Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Release of British sailors demonstrates the power of dignity

The recent release of 15 British sailors, held for two weeks by Iran, provides more evidence that “all of history is the quest for dignity.” Apparently what Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants most is to be taken seriously and to gain the respect of world leaders. Prime Minister Tony Blair allowed him that respect while negotiating for the release of the sailors. Both respect and humiliation are powerful tools in the diplomatic arsenal. Respect is often repaid with compliance. Humiliation is almost always repaid with violence. In this case it cost little or nothing to allow Ahmadinejad to preserve his dignity. Thoughtful observers are likely to conclude that the sailors never entered Iranian waters, their confessions were coerced, and the entire incident was another sophomoric adventure by the Iranians. In contrast, labeling Iran as part of the axis of evil humiliates the Iranians, and elicits a predictable and violent response.