Watching the news today; the detention of fifteen British sailors and Royal Marines by the Iranian navy, I’m reminded of the “Don Pacifico” incident from my school GCE history, years ago.
Don Pacifico, a British citizen, lived and worked in Greece for a period of time as the Portuguese consul. In 1847 his home was attacked and vandalised by a mob whilst the police looked on and took no action. He appealed to the Greek government for compensation but when it was not forthcoming he appealed in 1848 to the British government.
Lord Palmerston, the Foreign Secretary took unilateral action in support of Pacifico, after the Greek government persisted in refusing to compensate him. He sent the Royal Navy to blockade Greek ports and harass Greek shipping. The blockade lasted 2 months. The affair ended only when the Greek government agreed to compensate Pacifico, after Greek ships were seized by the Royal Navy.
Palmerston received a great deal of criticism from both foreign powers and domestic politicians but defended his actions in a five hour speech before the House of Commons, comparing the British Empire to the Roman Empire. "As the Roman, in days of old, held himself free from indignity, when he could say, Civis Romanus sum [I am a Roman citizen], so also a British subject, in whatever land he may be, shall feel confident that the watchful eye and the strong arm of England will protect him from injustice and wrong."
So here’s the question for discussion. Does our present Prime Minister, Mr Blair, politely inform the Iranians that their ports will be blockaded or Tehran, swiftly removed from the map by one of our nuclear submarines, unless our sailors and their vessel are returned within 24 hours or will he grovel, through diplomatic channels, over many days and perhaps weeks and allow the Iranians to demonstrate who is really in control in southern Iraq and that our lads, now being held in some dank Iranian cell, can’t count on our government to back them up?
What's your view?