It's hard to overstate what a non-event last week's "capture" of U.S. Navy personnel who were detained in Iran for all of about 15 hours after straying into Iranian territorial waters. Information released by the Navy today underscores how routine the incident was, with the exception of the sailors being taken off the ships briefly for clumsy Iranian military propaganda purposes.

That timeline and the White House response are an example of how international relations are supposed to work in a world run by adults. Since provoking war with Iran while trying to get them to accede to the terms of an agreement to limit their nuclear program presumably is not on the agenda, we can be pretty confident that, conspiracy theories aside, the detour from international waters was either a pure accident or a simple case of young officers trying to shave some time and fuel off their route with a quick shortcut. As Ben Carson and the other GOP candidates were busy trying to turn this into Iranian Hostage Crisis 2016, the non-incident was over before they could even settle on alarmist rhetoric.

The psychology of elected officials and voices in the media that demand that the U.S. "look tough" and "stand up to" Iran, suggesting that somehow what happened is a source of enduring national shame, is both obvious and sad. Why were Iranians able to board the ships? Presumably because the Navy personnel judged correctly that their minor detour was not worth starting a bullet exchange over. Why didn't Obama stand up and start beating his chest and issuing ultimatums? Presumably because we made a mistake and that's OK. It happens. We made a very, very insignificant mistake and nobody got hurt and it doesn't amount to a hill of beans. The best way to play this isn't to escalate it, but to give Iran a good, condescending, "A propaganda video? Come on dude, that's so North Korea."

There are a lot of people in this country who appear, at least in their political views, unable to admit a mistake without being struck dead by shame and humiliation. I feel really sorry for them and the people who have to interact with them. What an exhausting, pointless waste of energy it must require to keep up that facade, to choose to saber-rattle and fight over every little thing lest one Shows Weakness in Front of the Russians. It's nothing short of amazing how much the words "I'm sorry" can simplify life, even if, as is often the case in international affairs, you aren't entirely sincere. There's nothing wrong with that. Especially when dealing with an incident so insignificant that no amount of histrionics can make anyone care about it let alone look at it as a great national crisis.

23 thoughts on “I DRIVE A DODGE STRATUS”

  • Funny how Iran is almost our best friend in the region at this point, given that Bibi is utterly off the reservation and Iraq has turned from puppet state to failed state. The Iranians might be the only one answering our phone calls, and if the shitstorm in Syria is going to have anyrresolution, the Iranians are going to be front and center. Why should this be a bad thing? If not for a few decades of pointless dickswinging, Iran and the US could have a cordial, not to say friendly, relationship. It's not like we don't have a lot in common.

  • @hoosierpoli: Turkey is still, more or less, an American ally (although like everyone else it has its own agenda). But yes, long term it makes sense to do business with the somewhat pragmatic and functional theocracy (Iran), instead of the totally corrupt and clueless absolute monarchy (Saudi Arabia).

  • Oh if only it were merely political beliefs that RWNJ can't admit are wrong. It's everything they do and say and, if you dispute any of it, they smirk because you're one of the sheeple misled by the government schools and they know better because their pastor said so.

  • 54% of the US 2015 discretionary budget was spent on "defense" or national security related costs: http://www.visualcapitalist.com/death-taxes-2015-visual-guide-tax-dollars-go/

    Now how the hell can that be justified if there's no axis of evil, no radical islamic terrorism, no responsibility to protect, no dead-enders, no freedom oppressors, etc.

    Unfortunately we choose not to complain about Bahrain's repressive regime, Egypt's military overthrow of an entire party that was democratically elected, or muddle much at all in Central/South American politics (well, of course we do…and a lot…and push lots of military that way). There has to be a villain somewhere but Russia is too far away and can't be directly confronted and China is too boring. Even the best hawks can't justify tremendous fights over strips of artificial islands.

    Until China does something useful like invading Vietnam or even better Taiwan the military has to find the threatiest threat and treat it like it's going to end the world tomorrow. How else do you sell $8 billion aircraft carriers and get money election cycle after election cycle.

  • Major Kong, too fucking many. Been my experience that looking tough and posturing generally means you are scared and unsure of your place in the herd.

  • The mentality described by our esteemed host is unfortunately all too common. Many of our friends on the right side of the aisle, and most definitely their supporters, simply cannot admit a mistake much less change their mind not only in the face of fact, but also (and perhaps more importantly) when circumstances conflict with their chosen worldview. I think that sizable portion of those on the other side is composed of people just like this. Such is often the foundation behind many a Thanksgiving day argument between family members.

    As for me, I try to operate in keeping with Bertand Russell's quote (paraphrased):

    "The essence of the liberal outlook lies not in what opinions are held, but how they are held; instead of being held dogmatically, they are held tentatively, and with a consciousness that new information may at any moment lead to their abandonment."

    In short, I can change my mind; too many people on the right just can't do it, for whatever reason. I would posit that education coupled with a will to learn, and with at least one trip overseas to see how others in similar (to the USA) first-world circumstances live their lives, is quite important, maybe even essential, to having and living with this kind of outlook.

  • "As others have pointed out, just imagine if an Iranian military vessel was caught off the coast of Florida."

    That would NOT be the result of an officer trying shave some time off his route.

  • Yes indeed, Wim

    I think the amygdala has a lot to answer for. Fear. Fear of humiliation. Humiliation that starts in grade school, when you discover that other kids are rewarded for being smarter than you, and all you get is a ration of difficult homework and disregard. Someone is always smarter, stronger, more talented, better looking or richer than you, and society always manages to rub your nose in that fact.

    The only thing you can turn to to salvage self-respect is a dogmatic religious-style belief that you're more virtuous and righteous and better than all those other people because you follow some mysterious set of rules & rituals and they don't. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that a nice living can be made by selling this sort of emotional crack to those burning with humiliation. And it doesn't take the humiliated long to discover that, in groups, they can be real pains in the ass to the rest of society. Attention-getting behavior.

    Reactionary republicans are following a secular, dogmatic religion.
    Their high is to be the social equivalent of an anal wart.

    What to do with about such refractory people?

  • "That would NOT be the result of an officer trying shave some time off his route."

    "We sail to Havana, where the sun is warm, and so is the… comradeship."

  • Given its size and economic strength Iran is always going to be a strong candidate for the "regional power" in the Gulf region. Short of conquering or glassing the joint any Great Power wanting to caper about in that part of the world will have to deal with it on that basis, and a Great Power politician that wants to actually "govern" (including conducting a foreign policy not based on third-grade-level conceits) will have to deal with it as such, even if (as in this case) in a sort of mildly antagonistic/rivalry way.

    In that light this appears to have been a combination of the above along with a bog-standard sort of catch-and-release of rival naval vessels (see: USS Pueblo) as happens all the time between regional antagonists.

    The fact that about a third of the U.S. public (including the entire GOP presidential candidate field) is too stupid to figure that out is, sadly, entirely unsurprising.

  • Not only did the Republican wetpants brigade not like the Navy incident, but they complained about the OTHER prisoner release over the weekend. Obama may have negotiated some releases, but they didn't happen fast enough or he didn't make his demands public enough or whatever it is that SECRET MUSLIM does BEHIND CLOSED DOORS! If they figured out a way to include something being FORCED DOWN OUR THROATS by the black man, I haven't seen it yet in that context, but only because I dare not look for it.

  • Once Iran ramps up their oil production to 2 million barrels a day, we'll all be driving Dodge Stratuses.

    So you might want to get a head start and avoid traffic.

  • I own a sailboat and have sailed into different country's territorial waters several times. Every country requires an inspection by customs agents and, depending on the state of smuggling, the local Coast Guard may visit you many miles from land.

    In every case, your vessel is boarded and inspected. While the inspection is invariably polite, and expectation of privacy is completely removed from the process. Every single thing you have onboard is subject to inspection by the coast guard or customs officials.

    While I would be incensed if the police came into my home and did this, I have absolutely no qualms about letting foreign officials do the same thing. I know this is how it is and I accept the process by entering foreign waters.

    As a private, unarmed citizen, I can accept this treatment. If I were aboard an armed vessel from a foreign government who showed up in foreign waters unannounced, I would expect, perhaps, a higher level of scrutiny.

    This is, indeed, a non-issue. Demanding that we retaliate after we have clearly fucked up is not only impolite, it is beyond arrogant.

  • As a former Naval Officer, I can tell you definitively that the biggest travesty here is that the US Navy got busted conducting crappy navigation in a part of the world where none such thing can be countenanced. It's basically "Middle East 101" to avoid territorial waters when operating anywhere near Iran. For our sailors to screw up something this easy is just plain embarrassing…

  • Am I overthinking to presume that we were playing cat and mouse games in their waters to begin with–that this was not an adrift vessel with mechanical issues, or a boat that got lost (with the best GPS navigation technology on the planet no less)

  • You are overthinking…the "cat and mouse" you refer to is called FONOPS or "Freedom of Navigation Operations" in Navy speak. The Navy DOES NOT condcut FONOPS with small open-air craft that at best are armed with a single machine gun. This is truly a case of dumb sailors making a mistake or trying to cut corners and hope they don't get caught. One of my coworkers is married to someone from this unit and from what he's telling me this is one of those "shoulda had a V8" kind of moments for the crews that were detained.

  • H.M.S. Blankenship says:

    "It's almost as if they don't want U.S.-Iranian relations to improve, for some mysterious, electoral reason." _Roy Edroso of alicublog, writing about those on the right who blew up over this simoom in a samovar.

  • Nunya – the US Coast Guard operates the same way here in the US. They have full authority to stop and search your vessel at any time. And they're armed.

  • …I'm important! People are afraid of me!" Loving the obscure SNL reference!

    Also loving the fact that the incident was resolved so quickly that the Right Wing Noise Machine couldn't get their shit together fast enough to exploit it. Hilarious!

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