Don’t Allow Iranians To Win at Intimidation

As more information becomes available about a confrontation between U.S. warships and Iranian patrol boats last weekend, the impression may grow that the Iranians were “only” harassing American vessels, not truly threatening them or attempting to provoke them into an act of war.

That is small comfort to Americans, given the obvious ease with which even a tiny spark could set off a conflagration in the Middle East.

In some ways, the confrontation reminds us of incidents frequent during the Cold War, in which Soviet fighter planes “played chicken” with U.S. aircraft in international skies. From most accounts, it appears that the Soviet pilots intended only to intimidate their U.S. counterparts, not to provoke fights.

But, as was the case with the aerial confrontations, those at sea involving U.S. and Iranian craft are dangerous. One misstep by either side could result in war. Clearly, then, the Pentagon needs to be exceedingly careful in how it handles any confrontations in the future. Just as important, however, is maintaining determination that U.S. ships on peaceful missions will proceed with them, even in the face of clear efforts to intimidate our service men and women.