Saturday, March 31, 2007

It's war Jim, but not as we know it

It 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.

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At 12:43 PM, Blogger max said...

I suspect that practically "'going in' and saving the marines" may be much more complicated than just, well, "'going in' and saving the marines" and that is probably the reason for not trying to do it.

Americans didn't do it when Iran held their people hostages and you can't really call their approach to foreign policy as softly-softly.

In fact the Americans are helding 5 Iranians in Iraq in a situation the is very similar to that of the 15 marines in Iran. Only difference is that they are not paraded on telly and made to write stupid letters.

American and British Armies are deployed in the most dangerous zones of Iraq the West and Afghanistan to the East of Iran.

They are involved in the most difficult missions only to keep themselves in place and to start a conflict with Iran means if fact having one single battlefield going from the Syrian Border to Pakistan.

Excellent way to transform the current disaster in a full blown world war but not too sure how that would help the 15 marines held by the Iranians though.

At 10:12 PM, Blogger Lucyp said...

I am just glad that TB has decided on diplomacy and not gone charging in, but then would he do that anyway without the USA? Are we actually learning lessons about the toxic use of force and how it only fans the flames?

At 10:28 PM, Blogger Don said...

Force, boldly and properly used, puts out the flames. Iran etc. knows the West is trying its best to forget that. Even America's blundering in Iraq is partly due to this split in our personality.

At 12:07 AM, Blogger Lucyp said...

Flames like Iraq?

At 12:37 AM, Blogger Don said...

I said "boldly" and, especially, "properly". :)


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