It comes as no surprise that much of the mainstream press fails to see how devastating to the West was Tehran’s latest adventure. Mark Steyn, however, is under no illusions:

“The Associated Press reported the story as follows: ‘Analysis: Hope For More Iran Compromises.’

“Well, if by ‘compromise’ you mean Tehran didn’t put them up for a show trial and behead them, you might have a point. With this encouraging development, we might persuade them to wipe only half of Israel off the map, or even nuke some sparsely occupied corner of the Yukon instead. With the momentum of this ‘compromise’ driving events, all manner of diplomatic triumphs are possible.

“Tony Blair was at pains to point out that the hostages were released ‘without any deal, without any negotiation, without any side agreement of any nature.’ But he’s missing (or artfully sidestepping) the point: Tehran didn’t want a deal. It wanted the humbling of the Great Satan’s principal ally. And it got it. Very easily. And it paid no price for it. And it has tested in useful ways the empty pretensions of the U.N., the EU and also NATO, whose second largest fleet is now a laughingstock in a part of the world where it helps to be taken seriously.”

As Steyn points out, in terms of power, the Brits still have it – in a way – but they are no longer willing to use it:

“The most noticeable feature of the last two weeks has been the massive shrug by the British public. Some observers attributed this to the unpopularity of the Iraq war: Those nice mullahs wouldn’t be pulling this stuff if Blair hadn’t got mixed up with that crazy Texas moron. But it seems to me a more profound malaise has gripped them — the enervating fatalism of too many people in what is still a semi-serious nation with one of the world’s biggest militaries up against an insignificant basket-case. The traditional British position was deftly summed up in the chorus of an old music-hall song:

“We don’t want to fight but, by jingo, if we do

We’ve got the ships, we’ve got the men, we’ve got the money too . . .”

“Or, to modify Elvis, they weren’t looking for trouble but, if you looked right in their face, they’d give you some. In theory, they still have the ships, the men and the money, but something intangible has been lost. “Jingoism” is not merely a mindless swagger but a kind of assumed national confidence of which the fleet and the sailors and the cash are merely the tangible embodiment. Take away the confidence, and the ships and men and money avail you nought. You want a diplomatic solution? Fine. But, if you believe (as Europe and half America does) in ‘soft power,’ it’s important to remember it depends on the world’s belief that you’re willing to use that power. Looking at the reaction to this incident by the United States, European Union, United Nations et al., Iran will conclude that the transnational consensus will never muster the will to constrain its nuclear ambitions.”