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Falklands War Round II?

Two days ago, the Argentine coast guard boarded Spanish fishing vessels operating under license from the Falklands authorities. In response, the UK announced it intends to set up a “maritime protection zone” around its South American territories. At least one commentator has urged London to respond with force: “it should be considered an act of war and must be met with the use of force by Great Britain.” Here’s the story from the Telegraph:

Argentine patrol vessels have boarded 12 Spanish boats, operating under fishing licences issued by the Falkland Islands, for operating “illegally” in disputed waters in recent weeks.

Argentine patrol commanders carrying out interceptions near the South American coast told Spanish captains they were in violation of Argentina’s “legal” blockade of sea channels to the Falklands.

The warning has been backed up in a letter to Aetinape, the Spanish fishing vessels association from the Argentine embassy in Madrid warning boats in the area that “Falklands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands and adjoining maritime spaces are an integral part of the Argentine territory.”

In response, the UK announced it would support the territorial governments of the Falklands and the other islands in their bid to establish a maritime protection zone encompassing a million square kilometers of the surrounding ocean. “These are UK waters that are under discussion”, one official told the AFP.

The Falklands, South Georgia, and South Sandwich Islands have been claimed by the British since the eighteenth century and continuously governed by them since 1833, but Argentina has always considered them occupied parts of its territory; in 1982 hundreds of soldiers died when the junta of murdering, torturing thugs who hijacked Argentina felt they were on their last legs and needed a quick victory.  As clueless as they were evil, the junta generals sent under equipped, under trained and under supported conscripts to shiver helplessly on the Falklands until Argentina was humiliated by British forces — and Margaret Thatcher made her name.

The British lion is beginning to roar: Argentina’s intimidation of foreign fishing vessels is unacceptable, writes Nile Gardiner at RealClearWorld: “London should respond forcefully to this provocation by dispatching a second destroyer to the South Atlantic, as well as further Typhoon fighter aircraft and an additional attack submarine, as a warning to Argentina.”

Via Meadia isn’t expecting imminent war. A quick look at Argentina’s newspapers makes it clear that the media doesn’t see this as a critical situation: The only story on the Falklands in the Buenos Aires Herald lies below the fold, tamely noting that “Argentina intensified its claims of sovereignty over the South Atlantic archipelago by detaining Spanish fishing vessels on suspicion of breaking the country’s ‘blockade’ of the seas around the islands.”

Nevertheless, nationalist MPs in Buenos Aires are pushing President Cristina Kirchner not to back down, to finally secure what many view as Argentina’s national territory. The recent Chavez love fest in Caracas cheered the Argentines on, affirming Latin America’s united support for Argentina’s quest to evict perfidious Albion from the South Atlantic.  Huffs were huffed and puffs were puffed, and it will be hard for President Kirchner to beat an inglorious retreat.

The Duke of Cambridge (aka Prince William of Wales) is scheduled to go on active duty in the Falklands next year; Argentines are already complaining of what some see as British aggression and insult.  With Brazil on its side, and increasingly interested in the South Atlantic where its own vast oil reserves are found, and with the Obama administration showing signs of tilting toward Latin America rather than traditional allies like the UK, Argentina may sense an opening.

There’s another interpretation.  The Kirchner government’s economic program appears to be running out of gas.  Whipping up a controversy with Britain over the Falkland Islands  (Argentines call them the Malvinas) is a traditional resort of Argentine leaders who see bad times ahead.  Let’s hope she is smarter than the generals: Falklands Round Two would likely strike many British Tories as a “splendid little war” that would stoke the party’s popularity the way the first war did back in 1982.

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  • Kenny

    Mr. Mead,

    FYI: It is only a matter of time before Argentina does gain the Falklands.

    And one of the main reason it did not happen in the 1980’s is because of the behind scenes support the U.S. military gave the Brits.

  • Winston

    UK’s military right now is a joke. Their new carrier will not arrive until 2020 and they have retired (and sold) their Harrier jump jets. Weakness invites provocation. David Cameron is another progressive socialist. Shameful!

  • Paul in BarneyFrankistan

    Unfortunately, it is unlikely that the UK could mount more than a token defense of the Falklands. The Royal Navy is a pale shadow of Thatcher’s Navy, with no real power projection capability, after giving up their carriers.

    No carriers, no amphibs, no tactical aircraft (they’re selling the entire Harrier fleet to us). Militarily impotent without US sealift, carriers and other direct support

  • Ben

    @Paul: which support, we Americans should bloody well provide in full measure with no questions asked. It is utterly, and completely unacceptable for us not to. Any presidential candidate that doesn’t understand that will lose my vote in 1 sec.

  • Greg Q

    a blockade is an act of war. England should respond to it as such.

  • Richard F. Miller

    And Paul in Barney Frankistan’s comment invites the next question: Should the Brits and Argentines go eyeball to eyeball over the Falklands/Malvinas, whither Obama?

    The president has a penchant for mishandling relations south of the border. He opened his administration by playing some awful hands in Honduras while simultaneously publicly shining on (to no effect) Chavez & Co. Meanwhile, Operation F&F has won him few friends in Mexico where government officials have made nationalist noises about having the gringo F&F decision makers stand trial in federal court, as in a federale court.

    If the clock ticks to High Noon between London and Buenos Aries, you can bet that that time, our president will not be standing next to Gary Cooper.

  • SgtDad

    It is more properly “William, Prince of Wales,” methinks.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @SgtDad: Fortunately, since that whole 1776 business, we are allowed to take liberties. And we do.

  • JohnSF

    @ Winston
    @ Paul in BarneyFrankistan

    Perhaps if Argentine forces could be established ashore, the UK might have problems retaking the islands.
    But the Argentinians would face a much tougher challenge taking them in the first place.

    The Argentine armed forces have been starved of money since the end of military rule.
    The navy is reduced to 4 or 5 destroyers, about a dozen frigates, corvettes and patrol ships, arguably technically obsolescent.
    The air force fast jet complement is down to three squadrons of Mirage 5’s and III’s and two squadrons of reconditioned A-4 Skyhawks.

    Given that the RAF maintains a flight of FGR4 Typhoon’s with much more advanced ASM’s, AAM’s and avionics, an aerial tanker, Rapier SAMs, air defence radar systems, and capacity for additional deployment; and the RN has at least one Type 42 on station, and almost certainly an SSN lurking about, any attempted Argentine invasion is likely to see the bulk of it’s navy and air force in a new role as artificial reefs in the South Atlantic.

  • FeFe

    I have long thought that Kate should go with Wills and set up house in the Falklands during his deployment. So reminiscent of the Queen and her time in Malta with Prince Phillip prior to her coronation. Should Argentina do something, who can deny the appeal of the world coming to the rescue of the Middleton fair maiden.

  • Bruno Behrend

    In the good old days, the US and UK would be able to engineer a coup, taking not just the Falklands, but all of Argentina, thus solving the main problem.

    Ahhhh, the good old days. When a coup against a Chavez would actually be successful….

  • whiskey

    Obviously Mr. Mead has not the slightest clue about either Obama, the British military, or the British people.

    The British people are a bunch of cowed working/middle class White folks hauled off to jail when complaining about being over-run by Blacks and Muslims (why are they in Britain in the first place) or forced to strip down to their underwear and hand over their clothes by hulking Black guys during the London riots (in one memorable Daily Mail photo). They have no pride, because the PC/Multiculti elite tell them they, their race, and their nation and heritage are nothing but garbage, compared to Muslim/African/Caribbean greatness. Enforced on point of jail (the woman, Emma West, who shouted back to Blacks taunting her on the bus was arrested for “racism” and had her kids taken away).

    A populace enforced with PC orthodoxy will predictably care for nothing but its own immediate welfare. No one will die for the Colors of Benetton.

    Secondly there is no military to speak of, even the weak Argentines can walk all over the British — in Britain! The Brits have fewer ships than the Belgian coast-guard, and worse quality.

    Finally, Obama has made it clear he sides with the Argentines. He’s Black, hates Britain (it is White, and also imprisoned his terrorist Mau-Mau grandpa who Obama idolizes) and has made that abundantly clear.

    Obama is champing at the bit to help the Argentines militarily take the Falklands. Heck he’d back anyone fighting the Brits, he’d be happy to say back the Moroccans invading and colonizing Britain itself. Most of the Democratic Establishment feels the same way: Blacks, Mexicans, SWPL, and tragic hipsters are not over-running with love for Britain or its history. As opposed to any tinpot third world dictator which they all love. There is nothing like being shown up by the greatness of Victorian Britain’s accomplishment in the arts, sciences, and so on to create hatred among those who manifestly have failed in every way to even produce one thing that is beautiful.

  • Gene Evans


    I’m on the Brits’ side in this but don’t you think fighting one war for them is enough? They basically volunteered us for the Libya ‘kinetic action’, so saying “BTW, can we borrow a carrier or two” is a bit much.


  • Toni

    “Falklands Round Two would likely strike many British Tories as a “splendid little war” that would stoke the party’s popularity the way the first war did back in 1982.”

    Prof. Mead, I love Via Meadia — I spend time I shouldn’t here — but would you please get over your negative preconceptions of conservatives?

    Truman went to war in Korea. JFK and then LBJ escalated our involvement in Vietnam; Nixon made peace. Reagan couldn’t get a few piddly millions out of a Democratic Congress to battle Communists in Central America, but Democrat Charlie Wilson, with Tip O’Neill’s blessing, fomented a multibillion-dollar war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. A SECRET CIA war, no less!

    Clinton went to war in the former Yugoslavia without congressional approval (and our troops are still there; see “quagmire”) but pounded sand in Africa and passed up a chance to kill bin Laden. The man has no moral courage.

    Now, how can you possibly put forward the notion that Maggie Thatcher — and, by implication, George W. Bush — got young men killed abroad to plump up their popularity at home? And that Cameron would do the same?

    It’s not historically tenable, and your bias is unworthy of your formidable intellect. Please desist.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @ Toni: you are confusing my statements about causality and consequence with statements (which I don’t make, but you impute) about intentions.

  • Toni

    Sorry, doesn’t quite wash.

    Turn your statement around. “A splendid little war” would please “many Tories.” Why?

    You state that it “would stoke the party’s popularity.” What evidence have you that the UK populace of 2011 would approve?

  • Sash

    As usual !! UK is interfering in BRICS judicial area, All will be Argentina.

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