Argentina, struggling to keep its socialist economy afloat, has once again turned to an external distraction to keep the masses from looking too closely at the regime’s domestic record. For the last year or so, the government of Christina Kirchner has made noises about regaining control of the Falklands. For the most part, it’s just more political posturing. There will forever be a certain segment of the population there that will agitate for the Argentine flag to fly over the Falklands, no matter how little the inhabitants of the islands may wish it.
But the discovery of possible oil and gas reserves in the waters around the islands has also made future earnings in the area tempting to Argentina.
Britain has for the most part downplayed the tensions Argentina has attempted to incite. But the British are becoming annoyed, as, from their view, the matter was conclusively settled in 1982. Mind you, Britain has no great desire to hold onto the islands, even with potential energy reserves there. It is a net drain for them to support the islands and maintain a garrison there. But having spent fortune and shed blood to regain the islands, the very last thing Britain will do is succumb to Argentine diplomatic pressure to cede the islands.
The islands will shortly hold another referendum on British rule, in which they will almost certainly reiterate their loyalty to the Crown. As a matter of international law and the UN charter, that should be that. And as a practical matter, of course, Argentina’s failure to maintain control after seizing them means their claim is illegitimate. Your territorial integrity claims are only as legitimate as you can enforce them.
I’ve written a bit about the naval aspect of the Falklands War of 1982 here on the blog (a kindle version of the series is available HERE for the low price of $0.99) and the challenges both Argentina and Britain faced in that battle.
Should the Argentinians attempt to again seize the Falklands by force of arms, the scenario for both sides would be radically different. For one thing, Britain no longer has any Harriers to deploy aboard carriers, and as such securing air superiority would be a much greater challenge. On the other hand, Britain has a much more robust land attack capability at sea these days via Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles. And should Argentina attack again, I think Britain would be wise to make its opening salvo in reply an attack on the Argentine mainland, specifically, sending a TLAM through the front door of the Casa Rosada.
If there’s a bit of interest, I can describe some possible courses of action both sides might take should it come to a shooting war again.