The Falklands: Borrowing Trouble
The Obama administration may be opening the door for another war in the South Atlantic. Repeated diplomatic missteps about "las Malvinas" (the Spanish name for the island group) have encouraged Argentina's unstable political leaders to think this may be a time for action against Britain's Falkland Islands.
The 1982 Falklands War should never have taken place. Then, the Argentine military junta led by Gen. Leopoldo Galtieri miscalculated disastrously. They thought they could march in and seize the nearby islands. They thought Britain would not react to a fait accompli in the South Atlantic. They thought the British government, headed by a woman, would not fight.
They didn't know Margaret Thatcher. Argentina's military dictators didn't realize she was not called the Iron Lady for nothing. Britain's Prime Minister then instantly recognized the threat. It wasn't just that a group of rocky, barren, windswept islands inhabited by 1,200 mostly sheep-herding Britons had been seized. It was that naked aggression had been committed by one U.S. ally against another.
The miscalculation of the Galtieri clique was doubtless aided by the mixed signals then being sent by U.S. Secretary of State Alexander Haig. The former four-star general made noises about the U.S. being even-handed in its approach to the Falklands crisis.
Prime Minister Thatcher quickly dispatched a war fleet to the South Atlantic to recover the Falkland Islands. When one of her junior Cabinet ministers suggested that the departure of the fleet would be an excellent time for Thatcher to offer new "talks" with the Argentines, Mrs. Thatcher's reaction was described as "thermonuclear." (Thirty years later, we are still looking for traces of that young man in British politics.)
Once committed to fight for the Falklands, Mrs. Thatcher called upon her dear friend Ronald Reagan for support. She was not disappointed. President Reagan quickly reasserted his primacy in U.S. foreign policy and made it clear: There would be nothing "even-handed" about the American response to aggression by a military dictator against our most valued NATO ally. And Al Haig soon found himself an ex-Secretary of State.
The British forces easily swept up the Argentine troops on the Falklands. The most serious action, with hundreds of tragic casualties among young Argentine sailors, was the ruthless decision by Mrs. Thatcher to sink the cruiser Belgrano. It was a highly controversial call because the vessel seemed to be leaving the combat area. But Margaret Thatcher believed war was war and the enemy must be pursued and destroyed.
All of this is necessary background to understand what is today beyond understanding: Why would the Obama administration want to borrow trouble over the Falklands?
While we join with others in praying for her speedy recovery, we nonetheless must point out Sec. Hillary Clinton's earlier dangerous statements. She needlessly referred to the Falklands by their Argentine name -- las Malvinas.
President Obama went further, in a way. He referred to the Falklands as "The Maldives." Wrong island group. Wrong hemisphere. And nobody's talking about invading the Maldives... yet.
But Argentina's embattled president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, is reacting to the economic turmoil in her country the same way the military junta did thirty years ago.
President Kirchner is saber rattling again, writing directly to British Prime Minister David Cameron to demand "talks" to settle the question of sovereignty over "las Malvinas." Argentina's economy is in perpetual crisis, exacerbated by the demagogic policies pursued by Kirchner. She is the latest in a succession of disciples of the late dictators Juan and Evita Peron.
Mr. Obama's State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, further muddied the clear waters by saying the U.S. would remain "neutral" pending a referendum by Falkland Islanders later this spring. The 1,200 Falklanders have made their allegiance known -- over and over again -- since 1833. Why even tempt the Argentines to invade prior to the referendum?
U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron needs to act, promptly, to forestall any attempt by Argentina to re-take the Falkland Islands. He should dispatch British warships to the islands, equipped with surface-to-air missiles. And submarines, too. (It's unknown at this time whether the Royal Navy sub dispatched last spring remains on station.) Britain's armed forces are much reduced from what they were in 1982, and after a decade in Afghanistan, are under a strain. Nonetheless, the alternative for Mr. Cameron is clear: If he loses the Falklands this time, Britain will no longer be called Great.
As for the Obama administration, the president needs to remember his Peace Prize and put his foot down firmly on the side of self-determination and freedom. The best way to avoid another war is for the U.S. to make it clear: We believe the Falkland Islanders have a right to live under a government of their own choosing.
Ken Blackwell, former U.S. ambassador to United Nation, is on the faculty of Liberty University. Bob Morrison, a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard, is a fellow at the Family Research Council.