First things first: this is a UK OP. I made the mistake of listening to a bunch of talk radio over the last week where people were talking like this is a US led OP. It isn't. Sure, we are the big boy in the group - but this is first and foremost a UK OP. Period. The decisions are up to the British. Period.
So we find ourselves into the second week of what throughout maritime history has been a well established act of war - the seizure of Sailors at sea outside your territorial waters. We have fought a couple of wars over that. Let us leave aside the other issues; dressing female sailors in Islamic garb, or the show letters and "confessions" - I really am not interested in getting into that.
Nor do I want to go into the British ROE and the "if I was Skipper...." threads. No interest in that either.
Let's instead talk about where the United Kingdom finds herself in 2007. From the start, her choices were rather stark. She could have gone totally submissive from day one; she could have "tried every other path but war," or she could have done the "I want my Sailors and Marines in 48 hrs or you will be brought to your knees" line.
The UK is going a variation of the middle path because she has no choice. While our defense budget has grown since 911, the UK's has not. To drive some life into his Labour Party's pet projects; Tony Blair speaks loudly while selling his Viagra to circuit boys. Actually, I am a fan of the middle path as long as you are willing to let it move on to the third.
That is the rub. If we are all unlucky, Iran is calling the UK's bluff. They do not think that the UK can or will do anything about it. In that part of the world, shame is one of the most powerful things out there for both people and nations. Iran wants to shame the UK. They do not think that the West will do anything that will further drive up the price of oil. They think that the West is so weak that they will do anything not to be bothered - just keep the oil flowing. They do not think that the West cares if it is shamed. They may be right.
If Iran is right - the West is lost. Demographics and the slow decay of a society that will not defend itself will see to that. If Iran is wrong - we are in for something nasty. If they call the UK's bluff there is only one path - war. War starting economic or military. I doubt the SAS can fix this mess.
The path looks clear. The UK went to the UN and got nothing; check. The UK went to the EU and got nothing; check. So far, not so good.
The UK will go to the UN again, and the EU again. They won't get anything. As for NATO, besides the Navies of NATO - NATO Land and Air it tapped out. Done.
They cannot even take care of their duties in Afghanistan. The EU and Continental NATO are fairly much the same thing when it comes to available and useful forces (yes, NATO has Turkey - but if you think they will do anything against Iran you are high). None of them are up for offensive action against the Iranians. They do not have the Air and Land to do anything (assume that no-one is going to let you use a base on their land to attack Iran), and besides - outside the UK and French Carriers that are small anyway - their striking power is almost nothing beyond a dozen miles inland; +/- a few non-US TLAM.
The military issue is a tough nut. How do I see it playing out if the UK decides to play hard ball? 1 month of the diplomats talking it out. Then soft economic. If that doesn't work (international support for soft economic will be limited) then the UK will have to show its cards. Cut off refined oil? Then take Iran's sole refinery? Blockade? Then you have PRAYING MANTIS writ large - total elimination of all Iranian naval power? Start at Abadan and work you way to Bushehr, Bandar Abbas, Straits of Hormuz, and then finish up a Charbahar until you run out of targets?
Oh, BTW; while you are doing this - the Iranians try to make Southern Iraq and Baghdad go battsh1t. You will lose ships and Sailors - and all-in-all it will be a UK/US operation. Then what? You are technically at war with Iran. They still have the hostages. What do you do now? Oil is $150 a barrel, and the Shiite majority in Kuwait and Bahrain are doing who knows what.
War is a dark room, you do not know what will happen once you step inside. No one has any idea what is going to be done or what will happen once a decision is made to move. Sure, I typed a few things out above, but I have no idea. I just hope that there is some way the diplomats can make this work without Britain having to throw away the last 500 years of her historical place in the world. Unfortunately, that is all based on Iran being sane.
Iran right now though, is holding the stronger hand. The UN and EU have shown weakness. Britain has shown weakness. The US has shown weakness. Is there any upside? Mark Steyn puts it very well.
The U.N. will do nothing for men seized on a U.N.-sanctioned mission. The European Union will do nothing for its "European citizens." But if liberal transnationalism is a post-modern joke, it's not the only school of transnationalism out there. Iran's Islamic Revolution has been explicitly extraterritorial since the beginning: It has created and funded murderous proxies in Hezbollah, Hamas and both Shia and Sunni factions of the Iraq "insurgency." It has spent a fortune in the stans of Central Asia radicalizing previously somnolent Muslim populations. When Ayatollah Khomeini announced the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, it was not Iranians but British, Indian, Turkish, European, Asian and American Muslims who called for his death, firebombed bookstores, shot his publisher, fatally stabbed his translator and murdered anybody who got in their way.Here is my old school Navy thinking here. This all could have been prevented if Sailors and Commanding Officers were allowed to do what should be their right; defend themselves. The right of self-defense. I wasn't there, but the worse case would have been the UK boats make a run for it as best they can. Worse case, they are all killed and some of the Iranians as well as they run back to shore as the HMS Cornwall pops away with her single 4.5" gun. Much posturing would follow, perhaps another skirmish or two - but the kidnappers were IRGN not Iranian Navy. The Regular Navy types are not going to sacrifice their fleet because some nut-jobs got themselves in trouble. In the end - that is where we would be. The loss of 15 sailors +/-. What is that cost now?
So we live today in a world of one-way sovereignty: American, British and Iraqi forces in Iraq respect the Syrian and Iranian borders; the Syrians and Iranians do not respect the Iraqi border. Patrolling the Shatt al-Arab at a time of war, the Royal Navy operates under rules of engagement designed by distant fainthearts with an eye to the polite fictions of "international law": If you're in a ''warship,'' you can't wage war. If you're in a ''destroyer,'' don't destroy anything. If you're in a "frigate," you're frigging done for.
On Sept. 11, a New York skyscraper was brought down by the Egyptian leader of a German cell of an Afghan terror group led by a Saudi. Islamism is only the first of many globalized ideological viruses that will seep undetected across national frontiers in the years ahead. Meanwhile, we put our faith in meetings of foreign ministers.
"It is better to be making the news than taking it," wrote Winston Churchill in 1898. But his successors have gotten used to taking it, and the men who make the news well understand that.
Face it, in our line of work that is part of our job. If needed we offer up the lives of ourselves, our Shipmates and our Ship in order to make sure others keep theirs and our Nation's power is secure. If we are put in a position where we are just low-hanging fruit for those who mean us harm - then it is best that you never leave port. Not to execute the right of self defense by a Skipper is madness - to have a Nation order its Commanding Officers to unilaterally surrender it is criminal. There are exceptions, but rare tactical exceptions well beyond sending your Sailors to do a compliant boarding only to be kidnapped under your nose.
If there is one silver lining to all this, it is that it just might be the thing to save the Royal Navy. General Galieri save the Royal Navy in the 1980s, perhaps as the UK is looking at moving the Royal Navy to the size of Belgium's Navy, they will realize that in the end, the only way to project power is through a Navy. If no one is there to help, you have to do it yourself, or take what others give you.
But it is all for nothing, if your country continues to go down this road,
Schools are dropping the Holocaust from history lessons to avoid offending Muslim pupils, a Government backed study has revealed. It found some teachers are reluctant to cover the atrocity for fear of upsetting students whose beliefs include Holocaust denial.And you see more and more of this.
There is also resistance to tackling the 11th century Crusades - where Christians fought Muslim armies for control of Jerusalem - because lessons often contradict what is taught in local mosques. ...
The study looked into ‘emotive and controversial’ history teaching in primary and secondary schools. It found some teachers are dropping courses covering the Holocaust at the earliest opportunity over fears Muslim pupils might express anti-Semitic and anti-Israel reactions in class.
...Britain's 1.6 million Muslims, (are)about 2.7 percent of the population,...Indeed.
On a chilly night this winter, this pristine town in some of Britain's most untouched countryside voted to allow a former Christian church to become a mosque.
"We've been trying to get a place of worship for 30 years," said Sheraz Arshad, 31, the Muslim leader here, his voice rattling around the empty old Mount Zion Methodist Church that will house his mosque. "It's fitting it is a church: it is visually symbolic,
The Mount Zion Methodist Church became a factory for making scarves for export to the Middle East in the 1960s, when Christian church-going in Britain had already begun to decline.
Today, Britain has fewer than 500,000 practicing Methodists, and of its Christians, only about 6 percent are regulars at church, according to Peter Brierley, executive director of Christian Research.
At St. Mary Magdalene Church, where the first stone was laid in the 12th century, the congregation has dropped to about 90 people on Sunday, and the average age of congregants is 75, said the Anglican vicar, Philip Dearden. Christenings are now rare, and he has only seven weddings booked for the year.
"Lancashire is the last place to see secularization in Britain," Mr. Dearden, 64, said. "We're seeing it now quite drastically. People don't have a conscience about religion; they don't come anymore."
In the nearby town of Kendal, an Anglican vicar, Alan Billings, has written a book, "Secular Lives, Sacred Hearts: The Role of the Church in a Time of No Religion."
He says the growing opposition to new mosques among the white population reflects an anxiety in Britain that has become more exposed since the London suicide bombings in July 2005.
"Often it's expressed as low objections, more cars, more people," said Mr. Billings, who is also a frequent contributor to the BBC's religious programs. "But it is really a deeper anxiety about what is happening in society. It is the fear of what will happen to the culture and feel of Britain."
At a Saturday gathering of about 50 believers, almost all of them white-haired, Mr. Billings warned that the church was under pressure. Islam could now be seen as an alternative to Christianity, he said.
On a recent Sunday, only one child turned up to Sunday school classes. The story books, paper and pencils lay unused as an elderly teacher tutored the 6-year-old boy in an otherwise empty room.
In contrast, Shamim Ahmed Miah, 26, a British-born mufti of Pakistani origin in Accrington, a town next to Clitheroe, teaches 30 Arabic and Koranic students, ages 5 to 15, in three sessions daily.
Mr. Miah coaxed 10 primary school students, seated at desks in a brightly lighted community center, to recite the Arabic alphabet. He handed out sheets of paper to each student for them to draw some letters. "Be gentle, this is an art," Mr. Miah said.
Mr. Arshad is considering inviting Mr. Miah to be the imam in Clitheroe. "He's progressive," he said.
In Blackburn, the constituency of Jack Straw, the leader of the House of Commons, there are 30,000 Muslims among a population of 80,000. But in a telltale sign for the future, the number of children 10 years and younger is evenly divided between Christian and Muslim.
As for the new mosque, there will be no obvious changes to the church's exterior, though the cross at the top will come down.