Barry and the Pirates

It is particularly telling that Barack Obama spent part of his State of the Union speech telling us that the state of our Union is strong while Iranian pirates seized two U.S. Navy vessels and then, as pointed out by Rick Moran, violated the Geneva Conventions by publishing a photo of the captured sailors on their knees with their hands on their heads.

The Iranian action was both piracy and an intentional act of war against the United States.  If the boats strayed into Iranian waters due to navigational or mechanical problems, Iran was obliged under international law to render them assistance.  "Accidents in international air or sea traffic, even those involving military vessels, generally require nations to assist the victims and keep hands off the stricken planes or ships, the experts said."  Note also that "Iranian officials searched [the boats] for advanced technology and sensitive communications."

If this is not enough to define Iran's behavior as piracy and an act of war, Moran also pointed out that an Iranian general said openly that its purpose was to teach the United States a lesson.  "'This incident in the Persian Gulf, which probably will not be the American forces' last mistake in the region, should be a lesson to troublemakers in the U.S. Congress,' Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, head of Iran's armed forces, was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency."

The Iranian pirates then drove this point home by publishing humiliating images of our service members on their knees with their hands over their heads (a war crime) as well as captured American weapons.  In addition, we have to ask how the pirates managed to capture the boats in the first place.


Why Did the Boats Surrender?

Noting also that it is disgraceful for any soldier or sailor to give up his or her weapon except under the direst circumstances, this also is an intentional humiliation of the United States.  Napoleon Bonaparte, for example, once punished some men who had allowed themselves to be disarmed by a mob by forcing them to appear on parade with wooden swords.  The Code of Conduct for the U.S. Armed Forces reinforces this principle: "I will never surrender of my own free will.  If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist."

Surrender is therefore acceptable only in the face of overwhelming force, when resistance would result in the futile loss of personnel and material.  While Iranian destroyers or frigates, possibly with support from aircraft and antiship missiles, might have constituted overwhelming force against ten sailors in two small boats, why were the U.S. destroyers and aircraft carriers that should have supported the boats out of position to do so?  The same question might be asked, by the way, why military support was not provided to our ambassador and his staff in Benghazi.

Vice President Joe Biden then lied to the American public by saying that the United States did not apologize to Iran: "Iran neither sought nor received an apology when 10 U.S. Navy sailors were taken into custody by the Islamic republic after drifting into Iranian waters."  Iran published simultaneously an apology extorted from the boats' commander: "It was a mistake. That was our fault and we apologize for our mistake." Noting that a captured service member is obliged to provide only his or her name, rank, and serial number, we must ask what kind of threats the pirates made against his crew members, and perhaps the female one in particular, to compel him to make this statement.

Shotgun Joe then added with a straight face, "The Iranians picked up both boats, as we have picked up Iranian boats that needed to be rescued" and then "released them like, you know, ordinary nations would do."  Is the vice president of the United States telling us that the United States also committed piracy on the high seas and war crimes by boarding the Iranian boats and forcing their sailors to kneel with their hands on their heads, searching the boats for sensitive and classified material and distributing humiliating photographs of the Iranian sailors?

Don't Give the Bully Your Lunch Money

The bottom line is that Iran demanded the United States' lunch money to see what the United States would do about it, and the United States as led by Barack Obama paid up.  This in turn assures Iran's theocrats that the United States will not raise a finger to stop them from building nuclear weapons in violation of their agreement with the United States, just as we have done nothing substantial about their test of a ballistic missile.

Alexander the Great said that he feared an army of sheep led by one lion more than he feared an army of lions led by a sheep, and Iran knows the United States to be led by a sheep.  Its piracy of U.S. Navy vessels and its humiliation of our service members proves that the Armed Forces of the United States, as led by Barack Obama, are less to be feared than an army of rabble led by somebody like Vladimir Putin.  When Turkey shot down a Russian aircraft and killed a Russian pilot, Putin did not apologize to Recep Erdoğan for purportedly violating Turkish airspace; he imposed economic sanctions to make Erdoğan regret it.

Anybody who knows anything about leadership realizes that the instant the bully demands your lunch money, you must knock him down on the spot, or else he will take your lunch money every day, and then perhaps your school books and everything else you have.  An excellent scene in Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe's Devil (1990, 139-140) illustrates this principle.

Richard Sharpe (played by Sean Bean in the TV series) has been pressed into service on a ship with some very unsavory characters, including a bully named Balin.  Balin says he likes Sharpe's English coat and moves to take it from him, whereupon:

… the moment his hand took hold of the material Sharpe brought up his right boot, hard and straight, the kick hidden by the coat until the instant it slammed into Balin's groin. The big man grunted, mouth open, and Sharpe rammed his head forward, hearing and feeling the teeth break under his forehead's blow. [Sharpe continues to batter him even after he is down and then] … he stooped, plucked a good bone-handled knife from Balin's belt, picked his coat up from the deck, and looked around. "Does anyone else want an English coat?"

Rudyard Kipling made the same point in his poem "Dane-Geld."  "And that is called paying the Dane-geld; But we've proved it again and again, That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld; You never get rid of the Dane."  The world learned this principle the hard way when Neville Chamberlain let Adolf Hitler steal his lunch money, along with Czechoslovakia, at Munich.  Chamberlain could not have told Hitler more plainly that Hitler could take what he wanted, and do whatever he wanted, without repercussions.  Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and John Kerry just told Iran's dictators the same thing.

There was a time when the sight of an American flag promised nothing but instant and violent death to any pirate who made the slightest move to attack the vessel in question – rather than "take whatever you want," as it does under the Obama regime.  This makes it more important than ever to elect somebody who will not tolerate for an instant violence against our country or our Armed Forces.  That somebody is not among the Democratic Party's candidates.

William A. Levinson, P.E., is the author of several books on business management including content on organizational psychology, as well as manufacturing productivity and quality.

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