Belfast, Northern Ireland - Twenty-five years ago, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher forcefully and decisively ordered British troops to the Falkland Islands to liberate them from an invading Argentine force. It was a military and political triumph widely supported by the public, leading to conservative victories at the polls for another 15 years.
Today, Tony Blair presides over a much different Britain. After Iran seized 15 British soldiers and sailors in what it says were Iranian, not Iraqi waters, the Daily Mail called it "a humiliating week for Britain: a week that saw Iran get away with piracy, kidnap and blackmail, a week fanatics played cat-and-mouse with (Britain); a week exposing feebleness at home and impotence abroad."
In 1980, Jimmy Carter's failed rescue of American diplomats held hostage by Iranian religious fanatics added to the perception of American weakness, as has America's inability to bring a quick end to the conflict in Iraq, thanks in part to Iran's support of terrorists there.
The one calculation made then is the one Iran is making now: the West is weak and will allow itself to be humiliated before Muslim states in order to preserve the lives of and win freedom for its citizens, and that it doesn't have the staying power to persevere in Iraq and other places should its nose get bloodied.
The Falklands victory is being used by much of the British media to mark Tony Blair as weak and indecisive. Blair, who has been a stalwart supporter of American efforts in Iraq and the battle against Muslim fanatics in Britain, is pilloried in the Sunday Telegraph for his "unquestioning support of the United States," which has "made us the easy target for Middle Eastern countries who want to take action against America, but fear that country's military might."
This gets it exactly backward. Britain is not an easy target of fanatics because of Blair's support of the United States. Britain is a target because it is Britain, just as France, Germany and the rest of Europe are targets for their openness, freedom and democracy. For not banding together as free people, we all risk hanging individually; as Tehran and others prepare the noose from which the weak and indecisive will hang. This is not a war any of us can escape. It is a war that can only be won or lost.
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