Thursday, 25 February 2010

Argentina's Folly.

Sequels have always been popular in Hollywood, as well as a recurring feature of modern warfare, but despite Argentina’s growing rhetoric, I believe the prospect of a Falkland’s War 2 is highly unlikely.

Argentina has greedily eyed the windswept islands since their independence from the Spanish Empire early in the Nineteenth century. After Britain recaptured the Falklands in order to guard the trade route around Cape Horn, the Argentines have laid claim to them and following their attempt to take them by force in 1982 ended with a humiliating defeat, we may have been forgiven for thinking that was the end of the matter; however a ruinous Argentine economy, a despised President and the little matter of a potential 60 billion barrels of oil have reignited this dispute.

Cristina Kirchner is the hugely inept Argentine premier who was swept to power in a landslide in 2007, and who is now deeply unpopular after overseeing the fragile recovery from the 2001 economic crisis stall. It seems to be that the standard response when right wing Argentine governments are in trouble is to whip up nationalist sentiment by raising the issue of Malvinas sovereignty again. Argentina has gathered support from fellow South American leaders, notably Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and Lula da Silva of Brazil, the two old lefties, who never cease to rake up any imagery of colonialism as a matter of personal expediency. Sadly from Argentina’s point of view, all the diplomatic hot air in the world will never see the Falklands in their hands; on this matter the UK government will ignore the South Americans, the United Nations, and anyone else that Kirchner whines to for that matter.

‘Queen Cristina’ is not as stupid as she may appear though; she has been quick to rule out a military option - so why is she so keen to try diplomacy?  In 1982 the UK was caught with its trousers down over the Falklands, there was a negligible military presence and the Foreign Office did not anticipate what was coming. In the end, the war was a close run thing but it certainly would not be if fought today. The UK has a garrison of a thousand troops permanently based on the islands; the Mount Pleasant Air Base and a Falklands emergency response plan means that a British defense would take hours, not weeks as in 82. Make no mistake, a British government of either political persuasion would respond immediately with overwhelming military might. The vulnerability of the Eighties has been removed and a Falklands War 2 would lead to a resounding victory for the UK and a far more embarrassing defeat for the Argentines than the last time around.

Argentina’s claim to the Falklands can be charitably called tenuous. The islands history is one of imperial squabbling between Britain, France and Spain, none has any moral high ground in the matter; however as they were uninhabited islands the simple logic of dispelling a colonial power does not wash. It is uncertain who was the first to discover the Falkland Islands, they appear on sixteenth century Spanish and English maps, but it is widely believed to be a Dutch explorer who first sighted them; Britain and Spain both have claims from this time. Historically they have only ever been part of Argentina for five brief years and Spain for the thirty-five years previous to that, during an interlude in which Britain left the islands to save money to fight the American Revolutionary War and the British navy retook them in 1833. So the islands have been inhabited by Britons for nearly two hundred, out of two hundred and forty six years since European inhabitation.

The population of the Falkland Islands are British citizens, they have quite clearly expressed their desire to remain so and in the principal of self determination they have the right to remain so. If the Falkland Island government wishes to develop their natural resources, then that also is their right and has nothing whatsoever to do with any other state, the UN and it is none of Argentina’s business. Even if no oil had been discovered there, Britain would be right to defend this small outpost of our nation as fiercely as we would the Isles of Scilly or the Channel Islands, these British citizens have the right to exist without the constant threats from the banana republic on their door step.

1 comment:

  1. Really good read pal, I was wondering whether to blog on this myself but you've said it all here.