Poll: Falkland’s War.

Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands 25 years ago prompting the UK to send a massive flotilla of ships to win them back. There was an overwhelming sense in Britain back then that the war was justified. Argentina’s claim to the Malvinas may have been worth consideration, but when a military dictatorship invades and occupies sovereign territory against the wishes of the people under occupation, this would arguably allow the just war doctrine to be invoked.

The idea of British adventures overseas has soured a little since then, mostly because of Iraq, and the pathetic and disgusting sight of British sailors being paraded on Iranian TV has further taken the wind out of the Brits’ military sails. Still, I think the Falkland’s was a “just war,” although I wish that made me feel better about the 255 British servicemen, 655 Argentines and three islanders who lost their lives. “Just war” is just that: war. And war is always the devil’s business.



  1. Said it then and still believe it now.

    The church was presumably true in both Argentina and the UK. The benefits of the gospel were presumably available under both regimes.

    I cannot see how which flag flies over Stanley, or whether taxes are sent to Westminster or Buenos Aires, or if Spanish or English is the official language makes a single difference to the eternal salvation of its people. However I do know people who were maimed there fighting for these things, and I know the heart ache that lead to.

    Living in Wales I know what it’s like to have your culture subjugated by another, to have your language stifled out, to have your natural resources exploited. But I’d rather live here in peace, with the Church. Than in a conflict area were flags, jingoism and the fear of death colour your every waking moment.

    It may have been ‘just’, but it was ultimately pointless.


  2. Vince,
    Come on, mate. Wales as victim? Surely we’re beyond that in 2008. When I spend my holidays in Wales I don’t feel like I’ve entered some exploited land. And didn’t you just do away with all prescription charges? Seems like Wales is getting a good deal compared with England!

    So, should the British have rewarded Argentina’s invasion and just let them have the islands? If that’s the case, wouldn’t that encourage similar actions? Does the rule of law not matter?


  3. Ronan,

    You make my point exactly. Wales was a victim – of Roman, English and Norman invasion, before finally being annexed by England in 1282.

    There are still some alive today who recall being punished in school for speaking Welsh, and forced to wear the “Welsh Knot”.

    My point is that in spite of this history we have a very amicable society in the UK. We should have settled the anachronistic case of our old Empire holdings long ago. Just looking at a map makes me question why we still hang on to The Falklands. Now I presume it’s because there’s too much blood invested in it.

    And the rule of eternal law is what matters. There are plenty of boundary changes Britain has enforced in the past that have nothing to do with the ‘rule of law’. And there are plenty of ‘just’ wars we have given up on for pragmatic reasons.

    (BTW – Naomi & I would love to have you visit next time you’re here.)


  4. Vince,

    My Welsh great-grandmother salutes you! I’ll be living in Malvern, Worcestershire next year. We always go to Pembrokeshire every year and I frequently go walking in the Brecons and Snowdonia. Where are you?

    I still think you’re wrong about the FI though. I don’t think we should have said to the Falklanders, “Sorry, fellow Brits, but you’ll just have to learn to speak Spanish and love Galtieri.” An argument for a diplomatic settlement could be made, but whatever the outcome it would have rewarded Argentina’s act of aggression. And remember, Argentina wasn’t exactly a benign power at the time.

    And FWIW, I think Iraq II was and is a disaster. And the worst of it is that we have been so emasculated by the immortality of it that we’ve got into the situation that gst alludes to above.

    But the Falkland’s is another story.


  5. Britain was absolutely right to use force to eject the Argentines from the Falklands; the ultimate beneficiaries were the Argentines themselves when Galitieri and crew lost and were forced to cede power to another general, Bignone, who allowed elections in 1983.

    The invasion was nothing more than a final attempt to maintain power after the generals had run the Argentine economy into the ground. If they hadn’t gone to war with Britain, they would’ve picked a fight with Chile in an attempt to survive.


  6. I’m glad you showed up, JNS, you Irish lover of Latin America!

    Let’s see:

    The Falklands were discovered in 1592 by the English. The French took possession but eventually sold rights to the island to Spain who then yielded the islands to Great Britain in 1771.

    Just what part of the Falkland’s is Argentinian, eh?


  7. Ronan,

    Let’s just say the history is rather more disputed than that. For one thing, my reading of the history raises three competing claims of earliest European discovery: the English in 1592 (but problematic documentary evidence on this one), Dutchman Sebald de Weert in 1600, and the Spanish in the 1520s (the islands appear on Spanish maps throughout the 16th century).

    The British didn’t even claim the islands until 1765. A French colony, of course, had been established in 1764. In 1766, the French colony was sold to Spain, which assigned the islands to the governorship of Buenos Aires. The British in fact left in 1774 and ceded the islands to Spain in 1790 as part of the Nootka Conventions.

    From that point until 1816, the islands were part of the Buenos Aires province of the Spanish empire. When Argentina became independent in 1816, it claimed the islands along with the rest of its provincial territory as part of the new nation. Argentine control over the islands was tenuous, and they were used by British and American seal-hunters and pirates as a base — but Argentine control over any territory whatsoever was pretty tenuous through most of the 19th century, so that doesn’t really distinguish.

    When the British invaded in 1833, it was after 63 years in which Britain maintained no claim whatsoever to the island. In fact, the invasion happened because the U.S. had destroyed the Argentine settlement on the island in response to the Argentine governor seizing control of fishing boats that were allegedly engaged in illegal fishing. That looks like brute imperial intervention, pure and simple.

    Capt. Jack is, of course, correct that the consequences of losing the 1983 war were, in the long run, good for Argentina. But let’s not call Britain’s last imperial war anything other than what it was.


  8. But let’s not call Britain’s last imperial war anything other than what it was.

    Sure, but that still doesn’t mean Britain should have let Galtieri’s invasion stand. Remember none of the residents of the FI wanted to be ruled by Argentina. So you have an aggressive invasion of sovereign territory (competing claims notwithstanding) opposed by the residents of said territory. How can that stand? I mean we can huff and puff about the British empire, but I think in this case it’s a red herring. I think Thatcher was absolutely right, but I am willing to be persuaded otherwise. But I won’t be persuaded by any argument that cedes any legitimacy to Galtieri’s invasion. Believe me, I don’t feel comfortable supporting a war that killed 900 people, but I cannot see a way out. Alas.


  9. Well, when an empire takes over other people’s land and then settles its own inhabitants in the occupied territory, things do get complex. I think the Galtieri invasion was ludicrous, and a lot of my Argentine friends completely agree. There are better ways of trying to work these things out.


  10. Yes, but that was like 150 years previously. Would you see an armed Native American uprising as valid, given that the US also took their lands?

    Much of the world’s geopolitics are centered on the imperial land grabs of the past becoming the status quo. That’s not to condone the historical actions, but at some point they become irrelevant.

    I agree that it is unfortunate that it came to war and death, but I’d still like you to tell me what else the Brits should have done once Galtieri invaded?

    Anyway, please stop this. Don’t make me give Maggie any further love!


  11. No less of a source than the Book of Mormon sees armed uprising by Native Americans over US land conquest as valid! And I agree with Native American activists that the land grabs by Europeans in North America are still a live issue. I don’t expect that issue to ever be satisfactorily resolved, just as I don’t expect African Americans to ever receive economic compensation for the inherited losses of slavery. But these wrongs are, as you say, built into the world’s geopolitics, and calling them something other than what they are simply helps make them even more invisible.

    Through this thread, I’ve tried to be careful not to say that the Brits should have let Galtieri’s military adventure stand. To go further than that and affirmatively endorse a British military action to defend imperial territory? You ask too much!


  12. Capt. Jack: And of course the War was just what Maggie needed also – to revive her in the polls at home and allow her to give the Churchill V salute.

    Ronan: It’s interesting I’m not sure it’s the length of time that makes a land grab legitimate. The Balkans, Palestine and many other places have feuds and conflicts that have run for centuries. I believe it is the willingness of people to sue for peace that matters. There is no simple answer to the question ‘what do you do when they have invaded’. But we should have sought a solution in the 150 years prior to the war when Argentina was contesting the Islands. And we should be discussing there claims now.

    The question of the inhabitants being allowed self-determination of sovereignty is a red herring. Look to the way Indonesia is encouraging migration to East Timor and PNG to see how that old game works.

    As to ‘rewarding their aggression’ by doing nothing: the very same sands of time that lead to a status quo also work in reverse. Do you feel we rewarded Egypt’s aggression for it’s grab of the Suez by pulling out of that fight?

    (email me and I’ll let you know our contact details – we’d love some hiking companions)


  13. Who cares about tectonic plates and ancient history? The fact is that the population is British and wants to remain British. People ought to count.


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