Back to the Falklands

If only we’d had a roadmap to peace in 1982.

by Victor Davis Hanson

National Review Online

April, 1982

Secretary of State Alexander Haig today issued the State Department’s long-awaited “Roadmap” intended to end the dispute over the contested islands. The “Quartet” of the United States, Russia, the United Nations, and European states promised to find a diplomatic end to the sudden outbreak of hostilities. France, while denying that its technicians were currently in Buenos Aires outfitting Super Entendard jets with Exocet missiles, noted that the United Kingdom hadnot obtained United Nations approval to use “unilateral” force in the South Atlantic.

President Reagan stated that neither NATO nor the European states would “sanction” British retaliation. “We invite instead all the concerned parties to the proposed conference at Oslo, Norway.” Reagan added: “Only that way can we iron out accords in a multinational peace process. We don’t want any more bloodshed over these disputed homelands, and we can see no end in sight to this cycle of killing without Oslo.”

Various experts contacted at the Council of Foreign Relations and the Brookings Institute warned that the Falklands conflict could ignite deep-seeded resentments for “generations” in Latin America. A source at the Kennedy School of Government noted that without a solution to the Falklands crisis, “There can be no peace and stability in South America.”

Ex-president Jimmy Carter summed up the risks: “We all better pause and realize what Thatcher has unleashed: Anglo versus Latino; Catholicism against Protestantism; British imperialism spreading colonialism; the First World attacks the Third. Put that together and you have a real hornet’s nest. The British have no clue of what they are stirring up. My God, Thatcher can’t even speak Spanish! If you want to incite the entire South American continent for a decade, then killing Argentinean freedom fighters on the Malvinas is a good way to start.”

Meanwhile, President General Leopoldo Fortunato Galtieri explained that “Operation Rosario” was a war of “national liberation” — one intended to restore the “occupied” lands of the “Islas Malvinas.” General Galtieri, chairman of the revolutionary council in Argentina, elaborated on the reason for the daring Argentine recovery operation: “We reject the very name ‘Falklands.’ We reject the very idea of British sovereignty.” Galtieri further threatened: “God willing, our islands will return to the Argentine people. We wish to be free from all vestiges of Western colonialism. Ours is not an aggressive act at all, but a war of national restitution to reclaim what was stolen from us by outsiders.”

Galtieri then held up the keys to his grandfather’s former house in Port Stanley and promised: “So help us God, we would rather die than surrender one inch of the Malvinas to these racist buccaneers. I am on my way to the ciudad to reclaim what is mine.”

Brig. Gen. “Mad Dog” Menendez, the new governor of the islands, warned of “thousands of more deaths to come” if the British dared to return. “If they want a Falklandgrad, they’ll get it. There are thousands of Argentine martyrs in the Los Tigres brigade waiting to sacrifice themselves for the holy soil of the motherland.” Menendez added, “I don’t think the Limeys have the stomach for it. But let them come; we’re waiting to give them another beating. We will send them a present of 39 Exocets.”

The German foreign ministry reminded Prime Minister Thatcher, “As military experts have written, there is no possible way to decide the issue by arms unless we want endless violence. If the British will respect the legitimate aspirations of the Argentine people, there is no need for this overreaction — much less a permanent garrison in the occupied lands. Why go to war over a few settlers anyway?”

May, 1982

The Quartet issued a general framework defining the parameters of the proposed Roadmap to peace. Key was a two-state solution: The East and (the former) West Falklands would be divided between Britain and Argentina. A Green Line would separate East Falklands from the new state of the Isle Malvina, with Port Stanley/Ciudad Galtieri as a jointly occupied capital.

All Argentineans would enjoy a “right of return” to Port Stanley; they would also be eligible to settle at will in East Falklands, while British settlements in Isla Malvina would cease immediately. Compensation for occupied territory in East Falklands would be paid to refugees jointly by the governments of Britain and the United States. In exchange, the Galtieri junta promised to respect the East Falklands’ “Right to Exist” and to accept the “Land for Peace” formula. As arranged, General Pinochet of Chile promised to aid Argentina in the establishment of a new democracy by sending legal scholars from Santiago to help draft the new constitution of the Malvinas.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher alone pressed on with the British counterattack, defiantly announcing that the dispute would end only “when one side wins and the other loses. When the fighting is over and the dictatorship that started this aggression falls.” Thatcher then added: “If her Majesty’s government is to blame, it was for giving the impression of weakness and offering unilateral concessions to thugs. My goodness, we were willing to offer them 97 percent of West Falklands to start off with. But then what do you expect from a corrupt tyranny that outlaws everything in its media except xenophobia?”

Spokesmen for the Labor opposition commented that Thatcher’s “saber-rattling” was nothing short of “Sharonesque.” “It is exactly the type of Neanderthal reaction we could expect from the Iron Lady. Now she’s trying to undermine Chairman Galtieri by expressing solidarity with those crazy Las Madras de Mayo women in Buenos Aires who represent nobody, really. Next she’ll be talking about elections and free speech in Argentina. She’s refused even to meet Galtieri — called him ‘a murderer,’ of all things, with ‘blood on his hands.’ This whole thing is about bolstering her own ratings. Let Thatcher and Galtieri slug it out themselves.”

A number of European diplomats fumed that Thatcher’s statements were extremely “unhelpful.” As one unidentified spokesman put it, “I don’t think it is the business of the British government to characterize Argentina’s junta as ‘illegitimate.’ That is a matter for the Argentine people themselves to decide — and thousands of them have taken to the streets to express solidarity with General Galtieri. We must deal with the regime that is in place, and avoid interfering in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation. It is equally unnecessary to get into the semantic game of characterizing the Argentine recovery as an ‘invasion.’ For millions in South America the islands were under British occupation until being liberated by General Menendez. Talking about the need for habeas corpus in Buenos Aires is a nonstarter.”

American envoys chided the British for their “stubborn” attitude. One remarked, off the record: “We’ve got the Latino Street over here to worry about in our neck of the woods. When the British crack down on the Argentineans, we’ll have anti-American riots from Buenos Aires to Mexico City. I just wish they’d consider our feelings a little more.”

Vice President Bush added, “Unlike the British, we have a large Hispanic population that doesn’t take kindly to a Western power using force to expel Latinos from contested land. It is not a question of legal particulars, or of dictatorship versus democracy. The Malvinas have symbolic capital over here and the insular British, some 7,000 miles away, simply don’t get that.”

An aide to President Reagan put it more bluntly: “This is a political problem with a 150-year history. Why is Prime Minister Thatcher swaggering around as if she’s the Iron Duke or Bomber Harris? That jingoism doesn’t wear well over here in New York and Washington. This is not a foxhunt on some lordly manor. You don’t just go in, defeat the enemy, make it clear that aggression doesn’t pay, humiliate and topple a dictatorship, and then expect democracy to follow in the wake of military catastrophe with peace as the dividend. The world doesn’t work that way anymore.”

Meanwhile, spokespersons for the Quartet denied reports of a fiery speech given by General Galtieri in Buenos Aires. The Center for Latin American Studies released a translated text in which the General purportedly promised a jubilant crowd in Spanish: “Step One is Isla Malvina. Two is the East Falklands — and then all Las Malvinas will be Argentinean again. By God, we will push all those Saxons into the sea.”

When asked to confirm his inflammatory remarks, Galtieri scoffed, “Lies, lies cooked up by the Jews and Zionists.”

Re: the Roadmap: Those in the State Department who did not wish to retaliate for the murdering of Marines in Lebanon, who were willing to let Kuwait remain Iraq’s 19th province, who balked at going to Baghdad in 1991, who shrugged when thousands of Shiites and Kurds were butchered, who sought to pass on Milosevic, who raised the possibility of a coalition government with the Taliban, and who were opposed to Iraqi freedom — now would entrust the security of our only true Middle East ally (and the only real democracy in the region) to the pledges of an Abu Mazen. The latter, known for his Holocaust-denying “scholarship,” shares power with an autocrat and terrorist, and only haphazardly reins in a “street” that cheered 9/11, rooted for Saddam Hussein to kill American soldiers, and praises killers who slaughter innocents, among them Americans, across the Middle East.


©2004 Victor Davis Hanson

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