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LONDON — “Speak softly and carry a big stick” — that was the advice of ebullient U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt in the early part of the 20th century. It may still have some relevance today.

The kidnapping by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard of 15 British service personnel in the Shatt-al-Arab waters at the top end of the Persian Gulf raises once again the complex issue of how such situations should best be handled. Whether they are released promptly, which could be happening as these words appear, or whether they are going to be held for a prolonged period, the whole incident provides some important lessons for the modern-day resolution of international quarrels — for which Roosevelt had such a concise answer a century or so ago.

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