While reading the reports and commentary regarding the abduction of fifteen British Royal Navy/Marine service members (fourteen men and one woman) by Iran, their subsequent release and the behavior of the service members before during and after the abduction, I was stuck by a certain notion.
Back in 2004, then vice-presidential candidate and present presidential candidate John Edwards (D-NC) opined that there were ‘Two Americas.’ To borrow the concept, I submit that there are ‘Two Western Civilizations’: one which recognizes that there are some things worth fighting (and dying) for and one which values personal safety over all else. That which falls under the 'all else' column includes the safety of other individuals, one’s home, one’s fellow service members, one’s country and one’s civilization. As I recall, the concept which is part of the former idea/ideal--the one in which non-personal items/concepts/entities are worth more than self-preservation--is known in the shorter version as honor.
In today’s press conference featuring some of the released service members, Royal Marine Captain Chris Air stated that “fighting back was not an option. Had we chosen to do so, then many of us would not be standing here today. Of that I have no doubts.”
While trying to wrap my mind around the fact of this type of statement issuing from the mouth of anyone with the description of “Marine,” I remembered that this was a British Marine and not the universally-feared “Devil Dogs” of the USMC. But then I remembered that the USMC (and the rest of the US Armed Forces) inherited most of its military concepts from the UK—that same UK whose Navy—and, therefore, Marines--were once even more universally feared by its prospective adversaries. Apparently, that time has passed.
Around the blogosphere, some commentators have opined that most of these sailors’/Marines’ American counterparts would never have allowed themselves to be captured without some form of resistance. How did they come to that conclusion? Likely, it’s due to the fact that all US military personnel are indoctrinated early on via the United States Military Code of Conduct.
Indeed this Code of Conduct sets objective standards of behavior for a member of the US Military who is evading capture or has been captured; it reads thusly:
Article I(Emphasis mine.)
I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.
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.
If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.
Should I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information nor take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not, I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way.
When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.
I will never forget that I am an American fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.
(As I recall, the knowledge of this Code was one of the first concepts taught in Air Force Basic Military Training School. Back then, each line which included the phrase “I am an American” began in this manner: “I am an American fighting Man.” Because of the growing number of women in the US Armed Forces, the phraseology was changed to its present form in 1988. Some say that the change watered down the power of the Code, but, as you may suspect, I disagree. If all Americans who put on Uncle Sam’s uniform are expected to live by this Code, then that should explicitly be reflected therein. And, as the Jessica Lynch story and this one demonstrate, women in the military can find themselves in situations for which the Code is applicable. However, I wonder how long that phrase about trusting in God will last.)
Does the UK Armed Forces have a similar objective standard of behavior to which its members are required to adhere under similar circumstances? I’m unable to find one, but I suspect that it does. (Well, at least, I hope that it does.) But whether it does or not, it seems that the behavior of these sailors/marines reflects the shrinking amount of persons in the West who believe that, at some point, it’s time to fight. To paraphrase Captain Air, it’s better to live on “to fight another day” than to fight back when threatened. Is this true?
If this is indeed true, then at what point is it better to fight back and risk death? For example, When Captain Air is an old man lying on his death bed, at what point will he be able to remember this situation and affirm that it was better not to fight back? Does that point in time and circumstance ever exist?
I certain hope it does—not only for the armed forces of our closest ally, but for all of us who value our civilization and its corresponding freedoms.
And I certainly hope than this point is not when we have nothing left to lose except for our lives.
[Re-edited. Yes, it happens.]
They should have known the Iranians might spring a trap. Several months before the current hostage crisis a small group of American and Iraqi soldiers had been patrolling near the Iranian border 75 miles east of Baghdad.I'm not mocking them. But have they fulfilled the prophecy of Osama bin Laden?
They spotted a single Iranian soldier lurking in Iraqi territory near the town of Balad Ruz and moved forward to question him. The Americans were, according to a US army report obtained by The Sunday Times, promptly ambushed by a much larger platoon of Iranian soldiers who had been hiding across the nearby border.
An Iranian captain warned the Americans that “if they tried to leave their location, the Iranians would fire upon them”. For a few moments the US paratroopers must have felt as helpless as the British sailors in inflatable speedboats who were surprised 10 days ago by more heavily armed Iranian vessels.
The US incident last September ended very differently. Firing broke out. Both sides scattered and a potential hostage crisis was averted as the Americans escaped unhurt.
By contrast, the 14 British service-men and one woman proved humiliatingly vulnerable to a low-tech Iranian naval manoeuvre that has provoked mocking headlines around the world.