The Falklands Islands Dispute

Posted on February 20, 2012 by

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And so, with the fast-approaching 30th anniversary of the Falklands War, begins the second round of opportunistic begging on the part of the newly re-elected Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. The stage is set. Britain, as a result of defence budget cuts, is in an even worse position to defend the islands from invasion than it was in 1982. Kirchner, who won her election on 39% of the electorate’s blessing, is seeking desperately to solidify her presidency. And what better way to do this than press on with her deceased ex-president/husband’s own brand of right-wing, territorial nationalism.

The Argentinean claim to the islands is as simple as it is impudent. There was a period between 1820 and 1833 in which Britain ceased to hold a garrison on the islands (but retained a plaque declaring Britain’s continued claim of the islands). During this 13 year period the newly independent Argentina believed the islands were granted to them by Spain, irrespective of Spain’s inability to grant territory of the United Kingdom to any of its former colonies. When, in 1833, Britain returned, the Argentinean settlers were ordered to leave and promptly did so. The island was then officially colonised and that has been the political situation (bar one 74 day interruption) since then.

There has been great speculation as to why Argentina has bumped up its claim for the islands recently. Indeed, this escalation was predicted by some when $20 Billion dollars of oil was located 220km north of the islands in 2010. Ever since the failed invasion of 1982 the islands have seen their most prosperous years, netting almost £20 million annually with living standards set to exceed those of mainland UK. This has done nothing to alleviate diplomatic tensions, it’s almost definitely raised them, and whilst the claimant’s prize looks ever greater, a claim to sovereignty must always be substantiated; a test Argentina has failed time and time again.

The fact of the matter is this: the 3,000 inhabitants of the Falklands Islands hold among themselves the utmost desire to remain both British and under British rule. This, unfortunately, has not deterred the opposition thus far. More recent arguments ranged from the unsubstantiated: George Galloway’s piece on 10 o’Clock Live, which effectively conceptualised the belief that the Argentineans deserve the Islands on the grounds that the South American continent says so, to the absurd: Hollywood actor Sean Penn recently stated that the world today would not tolerate any “archaic commitment to colonialist ideology.”

I present two situations to Mr. Penn: firstly that Britain, along with most powerful European states at the time, takes it upon itself to claim a predominantly uninhabited, uncivilised rock. The second is one in which Argentina, almost 150 years later, against the express wishes of the population of those islands, with the aid of a conscripted armed force, installs temporary control, and subjects the population to the authoritarian rule of its military junta. Now which of these sounds more like a malicious colonial action to you?

CC image courtesy of RAYANDBEE, Flickr.

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