Dean Barnett

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.

IT MAY SEEM EASY AND UNSEEMLY FOR A KEYBOARD WARRIOR like me to criticize the conduct of the British troops. Perhaps it is too easy; I have never been in a situation comparable to the one these men (and woman) were in. I can’t say with any confidence how I would respond.

But I can say with some confidence how I would hope to respond; I hope my response would be nothing like that of the British seamen. And I’d like to think my life experience has helped me arrive at this worldview. A half-decade of serious illness has forced me to accustom myself to looking death squarely in the eye on an ongoing basis. At some point, you come to a realization that death is inevitable. And you also come to appreciate that there are things worse than death. Just as there are things worth living for, there are things worth dying for. One’s own honor and especially the honor of one’s country must be among those things if you don the uniform of your country’s military.

In spite of the foregoing, I understand and acknowledge that my résumé for discussing such matters is slight. But MSNBC military analyst Jack Jacobs’ is not.

Jacobs won the Medal of Honor for his heroism in Vietnam. According to his Medal of Honor citation, Jacobs received the Medal “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.”

Dean Barnett

Dean Barnett blogs almost daily at He has also been a frequent contributor to the Weekly Standard's online edition, The Daily Standard. He can be reached for comment at

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