By Greg Smith
Without alteration to U.S. policy there is a very real possibility of a second invasion of the Falkland Islands in the next two years. The time is at hand for the U.S. to “dance with the one that brung you” and advise Argentina in case of a war, American forces will be offered to serve with or under command of Great Britain.
In 1982 the military junta governing Argentina ordered an invasion of the Falkland Islands as a means of diverting the gaze of Argentines from a bleak economic and political picture. This example of “mover al perro,” or wag the dog, generated a short-lived burst of nationalism for the junta. Argentina has long claimed the islands, which they refer to as the Malvinas.
Today, the Argentine economy is a shambles as yet another left-wing government tries to breath more life into Chavezanomics than Cuban doctors could breath into Chavez himself. Electricity blackouts, rampant inflation, a crushing debt load, consumer good and food shortages have public approval of Argentine President Cristina Fernandez below 30%. Another Falkland invasion would be a good way to get protesters to drop their sandwich boards and wave the flag in nationalistic adulation.
Buenos Aires continues to rattle the saber, recently adding a provision to its constitution on gaining control of the Falklands and announcing a large increase in defense spending, which would allow it to re-take the islands.
Prior to the 1982 Argentine invasion Britain had exercised control of the islands since 1833. The Royal Navy mounted an operation that re-established British control 74 days after Argentina invaded. Today, the Royal Navy is not its former Cold War self, lacking an operational aircraft carrier, without which its ability to defend British sovereignty in the South Atlantic crown colony is minimal at best.
During the 1982 war the U.S. remained officially neutral, though it fed satellite intelligence to the Thatcher government, was rooting for a quick British victory and had a secret plan to loan an amphibious assault ship to the Royal Navy if either of its carriers were sunk. Since taking office President Obama has placed less importance on U.S.-British relations than on his NCAA tournament picks. A web search using the terms “Britain,” “Obama” and “snub” shows British sentiment on its relationship with Washington. After all, they are only the country that stood – even when it was apparent they didn’t want to — “shoulder to shoulder” with the U.S. after 9/11.
The Obama administration has even had the temerity to say London should hold talks with Buenos Aires over what the State Department called “competing claims” to the Falklands, this even after the islanders themselves in March 2013 voted 99.8% to remain British subjects.
Considering U.S. treatment of Britain over the past five years and the lack of any real response to Russian aggression in Central Europe, Argentina could be forgiven for assuming the Obama administration’s response to another Argentine invasion of the Falklands would be handled by the deputy to the assistant deputy undersecretary for who gives a damn. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez has said American and British opposition to Russia’s annexation of Crimea is a double standard, comparing the situation in Crimea with that of the Falklands. This acutely faulty reasoning can only be interpreted as justification of if not necessarily a plan for a second Argentine invasion.
Argentina’s window for an invasion will narrow in January 2017, as a new U.S. president will make repairing the enormous damage to the U.K.-U.S. alliance his or her first international priority. That window will slam shut two years later as the Royal Navy will be getting at least one new aircraft carrier as soon as 2019, at which time the British fleet will completely outclass anything Argentina could muster.
The U.S. relationship with Argentina should not be thrown away lightly, and the U.S. should take pains to soften the diplomatic blow to Buenos Aires, but it is high time for the U.S. government to abandon its neutral policy on the Falkland Islands. Argentina has no legitimate claim to the Falklands. The nation that has legitimate claim also happens to be the closest, most loyal ally the U.S. could have.
Argentine planning for the 1982 invasion included a belief the U.S. would not interfere and possibly even pressure Britain to negotiate a peace. Quietly letting the Argentines know any use of force on their part will trigger an offer of U.S. assistance to Britain will remove any thoughts of an invasion, while showing Great Britain the special relationship is alive and well. God save the Queen. ©
Greg Smith is a freelance writer and political consultant who lives in Bantam, CT. His blog is found at www.betterfatthanfascist.com