiers likely in Iran waters when they were detained? Yes. However, it makes me wonder what other types of scare tactics and hostage ploys Iran will toy with in the future.

I agree with Alison because at the end of the day our reality proves that we live in a world where "not everyone plays by the rules; at least not by the same rules." Granted the prisoners walked away unharmed, I full-heartedly believe it wasn't that simple and that some back room deals were made between the UK and Iran to ensure those prisoners were released.

It was a compromising situation of damned if you do, damned if you don't - Blair did the best he could given the circumstances.

9:31 PM  
Blogger Elan said...

I don't know... maybe I missed something in this article that was posted... but I wasn't terribly impressed.

Certainly, the article does a good job of suggesting that Britain didn't handle the situation well... but there wasn't really anything new to it. The author's opinion on the situation isn't really any different than what was discussed in class last week. So I'm pretty sure I'm sticking to my guns on this one also... the author thinks Britain didn't handle this well, and I do.

Until there's new information, that's what I'm sticking to; I'm not reconsidering anything yet

9:50 PM  
Blogger Brandt said...

I still think it was handled well, because it ended well. Maybe the British government got lucky and should change some things. Maybe if the troops were covered by a helicopter this would have never happened. I think there are some things that the British government can learn from, but everyone walked away. I think that is success in this situation.

9:13 AM  
Blogger phillip cory said...

I do agree in the public space that Britain does look silly when compared to the actions of Iran. I mean soldiers wearing silly suits and looking through stupid goody bags after they had been captured for two weeks. As a soldier, it makes me laugh. This article though did not express the same opinion for the humiliation as I had already felt. Like I said before though, Iran won the was of the Public Space, but in handling the issue itself, whatever Britain did worked.

11:29 AM  
Blogger Nathan said...

I have to conceede that my anti-Bristish stance seems to be undermined. So, as much as it pains me to say it, I am starting to reconsider my position. Perhaps I was too myopic in judging this situation and ignored the ways in which the Brits handeled this very well. I conceed.

12:01 PM  
Blogger Justin P said...

I never took the position that Blair came out a winner. This situation could only end badly. Blair’s approach only determined the extent of the damage done during the crisis.

I do not believe that a provocative action, particularly “bombing Iran,” would have spared Blair from any negative consequences. Blair had to protect his soldiers and the wider security of his country. His approach returned the soldiers and did not escalate the crisis any more than was necessary. I think, broadly speaking, he was correct in his approach.

That said, Blair needs to go to greater lengths to ensure the security of his forces in the region, and he needs to immediately communicate any progress made in this regard to his domestic constituencies.

We do not know if there was a deal, and we can only speculate about what kind of demands might have been made. I believe it is possible, however, that Iran didn’t ask for anything. They just wanted to humiliate the English and bolster their popularity with the voters.

I also find it highly unlikely that Blair would have given Iran anything that would greatly compromise international security, such as a nuclear device or military technology.

12:56 PM  
Blogger Melinda R said...

I still don't think Britian could or should have done anything differently. As the article mentions, Iran now has a great amount of power in the region due to the American situation in Iraq. Ahmadinejad certainly played his cards well, he knew that an attack on Iran would be opposed by the British people who never wanted Blair to back Bush in the Iraq war. There isn't much you can work out with such an unpredictable leader, and if Ahmadinejad was flexing his muscle, then it still seems like a wise course to fight back with diplomacy.

1:11 PM  
Blogger Bethany said...

I stick with my original position. Diplomacy is always a better solution. I actually think that Britain has done a very good job of emphasizing, post-incident, that the statements made by the soldiers were made under duress. They have emphasized this in every statement since the crisis was resolved.

On a completely different note: I have been VERY impressed by the (obviously well-managed) statements by the Rutgers women. They are articulate, on issue, and look very professional. That has made Imus' already precarious position even more endangered. The press conference was a beautiful thing to watch--it was handled extremely well.

1:33 PM  
Blogger Will said...

As one of the few members of class who argued last week that Blair and the British Government had mishandled the situation, a week later I feel even stronger in that analysis.

Over the last week, we have seen the debacle over whether the soldiers could sell their stories or not, the Iran tapes of soldiers playing chess, and the press conference that has received ridicule from within the Brits own military. While I believed that the situation had been mishandled a week ago, I thought that Blair would be able to engage in a PR campaign to avoid future mistakes. However, things have only gotten worse.

3:25 PM  
Blogger sethbringman said...

I never really thought that the Brits "won", and I largely agree with Sullivan that much humiliation against Britain occured. Britain's soldiers were made to be pawns in the court of international public opinion. They were made to admit to crimes that they didn't commit. They were shown on TV celebrating and wearing new suits, as if their capture were some kind of party. It seems only a matter of time before Iran pulls a stunt like this again, and sees what else they can get away with. Terrorists watch CNN, too - and they took note that Western soldiers can be held captive and made to say what you want them to say. Yes, the Brits got their soldiers back safely, but I was left with a sour taste in my mouth about the way it happened.

3:59 PM  
Blogger Josh said...

it is still hard to consider any situation a "win" wherein Iran again acts out its irresponsible arrogance, gets away with it, and gets positive press for it. British or not, this was a sad situation. Moreover, this was a loss for the Iranian people, because their government will be only further encouraged in their boldacious bombasity. Eventually they will learn that holding foreigners hostage, parading solders and embassy personnel for the world, and finally releasing them with a silly grin on their faces will lead to serious consequences -- consequences. But today, as in '81, was not that day. Their loss, our loss.

4:38 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home