It's war Jim, but not as we know itIt appears as if Britain really is at war with Iran - well, a war of words to be more precise - and mealy-mouthed words at that. However, it seems that no one can hardly accuse the British government of being disproportionate in its response to this apparent act of war by Iran, or how the Times (London) puts it 'casus belli'.
Well, what else could you call the latest Iranian military actions? If anything, the ambush of some 15 British soldiers by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards represents something of a propaganda and military coup for the ever increasingly embattled Iranian authorities. When it comes to the art of war, the British government's image in the eyes of the world is increasingly perceived as second-rate and 'softly-softly'. Such a military strategy by Britain will only succeed in encouraging even more ambushes.
A week has now passed and the British government have failed to set any deadlines for the immediate release of the soldiers, it's as if our political class have been struck down with a chronic case of 'risk aversion'. There is a serious flip side to pursuing a cautious approach - such a risk averse strategy is actually bordering on moral cowardice in the face of the enemy.
It's as if the British government have fully and wholeheartedly embraced a cautionary strategy, that is remarkably similar to the doctrine commonly known as the Precautionary principle, much loved by the environmental movement, which states that under no circumstances should action be ever taken, unless you can be certain, without doubt that there will be no negative consequences as a result of your actions.
More recently, risk averse societies like Britain would tend to strike first on the basis that pre-emptive action was a legitimate form of self-defence. Today, the adoption of a precautionary strategy seems to have led to paralysis in policy making. It appears that our political elites are relying more on the words of lawyers in terms of strategic and political leadership. Our government itself seems paralysed in the face of a blatant act of war - they are fearful that any military action against Iran could have a negative 'boomerang effect' - so, instead of 'going in' and saving the marines, thereby averting a disaster, they fear that action would only realise another catastrophe - not the kind of things politicians really desire. (1)
Britain’s precautionary approach to Iran has only succeeded in slowly dragging this whole affair along, rather than settling it - none of this has been lost on the Iranian authorities who have used the past few days to ratchet up the political and military stakes. With a government like ours, there is one thing we can be certain of, their increasing obsession with risk, and aversion to risk, will only succeed in inviting even more ambushes, and other such 'gestures of defiance' in the not so distant future.
(1) The Risk Society at War: Terror, Technology and Strategy in the Twenty-First Century By Mikkel Vedby Rasmussen - p93 and p199.