March 31st, 2007

Who’s the audience for the show trial?

Now the Iranians are saying the British sailors might be tried:

If Britain continued its current approach to the standoff, Larijani told Iranian state radio, “this case may face a legal path. British leaders have miscalculated this issue.”

I think there’s no question the Brits have made some miscalculations, beginning with the lack of firepower at the start of it. The actual details of the situation involved in the sailors’ abduction is unclear, though; I’ve read many conflicting reports.

I hope Iran has miscalculated as well, in its opinion that it has nothing to fear by actions of this sort. They seem to believe the West is, in the old phrase, a “paper tiger— a gargantuan Gulliver bound, tied, and rendered helpless by its own busy internal Lilliputians.

Who’s the audience for the latest show trial? Certainly not the West; all but the fringiest of the fringe is aware of the bogus nature of such a trial. My guess is that they are playing to their own masses, who may or may not be buying what they’re selling.

It used to be that propaganda of this sort had more effect back in the days when it was easier to regulate the dissemination of information to a population. A country such as North Korea still does this quite effectively, but the price North Korea pays is isolation from the rest of the world and economic stagnation. Iran ‘s people have more conduits of competing information through which to judge the truth or falsehood of the antics of their own government.

But of course there’s no need for a show trial to ever happen. Threatening one has another effect—making Iran seem powerful, and Britain and the West weak as we fumble around for the proper response, and as we say things like the following, from Britain’s Foreign Office:

This doesn’t change our position, we have made it perfectly clear that our personnel were in Iraqi waters and we continue to request immediate consular access to them and their immediate release.

Note the polite language: “request.” I can only hope they are doing more than “requesting” behind the scenes. But for public consumption, what we mostly hear is a sort of exquisite politeness from the Brits. Here’s Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett:

I am concerned. [Iran's ambassador to Moscow] is not the first person to have made sabre-rattling noises…The message I want to send is I think everyone regrets that this position has arisen. What we want is a way out of it.

I personally don’t think that’s the right message to send. There’s a sort of wistful wishful thinking here, a refusal to understand the nature of the opposition, a denial that can only be described as potentially suicidal.

Blair has been a little more energized, but not very much more, considering the circumstances:

Blair told reporters in Manchester that the “parading and manipulation” of British service personnel would “fool no one,” and would only “enhance people’s sense of disgust with Iran.”

And another Foreign Office official called the parading “outrageous.”

Outrage and disgust are fine, but they are emotions, and fairly impotent ones at that. What are needed are credible threats of a certain course of events—economic and otherwise—that will be followed by the West if the sailors are not returned immediately. A bit of “sabre-rattling” wouldn’t be out of line, either.

The truth is that the precedent for this sort of thing favors Iran, and Iran knows it. Milk it as much as possible for the propaganda value, and know that the West will probably mouth platitudes while the show goes on.

6 Responses to “Who’s the audience for the show trial?”

  1. jng Says:

    telegraph.co.ukOne wonders what Iran’s strategy might be without a complaisant Western press. Were the mullahs aware they would be surrounded with cries of outrage and condemnation from the halls of the media, would they proceed differently. There is a media relation angle to this ploy.
    Of course, outrage is not the case, not even from Nancy Pelosi. And today’s media is little changed from that of several years ago where the CNN correspondent who reported Iraqi news used text prepared by Saddam’s foreign office. The media choose their allegiances.
    The bleakness of the present situation dismays the Telegraph (UK) at the below link: (PJ media)

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/03/31/wiran131.xml

  2. Ymarsakar Says:

    Now the Iranians are saying the British sailors might be tried:

    This gets funnier and funnier, Neo. Release the genkai and it will be even more funny as the Iranians go up in smokes.

    We of course knew that things were going worse because of the US’s self-imposed restrictions. We could argue about the details of course, Neo, but in the end we both know that good is not served by weakness. Evil isn’t all that strong now a days, Neo. Not with the march of human goodness, progress, and civilization that billions of human lives lived through suffering and carnage, in the past thousands of years, to produce. Their sacrifice should not be in vain, Neo. Many people talk about future lives and current ones, and those are important. But the weight of human destiny and history rests upon the leaders of human progress, as well Neo. What will you say to their lives at the end of time? That we were just playing around cause it was fun to prolong Iran’s problems?

    What excuse is there for not being able to defeat evil now that the tide is finally turning away from death and despair, towards light and happiness on this planet? “We give up, it is too hard”? “Our ancestors sacrificed, and therefore we’ll freeload”?

    I think there’s no question the Brits have made some miscalculations, beginning with the lack of firepower at the start of it.

    First you have to have the “fire” before you can use the power. The fire of men’s souls are dimming, Neo. Maybe the women can get them to do something more productive.

    My guess is that they are playing to their own masses, who may or may not be buying what they’re selling.

    Totalitarian systems always worry about internal revolts. They must counter the revolution, for revolution was how they themselves achieved power. They want to ensure that no second revolution occurs to overthrow them and give them their just desserts. (or it might even be just deserts, given their location)

    Threatening one has another effect—making Iran seem powerful, and Britain and the West weak

    The criminal doesn’t threaten you because he wanted to kill you. He wants money and wealth or some other personal benefit. The intimidation game is just that, a game of show in order to coerce a specific behavior out of the victim. Iran developed this method during the Iranian Hostage Crisis, of course. That was the field test, and quite successful at that, meaning that the proponents gained status and street cred, propelling them into power later on.

    What we want is a way out of it.

    So cries the helpless victim. “We want out, we want safety, we want it to End

    Course, the Flight 93 freedom fighters yelled out something else in their final moments.

    There’s a sort of wistful wishful thinking here, a refusal to understand the nature of the opposition

    There’s a kind of helpless internal angst, to me. They are not aggressive enough. They do not have enough hate in their hearts. They are not fired up with killing and maiming, they are fired down in despair and defeat. Not something I would admire.

    Milk it as much as possible for the propaganda value, and know that the West will probably mouth platitudes while the show goes on.

    They probably intended the same thing when they killed the 5 US soldiers in Karbala in a covert raid, Neo. But something went wrong, or a whole slew of somethings went wrong. This just goes to show you that if the United States did boardings of merchant and naval craft in the Persian Gulf, we would have it relatively easy considering that there is no where to run on the seas… especially not when hunter-killer submarines are underneath it.

    People dislike and hate America the warmongering nation, Neo. But of course, Iran is the alternative. If they want to feel helpless, that’s their choice to make. But it is not ours, Neo.

  3. goesh Says:

    -and nobody is asking how the Iranians went about obtaining apologies. I suppose they could have promised them free fish n’ chips for life or threatened to infect them with AIDs. They wouldn’t want to use fire and tongs on them, now would they? I would imagine the blokes could be hung in public and not much would come of it. Well, there would be a UN panel established to debate the wording for a condemnation/reprimand. If we think they are bull-headed now, wait until they have nuclear weapons.

  4. Al Reasin Says:

    This action cannot stand. Too often the West has allowed attacks on our citizens and military with little or no penalty. It is beyond time for that to be corrected. As is human nature, when there are no consequences, those with little moral convictions continue or increase their abuse of the situation at hand. I believe in diplomacy, but not as the end all solution.

    It is true that if we and the British take military action there will be repercussions and world wide criticism. However, I see little criticism of Iran’s violation of international law, so therefore, I have concluded that it is time that we do what we have to do and forget about the meaningless international uproar that seems to be the response to anything we do.

    Great nations and people do what is right regardless of consequences. To do less usually means the next decision involves even greater risks.

  5. armchair pessimist Says:

    There is another audience here, the million or so muslims in the UK. In an outright war with the so-called islamic republic, does anybody doubt where the loyalties of these people would lie?

  6. A Blog For All Says:

    The Iran-Britain Crisis Continues…

    The Iran Iraq border in the region is set, and if the British concede that their position was in Iranian waters when it wasn’t, that puts the Iraqis at a disadvantage going forward as the waterway is their only terminus on the Persian Gulf. That too ….

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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