Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Falklands Revisited

“We’re at war, son” my Dad said, sat on my bed on a bright spring morning in 1982, clearly disappointed that the gravity of his delivery was matched only by the apathy of his offspring’s reaction. But aged nine, with only a cursory awareness of current affairs, or any affairs really, I assumed that unless the Falklands crisis escalated to include food rationing and conscription haircuts, then normal tree climbing activities would continue largely unaffected. As indeed they did.

Thirty years on, with tree climbing sadly a declining element in my daily routine, we face an escalation of tensions between Argentina and Britain again. Several hundred protesters attacked the British embassy in Buenos Aires on Monday evening following a day of events commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War, and the 649 Argentine soldiers who lost their lives. President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner described the position of the British over “Las Malvinas” as “absurd”, referring to them as a “colonial enclave”. In turn, David Cameron reaffirmed the nation’s commitment to defending those remote rocks, whose impending oil inspired income may account for some of the ardent Argentine affection for them.

Then, as now, Argentina’s claim over the Falklands is as much a political distraction as an issue of sovereignty. Nothing unites a nation like a rallying call to arms, using patriotism as the Polyfila to smooth out the cracks when confidence or the economy is crumbling. The irony of ’82 was that the desired feel-good factor fell not to the Argentine administration, but the baroness-to-be; Margaret Thatcher. The determined approach of the iron lady won post-war plaudits at home and abroad, the milk-thief made matriarch in a mere 74 days. Battle is the best friend of the bullish and the brazen. Arrogant and inflexible becomes stoical and resolute, just add war and stir. Would a peacetime Churchill have left as impressive a legacy?

This week’s sabre rattling rings hollow however, as Argentina could no more afford an incursion than the UK could muster a taskforce. David Cameron could no doubt do with a little Dunkirk spirit, but 8,000 miles is, I fear, a tad too far for even the most ambitious of Blighty’s fishing boats.

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