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.
Labels: british sailor, dignity, humiliation
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This analysis is incomplete. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does wish to be taken seriously but his actions were also a plea for justice.
Whether the British Sailors actually entered Iranian waters is of little consequence or interest. The capture of the sailors and the fact that they were relatively speaking treated with respect and dignity, was to draw attention to their 'civilised' response in contrast to the coalition forces. Weeks previously US forces had captured an Iranian diplomat who was flown to Guantanamo Bay and tortured. The Iranian stunt was to make people question their assumption that Western countries can take the moral high ground, and reassess preconceptions of the moral status of Iran.
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