Monday, April 17, 2006

The Battle for the Falklands

So Easter is over and I've managed to scrounge enough time to read Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins account of the Falklands War.

I was 14 years old when I watched all of this run past on the TV and in the newspapers. I even remember the article ticked away in either the Times or the Telegraph ( I used to prefer the Times in those days I think ) on scrap metal merchants running up the Argentine flag on South Georgia. My reaction to the war was that finally Britain standing up for itself - like most people I didn't believe a British Government would go through with it - except for the leadership of Margaret Thatcher. ( The Argentines view that this wouldn't happen is even more understandable in the light of the times. )

So reading the political, diplomatic and military analysis of Hastings and Jenkins has been really interesting. I've been up into the early hours of the morning at times.

What I've learned is more about the history of the Falklands. I don't think the Argentine claim was ever properly described to the British public at the time. When you add the Argentine belief in their claim, internal unrest and the signals coming out of Britain that it wanted rid of the Falklands you can see how the miscalculation of the invasion came about.

However, a British population had lived there for almost 150 years, and Argentina was an alien culture run by a repressive dictatorship. And parliament wasn't going to let them be transferred. Hastings and Jenkins are critical of the bear pit of parliament making compromise and progress difficult before the invasion - but equally it shows it as the last defence of the British people from the plans and actions of its government.

The military description is broad, reviewing tatics and strategy combined with accounts of individual actions on the ground.

The impressions it left me with were:
1) Yes it was a close run thing - and required courage, determination and skill on the British side to win. ( Especially the real gamble of the landings at San Carlos ).
2) Its a war neither side wanted - but were trapped into by events, poor understanding of each other and poor intelligence.
3) The major issue of the Falklands status has still not been resolved and will not be resolved until agreement in reached between the two sides.
4) I understand more of the Argentine view point. There are 1,800 kelpers on the Falklands and a lot has been done to preserve their chosen allegiances and way of life. It would be good if they would compromise in some ways - from their current position of strength.
5) Britain is trapped with Fortess Falklands until compromise is reached and a second war cannot be ruled out and could even be almost unpreventable.
6) The Royal Navy is well worth keeping up to strength - you never know when you might need it.

The book was a good read - educational, relatively neutral and ultimately worrying.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It must be remembered that Britain fought this conflict with one hand tied behind our back, and only operated within the falklands themselves.

There were no attacks on Argentine naval and airforce positions on the mainland as this would be seen as ' poor form' from many other countries.

Quite how sinking a warship that poses a threat to your armed forces was so bad is beyond me.

Believe me if there ever was a second attempt on the Falklands i believe there would be no restrictions this time - an attempt to degrade the fighting capability of Argentina by attacking airbases and naval ports would take place before a British soldier set foot on land.