. . . A leading second-rank power whose troops are kidnapped and publicly humiliated cannot wait a week and then react by tentatively talking about talking to the EU about talking to the UN about talking about a sanctions resolution.
Without this incident, Britain would have spent the last week marking the 25th anniversary of the Falklands War. As John O’Sullivan recounts in his excellent book The President, The Pope And The Prime Minister, there was a real "Falklands effect" in the wake of that war: Nobody thought the toothless old British lion would fight back and re-take the islands, especially after the humiliations inflicted by Iran on America, embodied by Jimmy Carter as a smiling eunuch. Neither Iran nor the Falklands had any direct connection with the Cold War, but the former marked the depths of western self-enfeeblement and the latter the dividing line between the territorial losses of the Seventies and the rollback of the Eighties.
Realists talk a lot about "deterrence". But you can’t deter if you have no credibility. And that’s what bleeds away in London and Washington every day.