The sober-minded manner in which the captive British sailors matter was handled had given me some hope that the country wasn’t being run by crazy people. Not so fast, reports the Guardian, whose after-action report on the crisis states that “Pentagon officials asked their British counterparts: what do you want us to do,” and “offered a series of military options” including “for US combat aircraft to mount aggressive patrols over Iranian Revolutionary Guard bases in Iran.” The British government, however, wasn’t looking to be used as a pretext for war, but actually wanted to handle the issue at hand. “The British declined the offer and said the US could calm the situation by staying out of it. London also asked the US to tone down military exercises that were already under way in the Gulf.” Meanwhile, “The British government also asked the US administration from Mr Bush down to be cautious in its use of rhetoric, which was relatively restrained throughout.”
And, well, good for Britain.
To me, the view that this affair was some kind of humiliation for the West or a PR coup for Iran is nutty and says more about the bloody-minded instincts of Americas hawks than it does about events in the world. The important issue in US-Iranian relations remains the Iranian nuclear program. One key variable here remains the attitudes of a wide swathe of countries who don’t necessarily put a tremendous priority on this issue. What went down over the hostages is exactly the sort of thing likely to make policymakers in, say, Argentina or Belgium or South Korea inclined to see the Iranian regime as dangerously unpredictable and prone to envelope-pushing and the anti-Iranian coalition as being led by responsible people. Now, of course, it turns out that the anti-Iranian coalition wasn’t quite as responsible as it seemed.