Heart of oak are our ships,
Jolly tars are our men,
We always are ready,
Steady, boys, steady,
We’ll fight and we’ll conquer
Again and again

Once, the Royal Navy was rightly feared throughout the world. Even at the end of the 20th Century, while stripped of much of its granduer and power, it was still an aged bulldog—able to occasionally lash out and bite the incautious. And even in its relative weakness, it seemed to have maintained its spirit and tradition, long the pride of the naval world.

No longer.

Now we have been treated to the shameful and degrading spectacle of watching 15 British marines and sailors meekly surrender to Iranian motorboats. Now, if this had happened in some deep insertion mission after days dodging Iranian patrols, it would be one thing. But it happened under the guns of a British frigate not 5 miles away. Literally under its guns, since the frigate’s main gun has a range of at least twice that.

And as fast as they are, Iranian speedboats don’t just appear. The British must have tracked them for minutes at least, and yet nothing was done before, during, or after the capture of a boarding party executing a standard mission they’d done dozens of times before. Small groups of troops are always in danger of being overrun and captured, but for their ship to stand by and do nothing? Oh, Nelson, if you’d lived to see this day! From its origins as pirates to the sad state of prey—surrendering its sailors to the first thug happening by—how the Royal Navy has fallen!

The British understood, once, that allowing petty tyrants to push your navy around means your navy isn’t worth spit. In those days, there was a simple phrase for what the Iranians pulled off: Act of War. And a simple response: inflict superior damage on the enemy so that he learns the error of his ways. Sadly, the Royal Navy long ago traded that tradition in for touchy-feeling multi-culti bullocks, narcissistic self-esteem rubbish, and soft-hearted European idiocy. “Acts of war” have become “public relations issues”, to be managed and spun and packaged. Respond to a blatant hostile action by threatening Iran’s navy? Barbaric, sir!

When the Navy’s policies force an officer of the hardest, most competent marines in the world to explain that he avoided fighting back because people might have been, well, hurt, and there might have been, gosh, an international incident, you wonder what the point of having a Navy is anyway. Surrender doesn’t really take much in the way of training, technology, or tradition. It’s certainly not what the marines and sailors signed up for.

Let me emphasize that: I don’t place blame on the marines and sailors captured. Rot this deep runs up through the ranks. And, in this case, it’s clear that the commanders on the scene failed utterly to defend their men. From the First Sea Lord on down, there’s a disgusting uniformity of spin and denial. When your top staff is this rotten, you can’t blame Jack Tar. This rot spread from Whitehall, and it’s turned the once-proud Hearts of Oak into a pulpy mess.

It’s a dangerous world, full of petty tyrants, dangerous fanatics, and unbalanced despots, and if the Royal Navy is unwilling or unable to protect its men—and its honor—it should do the right thing: mothball its fleet, sell off its assets, and close up shop. There’s no room for a Navy whose admirals have lost the will to fight.