EARLY Sunday morning, the US Navy lost its nerve and guaranteed that American sailors will die at Iranian hands in the future.
As three of our warships passed through the Straits of Hormuz, five small Iranian patrol craft rushed them. As the Revolutionary Guard boats neared our vessels, an Iranian officer broadcast a threat to our ships, claiming they'd soon explode.
The Iranians tossed boxes into the water. Mines? Just in case, our ships took evasive action.
The Iranians kept on coming, closing to a distance of 200 meters - about two football fields. Supposedly, our Navy was ready to open fire but didn't shoot because the Iranians turned away at the moment the order was given.
We should've sunk every one of them.
The Mullahs are religiously-sanctioned bullies. The President of Iran is a short, pathetic thug. What is the best way to deal with these grownup bullies and thugs?
They are already engaged in killing Americans and have been for quite some time. And they know that they have several layers of protection that make it safe for them to behave as they like. They have deduced on the basis of past responses to their provocative actions that there will be no consequences for such behavior--wither from those who are the direct recipients of that behavior; or from the international community at large.
In "Showdown at the U.K. Corral" I wrote:
Consider, if the leaders of the free world cannot respond appropriately and decisively to the latest Iranian hostage crisis (and you think they would remember the consequences of the last one--particularly on the so-called "legacy" of Jimmy Carter), then the crisis will only escalate. What Carter did (and didn't do) 25 years ago paved the way for 9/11 and the many crises we are dealing with today; what future horrors will the selfish and malignant pacifism of today's left pave the way for in the next decade?
The Mullahs are watching and have a great big Cheshire cat grin on their face. They almost certainly have concluded from the useless British and international response that they can get away with practically anything now.
The key behavioral factor in extinguishing undesirable behavior is never to reinforce the behavior you are trying to extinguish. This fact is essential to understand, particularly when dealing with bullies who hail from a shame-phobic culture. The desire to preserve honor and avoid shame to the exclusion of all else is one of the primary foundations of the culture, and it has the side-effect of giving the individual carte blanche to engage in wrong-doing when they believe they have the upper hand.
In fact, any and all attempts to placate or reason with them will only result in their behavior escalating. That is because they sense weakness; and your weakness presents them with the opportunity to maximize both their own honor (such as it is) and your shame.
Bullies and thugs will not suddenly develop respect for your profound desire for peace and your non-violent, even appeasing, intentions--no matter how sincerely you express them. On the contrary, they conclude that you are weak and that there will be no consequences if they continue to push you around.
Once again, Iran has confirmed their beliefthat they are dealing with a paper tiger when they take on the West.
Charles Krauthammer noted that multilateralism and turning to the "international community" to handle the bad guys in the world has been singularly ineffective:
The result is utterly predictable. Nothing has been done about the Iranian bomb. In fact, the only effective sanctions are those coming unilaterally out of the U.S. Treasury.
Remember the great return to multilateralism — the new emphasis on diplomacy and "working with the allies" — so widely heralded at the beginning of the second Bush administration? To general acclaim, the cowboys had been banished and the grown-ups brought back to town.
What exactly has the new multilateralism brought us? North Korea tested a nuclear device. Iran has accelerated its march to developing the bomb. The pro-Western government in Beirut hangs by a thread. The Darfur genocide continues unabated.
The capture and release of the 15 British hostages illustrate once again the fatuousness of the "international community" and its great institutions. You want your people back? Go to the EU and get stiffed. Go to the Security Council and get a statement that refuses even to "deplore" this act of piracy. (You settle for a humiliating expression of "grave concern"). Then turn to the despised Americans. They'll deal some cards and bail you out.
(***see cartoon below for more on the complex UN multitasking activities as they deal with evil in the world)
This pattern of positively reinforcing the negative behavior of our enemies as we simultaneously negatively reinforce every effort to confront and deal with that negative behavior indicates a psychological denial and delusion so profound that it is simply stunning in its pathology.
No matter how you look at it--either from a behavioral or a psychological perspective--it seems clear that things are only going to be going from bad to worse in the immediate future. And make no mistake about it, Iran will do something like this again. And the next time they will be interested in seeing how much further they can go with their antics--Can they kill an American or two without reprisal? How about kidnap some sailors right off the ship? They already know they can send explosives to Iraq and detain Americans without too much outrage or reprisals.
As Peters says at the beginning of his article, our tepid response to the Iranian attempt to humiliate our Navy has ensured that Iranian provocations will escalate.