How can the nation that produced Drake, Nelson, Wellington, Churchill and Thatcher have come to this? How can the once-proud British people stand by helplessly while a tin-horn dictator holds their sailors and marines hostage? How can they settle for talk in a situation where only action will suffice?
It is impossible to picture the great Margaret Thatcher failing to respond to such an egregious and blatant act of war. But then, Tony Blair is a far cry from the Iron Lady. The Brits are losing the last vestiges of the strength and backbone that once made them a world power. Now they're even talking of banning Winnie the Pooh for fear that Piglet might offend the delicate sensibilities of the adherents of the "religion of peace." Apparently that same deference now extends to allowing the members of their military to be captured at will, without a swift and appropriately sharp response.
The facts of the capture are distressing as well. You should read the whole post at Big Lizards, but here's the most relevant portion:
The Iranian boats should never have been allowed to approach the dispatched boarding party without a fight. The moment the Cornwall detected them, they should have sent the Lynx helo aloft and radioed for air support. The ship was about 50 km from Basra, where the British have a sizeable contingent -- including Harriers.
At a relatively sedate 360 knots (667 km/hr), well within the Harrier's operational range, it would take a squadron about 4.5 minutes flight time. Add in 10 minutes to scramble (they should actually be faster, if they're doing their jobs right)... and a quick radio call when the Iranians first entered Iraqi waters would have gotten air support overhead before the Iranians even reached the marines and sailors.
When the Iranians began firing guns and threatening the British sailors and marines, it would have been child's play for three or four Harriers to sink the Iranian vessels in Iraqi waters.
This was once the theme song of an empire--Rule Britannia
When Britain first, at heaven's command,
Arose from out the azure main;
This was the charter of the land,
And guardian Angels sung this strain:
Rule, Britannia, rule the waves;
Britons never will be slaves.
The nations, not so blest as thee,
Must, in their turns, to tyrants fall:
While thou shalt flourish great and free,
The dread and envy of them all.
Apparently not so much any more.