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A strange and dismal trip

Posted by Richard on April 7, 2007

In his new Townhall column, Dean Barnett compared a random collection of civilians unexpectedly facing death aboard an airliner to a group of British sailors and marines conducting military operations on a warship. The limeys don't fare so well in the comparison:

On 9/11, the passengers aboard United Flight 93 had an option – they could rely on the good intentions of their captors or they could fight back. When presented with this Hobson's choice, they responded with the words "Let's roll." Their ensuing actions were the very definition of heroism.

A few weeks ago, 15 British seamen and marines, soldiers of the Royal Navy, found themselves in a similar quandary. Belligerent Iranians had surrounded them and threatened them with both words and actions. Just as the passengers on Flight 93 had a choice, so too did the British seamen who ultimately spent a couple of weeks as hostages of the Iranian regime. Why did these soldiers, the products of military training and representatives of Her Majesty's flag, make the decision to surrender themselves? Because, according to their Captain at a Friday press conference, "Fighting back was simply not an option."

What a strange and dismal trip it has been for the Western world, going from "Let's Roll" to "Fighting Back Was Not An Option" in scarcely more than five years. One can only hope that when the history of our era is written, the former will turn out to be the immortal quote, not the latter.

Barnett acknowledged that he, as a "keyboard warrior," has slight status for criticizing those who were in harm's way. But he found strong support for his reaction from Medal of Honor recipient Jack Jacobs. Read the whole thing. Allahpundit has the relevant video clips, along with the dispiriting news that the British Navy has ceased inspecting cargo ships bound for Iraq.

Like Barnett, I'm hesitant to criticize those in uniform from the comfort of my civilian chair. But this whole incident leaves a bad taste in my mouth — especially with the culmination that Iran is now free to smuggle its sophisticated explosives and weapons into Iraq. How is this not an abject surrender by Britain and an undeserved victory for Iran?

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4 Responses to “A strange and dismal trip”

  1. jed said

    In an article expressing a similar sentiment, John Derbyshire remembers Private Moyse.

  2. rgcombs said

    Interesting article, Jed, thanks. But I disagree with Derbyshire (and by extension, Orwell). I share his contempt for the “multi-culti fantasies” and for those willing to prostate themselves before even being asked. But he and Orwell are completely off-base about “racial pride, leader-worship, religious belief, love of war.” Those are decidedly ”not” the only alternative to multi-culturalism, and irrational emotions and bigotry are ”not” what today’s Brits are lacking.

    What they’re lacking is a willingness to judge — to look at the mullahs of Iran and the values they espouse, the world they wish to create, and the way they behave, and to declare, “I’ll be ”’damned”’ if I’ll cooperate with you contemptible scum in any way!”

    True, one ”can” judge other people and cultures on irrational grounds such as race or nationality, but that’s certainly not the ”only” way. In fact, it’s not a very good way, if you value liberty and the individual. Derbyshire is way off base on that. The contradictions he speaks of weren’t the “great genius of the English-speaking peoples” — in fact, they were the flaws in the foundation, weakening the structure of Western Civilization.

    When you say to people, “You should value our race/nation/culture above all others without having any reason for doing so, just because you ”feel” it,” you’re implicitly saying that there ”is” no good reason. Regarding race, of course, that’s true. But regarding nations and cultures, there are very good, rational reasons for judging some as superior to others. Far superior.

    The Derbyshire/Orwell approach, by abandoning the idea of a reasoned, principled defense of Western values, concedes far too much. It makes choosing the values of the Enlightenment over those of 7th-century Arabia merely a matter of prejudice and preference, not much more significant or defensible than a liking for English cuisine.

    Emotions can be a powerful motivator in the short run. But in the long run, more people will fight for an idea than for a mere matter of taste.

  3. Dana said

    Interesting comparison…thanks for sharing. Something about military training and just taking orders comes to mind, but I don’t know that that would be at all relevant.

    It seems that the world is slowly taking the “fighting back is not an option” route…so I guess we roll over and take it.

  4. VRB said


    You said it. Military training. I thought them making statements were just to soon unless they were reacting to torture. Perhaps they were reacting to fear. All that is required, even when they would surrender is their name, rank and serial number.

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