So, in conclusion, it is imperative that the world not give in to any Iranian demands to secure the release of the British hostages and– Whoa. Wait a minute . . . Breaking news . . . According to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the 15 kidnapped British sailors are to be released. Damn it! No, wait, don’t misunderstand, that’s a good thing. It’s only that the column that I was just sprucing up for publication about this whole affair now has to be rewritten. I know, that sounds insufferably self-centered of me, but these columns don’t write themselves, they’re quite a lot of work.

On second thought, however, maybe the column doesn’t need to be totally rewritten since most of the salient points it made are still as applicable as ever. Let’s see . . . A change here, a tweak there . . . Yep, I think this’ll work. We’ll begin with what was to be the second paragraph:

This is just the latest Iranian hostage crisis, of course, as opposed to any of the previous Iranian hostage crises. You know, like the last time Iran kidnapped some British sailors, which was back in 2004. Or the time they held Americans hostage for 444 days during the Carter administration. Or any of the many times their fully-funded and fully-supported proxies, the Hezbollah terrorists, took American, Israeli or other hostages.

This latest Iranian hostage crisis must have Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad positively brimming with nostalgic reminiscences of those heady days when he was a student and was among those (allegedly) who pulled off the original and the mother of all Iranian hostage crises, the takeover of the American embassy in Tehran. Ah, to be young again!

But it ain’t half bad to be middle-aged, either, especially when you have terrorist tendencies and you get to be the president of a country that is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. Talk about having your cake and eating it too.

So why have the Iranians done this now? Granted, this is Iran we’re talking about and taking hostages is part of the political culture of this radical rogue Islamic regime. But we can be fairly certain this wasn’t just a spontaneous act of hostage-taking on the part of the naval forces of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards who were momentarily overcome by the spirit of Islamic terrorism. There is more likely some elaborate strategy behind it that is calculated to give Iran some sort of advantage as it butts heads with the civilized world over nuclear and/or other issues.

A recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal laid out a number of possible motivations:

1.) It could be payback for — or even as ransom for the return of — Ali Reza Asgari, Revolutionary Guards commander, who apparently defected recently and is said to know a great deal about Iran’s nuclear program.

2.) The Iranians might believe that Tony Blair is willing to pay a steep price to secure the release of the hostages before he leaves office later this year.

3.) The Iranians might want to bargain with Blair’s presumed successor, Gordon Brown, whom they suspect might take a softer line about the whole thing.

4.) Iran might be trying to create a rift between Britain and the U.S. by offering to trade the British hostages for Iranians that the U.S. has recently detained inside Iraq.

5.) Iran may be seeking to draw Britain and the U.S. into limited military skirmishes that they think could shore up domestic support against widening popular discontent.

6.) Iran might hope that any threat on the part of the Bush administration to actually do something would embolden the spineless, Democratically-controlled Congress to pass legislation forbidding an attack on Iran without Congressional permission.

7.) Iran might have still been angry over the recently released movie “300,” which Javad Shamqadri, an art advisor to Ahmadinejad, said is “part of a comprehensive U.S. psychological war aimed at Iranian culture.”

Actually, that last one, number 7, was my theory and was meant to be tongue-in-cheek since nobody would be crazy enough to start an international incident over their reaction to a movie. Anyway, whatever the reason for the hostage-taking, the more important issue is what is anybody going to do about it and so far, other than a lot of windy officials proclaiming their discontent and serious concern over the matter, the answer appears to be little or nothing.

(Okay, now I’ve got to do some serious editing and deleting in this middle section of the column. We’ll just skip down to this next part, which is still very relevant.)

What about the British people? Are they clamoring for some sort of forceful action to resolve the unjustified kidnapping of their sailors? According to an ICM opinion poll for The Sunday Telegraph, the resounding answer is no. Only seven percent are in favor of even preparing for military action at this stage of the situation. Most back the government’s position of continued diplomacy and fully a quarter want Britain to apologize and ask for the captives back.

What can you call this other than pathetic? The British people don’t seem to know who they are or what their values are anymore. It’s like they’re a bunch of random people who just happen to be living on the same rainy island together, but in terms of standing for something or having some kind of national identity, they’re jolly well clueless.

Do any of them particularly care when their young captive soldiers get paraded around on camera and forced to make apologetic confessions to a third-rate barbarian power? Does it bother them to see one of their young women dressed up in Muslim garb and humiliated in front of the world? How about their soldier forced to stand in front of a map and illustrate for the world how he and his comrades had illegally entered Iranian waters and express his understanding of why the anger of his Iranian captors is so justifiable?

(Now, I suppose I need to delete the original paragraph about the military action that needs to be taken since the crisis is over and– Nope, I take it back. I’ll leave it in because it can still be argued that military action should have been taken since Iran’s actions should have been considered an act of war.)

Iran has one gasoline refinery in the entire country. The rest of their gasoline comes from outside the country. So, the refinery should be destroyed and the Iranian coast blockaded to prevent refined gasoline from coming in from outside. That would bring Iran’s economy, which is a basket case to begin with, to its knees in short order and that’s the end of their hostage-taking for a long time to come.

It’s Military Strategy 101 and could be easily pulled off even by those who slept through half the classes. The problem is there’s no political or popular will for action due to the fact that Britain’s populace has devolved into a mostly timorous and somnolent bunch severely in need of remedial courses in Defending One’s Country and Civilization.

(Okay, now comes what was to have been the final paragraph. I’ll just leave it in as is since it conveys the uncertainty and frustration with the situation and still makes a salient point.)

No one knows how long this particular Iranian hostage crisis will last. It could be resolved by the time this piece is finished. Or come Boxing Day, British newscasts might begin with, “This is day 278 of the Iranian hostage crisis.” Either way, it appears extremely doubtful that Iran will pay any meaningful price for committing what in any other era would have been considered an act of war and would not have been stood for. Therefore, expect more of the same. And if you think the civilized world’s response is lame now, wait until Iran goes nuclear.

That’s it. Now to wrap up the rewrite with some comments about the sudden news of the release of the hostages. Ahmadinejad said he had “pardoned” the sailors as a gift to the British people. He also said that this gesture was to mark the birthday of Islam’s Prophet Mohammed and Easter.

Oh, please! Gag me with a spoon. Wouldn’t you love to have ten minutes alone in a room with that munchkin Muslim terrorist so you could rearrange a few of his facial features and get the truth out of him and maybe even get an apology for the never-ending trouble his country causes the rest of the world?

We’ll probably never know exactly why they kidnapped the sailors to begin with or why they decided to release them now, but we do know some other rather discomfiting facts. The West, and Britain in particular, looked very weak in the face of what should have been regarded as an act of war. The West has a serious problem right now with civilizational self-confidence. It’s evidenced every day in a thousand ways, particularly by its dalliances with extreme multiculturalism and its absurd tolerance in its midst of those cultures which themselves have no tolerance of others and which actually seek the destruction of Western tolerance.

Iran is still ruled by Islamic head cases, still seeks nuclear weapons, still wants Israel wiped off the map, still seeks Middle Eastern hegemony and will probably get away with their latest round of hostage-taking without any serious consequences. There will be plenty more analysis to come, but for now, suffice it to say that the West, and especially Britain, did itself no favors in its timid handling of this latest Iranian outrage.

Greg Strange provides conservative commentary with plenty of acerbic wit on the people, politics, events and absurdities of our time. See more at his website:

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