Understanding The Falklands

Posted on April 14, 2012 by

Understanding The Falklands

by Lucy Farraday

13th April 2012

Thirty years ago brave British servicemen lost their lives defending the Falkland Islands from an invasion by the dictatorship in Argentina. Many other courageous servicemen were injured and some left permanently maimed as a result of the war. It turned out to be as disastrous for the Argentines, who though should never have invaded, left the British feeling they had no option but to defend the Islands and their entirely British population. There are always tragic deaths and injuries in war and therefore the government should be expected to do all it can in times of peace to try to ensure it doesn’t happen again. The British strategy has been to improve and strengthen the military defences of the islands as a deterrent. Something which the current Argentine government have taken issue with.

One way of trying to prevent a repetition is through diplomacy, trying to negotiate with the Argentine government to convince them and their people of the will of the Falklands Islanders. There was loss of life on both sides and in just one incident more than 300 Argentine sailors died after the cruiser, the Belgrano, was torpedoed by a British submarine. It should be remembered that, as tragic an event as that was for its crew and their families, the Belgrano was still a military vehicle capable of destroying life on a large scale, part of a belligerent war machine and acting in a threatening manner on the edge of the international exclusion zone. The invasion was so disastrous for Argentina that for many years afterwards their government tempered its claim on the Islands. Now, however, three decades after the end of the war, hostilities between the two countries are again threatening to flare up.

Left Over Story

As part of the 30th anniversary of the failed invasion of the Islands, hundreds of Argentine protesters attacked the British embassy in Buenos Aires, firebombs were thrown at the building and union flags and an effigy of Prince William were burned. Also, about 5,000 Argentines braved freezing temperatures for an all-night vigil awaiting President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s speech in Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city. She criticised Britain’s continued colonisation of the Falkland Islands and lambasted Britain for refusing to discuss her country’s long-standing claim to the Islands. She called British control of the territory as “a leftover story from the 19th century”.

Argentina has also based its claim, on the islands’ proximity to the South American mainland. Fernandez de Kirchner said it was an injustice that in the 21st century there still subsisted a colonialist enclave a few hundred kilometres from Argentina’s shores. Argentina says Spain acquired ownership and upon its independence from Spain, that title was inherited by Argentina. She has repeatedly requested talks on the islands’ future and accused the UK of “arrogance” for refusing to negotiate. There are, however, strong suspicions that Argentina’s recent war of words is down to the fact that her economy is in a mess and the government knows that a dispute with a foreign power works in their favour by distracting their people from the financial troubles at home. Also, oil exploration is now being carried out off the Islands which could be worth millions. When oil is at stake it often fuels disputes and already the British fear that Argentina’s renewed threats over the Islands could be due to the discovery of oil there.

The British argue that the Falklands have been under continuous British rule since 1833, except for the invasion during Argentina’s 1976-83 dictatorship, which lasted for two months after 2 April 1982. Britain’s case is also unpopular with a number of its very own people who say it is ridiculous that a small island like the Falklands exert such influence on British foreign policy. They point out that the Islands “cost a fortune to defend” and it is time to negotiate a settlement. However this abandonment is not necessarily fair to the inhabitants of the Islands who want the right to determine their own future and currently are overwhelmingly in favour of remaining British.


For Argentina to complain about the militarization of the Falkland Islands is paradoxically baneful, bearing in mind that no militarization would exist if they themselves had not invaded the islands by force, with weapons made to kill and maim in the first place. Another point worth noting and rarely if ever made, is that Argentina declared hostilities against Britain by invading South Georgia prior to invading the Falkland Islands and that South Georgia lies 2,704 km away from Argentina. In fact Chile is much closer to the Falklands than Argentina is to South Georgia – where is Chile’s claim? Therefore, by, in effect, colonising South Georgia by force of arms, baiting war and risking life, in 1982 Argentina destroyed any credibility that may exist with their strongest argument. In regard to the militarization of the Falklands today, it is quite clear that Britain has no intention of invading the country of Argentina, recognised by Britain as a state independent of Spain in 1825. In that year, after a drawn out military campaign to rid themselves of Spanish rule, the Argentines laid claim to the Spanish Malvinas. Perhaps it can be argued that because the Falklands were Spanish until that time, that it is in fact Spain who Britain should be talking with and therefore Spain who Argentina should have been fighting with, but Britain is only interested in defending the Falklands and the Falkland Islanders. Therefore, due to Argentine actions in 1982, the current military strength on the islands is not deemed unnecessary to the British.

Cards On The Table

Both sides are determined to stand by their arguments and if it ever went to court, it is not clear who would win. International law does not overwhelmingly favour either Argentina or the UK which is, believed to be among other reasons, why neither state is willing to submit the case to adjudication and bear the risk of losing it. The question that must also be asked is; should an international tribunal have authority over a population which is 100% completely British leftover story? Can and would, an international decision be fair to the lives of those leftover story people who matter? Can and would, an international decision be recognised by Argentina if it settled in favour of Britain’s case? Can and would, an international decision be fair to the leftover story Falkland Islanders if it settled in favour of Argentina’s case – or even mediated some kind of middle ground agreement?

With all cards on the table turned, Britain holding the aces and Argentina bluffing a pair of jokers, it seems that diplomacy based upon both parties current demands can only stall and postpone any potential future armed conflict – for ultimately that would be diplomacy’s only purpose. The only way this situation can be indefinitely closed is for Argentina to finally realise what the whole world (bar those with anti-British sentiments) realise, that colonialism is not evil or illegal where the entire population exist willingly as part of a mother country and where they exist on an otherwise uninhabited land 700 km away from the nearest foreign state. It’s such a shame that two countries who otherwise could be great friends and allies can not find resolution because of the arrogance of one of them. What is the point of whipping up among a country’s people, such a misguided romantic idea that the Malvinas are somehow Argentine when they are not, nor really have ever truly been.

No Solution Visible

One loss of life can be one too many if a war can be prevented through such mutually accepted solutions. Yet when no solution is visible and international arbitration impossible because the arrogant directly or indirectly threaten the populace of the place they claim as theirs with war and conquest, then for the defending people, militarization becomes the only answer. Perhaps if Argentina made some poise indicating that certain conditions would entice them to drop the bullying stance and consider officially and sincerely rescinding its claim to the islands then diplomacy could begin. Maybe if and when the oil, recently discovered, begins to be reaped, a joint British/Argentine company can be involved in its reaping – in return for an official discontinuation of Argentina’s claim to the Islands.

Until the last British Falkland Islander turns out the light and catches the last boat to Britain, only a business arrangement in return for recognising British sovereignty would benefit Argentina rather than banging the heads of its young men against brick walls. Maybe if it were the children of Argentine politicians who were likely to fight in any future war, then their government would be working hard to make sure that the option to bring war to the islands they stole in 1982, and subjected to their dictatorship, is never an option again. In the case of the Falklands, militarization until such an agreement can be made, is the only foreseeable insurance policy against war, just as content insurance protects you from the burglars you hope will never arrive.