The latest report is that the Britons were ready to fight off their abductors. Certainly their escorting ship, HMS Cornwall, could have blown the Iranian naval vessel out of the water. However, at the last minute the British Ministry of Defense ordered the Cornwall not to fire, and her captain and crew were forced to watch their shipmates led away into captivity.
So New Labour is interfering politically in operational decisions at the front line. Iain approves of the decision in this particular case, but that isn't the real issue.
Sun Tzu the great Chinese general of ancient times and author of "The Art of War" was no gung-ho type. His most famous teaching was that "to win without fighting is best." But he was also clear that the authority of a general's political masters ends, when the general is in the field. Operational decisions must be taken by the military commanders on the ground. Only they are able to take the correct decisions on the spur of the moment. Any attempt to govern operational matters politically is usually fatal.
Taunted by a king and his courtiers about his martial abilities Sun Tzu once agreed to demonstrate them by marshalling the king's concubines. When the women made a joke of the whole process, Sun Tzu ordered the execution of the king's favourite. The king protested, but Sun Tzu told him that his authority as ruler ended once his troops were in the field. The woman was duly executed and Sun Tzu's point was made.
We have put our soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen in harm's way to meet a political objective. Once that objective has been set, the government must allow their commanders the discretion to achieve it in their own way. It should rely on their professionalism, holding them accountable for the outcomes.
Morale in the forces must be appalling at this moment. They know this government's priorities better than any of us - and they are clear that they themselves are nowhere near the top of the list.
Quite simply, this government is unfit for power. The present hostage incident demonstrates that point as clearly as Sun Tzu demonstrated his. The Iranians are making us look fools, which is fair enough. Only fools would be led by such people as these.