Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Obama's Falkland Fantasy

If British Prime Minister David Cameron attended a diplomatic function in Mexico City and validated claims that California and Arizona were actually Mexican sovereign territory (as many Mexicans believe) then the diplomatic fallout would be incendiary.

Yet Hillary Clinton and other members of the Obama Administration have been saying exactly the same sort of thing about sovereign British territory recently – validating claims that the Falkland Islands are Argentinean territory, and using the Argentinean term ‘Malvinas’ to describe them.

From a basis of my own petty prejudices, this is probably the most shocking thing the Obama administration has done so far. It’s so ridiculously insulting I’m surprised there aren’t headlines in The Sun about it. It How dare they!

A lot of people aren’t familiar with the Falkland Islands, and so might actually be wondering who ‘owns’ them. Well, it’s Britain – there’s simply no debate about that. Here’s a brief history lesson:

In 1592, English explorer John Davis landed on a series of uninhabited islands off the coast of South America. They were claimed as British territory and later named for Anthony Cary, 5th Viscount Falkland. The English later established Port Egmont on Saunders Island. In 1770, Spain unceremoniously booted the British out and lay claim to the islands as part of their Buenos Aires colonial administration; but the Brits returned in 1771.

What happened next established the current sovereignty controversy. In 1774, because resources were needed to fight the American Revolutionary War, the British withdrew from the Falkland Islands – leaving a plaque to remind any future visitors that the islands were British property. The Spanish followed suit in 1811, leaving the islands unoccupied for almost a decade.

In 1820, Argentinean privateers landed on the islands and decided that they were theirs (ignoring the Spanish and British ‘We Were Here First’ plaques.) They established a small penal colony there, until United States warships unceremoniously obliterated it in a squabble over seal-hunting rights. The few Argentineans who remained had barely combobulated themselves before the British Royal Navy arrived in force and announced that they were reasserting their claims to the islands (presumably with the line: “Look, it’s ours. We’ve got a plaque and everything.”

But the Brits were very gentlemanly about it and allowed the Argentinean settlers to remain, as long as they didn’t interfere with Britain’s rule there.

This is a promise they kept until 1945. When signing the UN Charter, Argentina surprised everybody by demanding the right to sovereignty of the islands.

But just like they were over a century earlier, the British were gentlemanly about it – agreeing to hand over the islands if the residents there voted to become part of Argentina. The residents, being largely British colonists, declined Argentina’s offer and voted to remain part of Britain.

In the 1960s, the Argentineans demanded that the islands be handed over to them again. Talks between Britain and Argentina took place, but the end result was the same: The residents of the Falkland Islands voted to remain part of Britain.

In 1982, the Argentineans decided, in the signature style of South Americans nations, that diplomacy was overrated. Instead of demanding another vote, they simply invaded the islands and put up a flag (flags beat plaques, you see.)

What followed was one of the shortest, most masterful military campaigns in modern history – in which a British expeditionary force sailed to the Falkland Islands and – to use an American term – kicked the Argentinean's asses. The Argentineans might have believed that flags beat plaques, but it turned out that Harrier Jump Jets trumped them both.

Since then, the Argentineans have been snotty little brats about the islands. They included their claim to the ‘islas Malvinas’ in their own constitution, and continue to periodically demand that Britain surrender them. In 2009, in one of the few recorded instances of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown utilizing his spine, he bluntly told Argentinean President Cristina Fernandez that “there would be no talks over the future sovereignty of the Falkland Islands.”

As far as the governments of the UK and of the Falkland Islands are concerned, there is no issue to resolve. The Falkland Islanders themselves are almost entirely British and maintain their allegiance to the United Kingdom.

And that’s the crux of the issue, really.

Unlike most territorial disputes, there really is no ‘issue’ with Britain’s claim to the Falklands. We discovered them first. We lived there first. The vast majority of the island’s population are British, and they want to remain part of Britain. Even the example I gave earlier – about Mexico claiming Arizona and California – isn’t a fair comparison because there was at least an actual war in which America took those territories by force. Until the Falkland’s War in 1982, the only military hostility in the Falkland Islands had been American – when they bombarded the Argentinean penal colony.

There is simply no justifiable reason for the Argentineans to lay claim to the island – except for that fact that they want them.

So for Hillary Clinton to coolly validate Argentina’s ridiculous and insulting ‘claim’ to the territories is mind-boggling. It’s a complete slap in the face to Great Britain. Here we are – America’s staunchest ally, with whom we’re fighting shoulder to shoulder in Iraq and Afghanistan – and Hillary Clinton’s blithely handing away our territories like it’s nothing.

It really is a shameful precedent for the Obama administration to have set and, as you can probably tell from the tone of this post, my nose is thoroughly out of joint about it.


Susanne said...

Wow! I love reading the history lessons on your post. I'm irritated for you. Hillary had no call to do this. You are so right. Please keep bringing these issues to our attention. I learn a lot from your blog.

Anonymous said...

Remember, he is your president. You supported the idiot.

Anonymous said...

Remember, he is your president. You supported this idiot.