Argentina: Great Wine. Great steak. Rubbish diplomacy

argentine-beef

Actually, I’d recommend red wine with steak

I’m a great admirer of South American wine.  And those Argentineans produce some excellent beef.  I went off Argentinean wine in the aftermath of the Falklands War, but thirty years on I thought it might be OK again.  Now thanks to Ms. Kirchner, I may have to reconsider.

Kirchner’s open letter to David Cameron on the Falklands was really preposterous.  Clearly intended for a domestic audience, it made little sense to non-Argentineans.

Of course the history of the Falkland Islands is complicated. But as early as 1690 — long before Argentina claimed independence from Spain in 1816 — an Englishman called John Strong (splendid name) landed on the islands and named them for Admiralty Commissioner Viscount Falkland.  Certainly Britain had a claim to the islands long before Argentina existed.

Britain reasserted its claim in 1833.  While there was a small Argentine garrison on the islands at the time, there was no civilian population and no civil administration, so Kirchner’s claim that that the islands were forcibly taken from Argentina cannot be taken seriously.  There was no return of Argentine settlers to the mainland.  Equally, there has been no question of shipping in settlers recently to establish a local population.  The people of the Falkland Islands have been there for generations, and have made their views very clear.  They have formed a successful and sustainable community.  They have a right to self-determination.  Their views will be reaffirmed very soon in a referendum (and some readers may wonder why the Falklanders can have a referendum on their national status, while we in the UK apparently cannot).  Perhaps if Argentina had chosen to woo the islanders, rather than terrifying and provoking them, the outcome might have been different.

There is no “principle of proximity” in international law, which might allocate an island to the nearest large land-mass.  If there were, then the Channel Islands would belong to France, while Singapore would belong to Malaysia.  And we could have an interesting discussion about the Shetlands, whose nearest continental landfall is in Norway.  In any case, the Falklands are not that close to Argentina.  It’s around 300 miles, which was a problem for the Argentine Air Force during the conflict.  The distance from the mainland left them with limited flying time over the islands.

The invasion of 1982 was an extraordinary folly — and like most Argentine initiatives on the Falklands, was a transparent attempt to shore up political support at home, rather than to assert any genuine claim.  Cynics have compared the Falklands War to “two bald men fighting over a comb”, and indeed in 1982 it was difficult to see what causes (beyond the rights of the islanders, and British national pride) were served.  Today, the possibility of oil around the islands adds a real and practical economic factor.

Some in the UK are concerned that Argentina may try another military adventure.  Of course we are right to be vigilant, and to maintain forces in the islands.  But I understand that while British military capabilities are not what they were thirty years ago, the Argentine military has had just about zero investment in the period, and may well be unable to mount a credible threat.

I was delighted to see the initiative this morning by The Sun.  The newspaper has an uncanny ability to sense the mood of the British people.  You can regard their letter in the Buenos Aires newspaper as a gimmick, but if so, it was a splendid gimmick. And they could afford to be much more forthright than the stuffy conventions of diplomacy would allow the Foreign Office to be.  As I said in a Tweet earlier today, “It makes one proud(er) to be British”.  Well done that newspaper.

Meantime, when I’m looking for South American wine (much better than European, at least in my rather modest price range), I think I may go for the Chilean rather than the Argentine.

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6 Responses to Argentina: Great Wine. Great steak. Rubbish diplomacy

  1. Sally McNamara says:

    Absolutely fabulous!

  2. Sally McNamara says:

    The best quote I’ve ever heard vis-a-vis the Falklands: Sir Henry Leach to Lady T when Lady T asked, “The Falklands have been taken. What shall we do?” “Well, we shall take them back Prime Minister!” And then some reference to the Argentines ruing the day that they saw the Union Jack sailing into sight (he was a Navy chap). This is made all the better for it came not a minute after Sir John Knott told her that we couldnt retake the Falklands J

    The chapter in Thatchers Downing Street Years about the Falkalnds is a compulsory/must-read for anyone interested in the interplay between leadership, diplomacy, decision-making, statecraft, strategy and grand strategy. It is magnificent in its simplicity in my view. The stress on diplomacy is often forgotten in our military victory too. Thatcher herself says that Britain was never served better by two diplomats than she was by our man in New York (at the UN) and in DC.

    Happy New Year!

  3. eworrall1 says:

    Another Argentine attack is inevitable. Don’t be fooled by the lack of military investment. Hitler started from a very low base, so low that much of the Polish invasion was staged on horseback, yet still managed to wreak havoc. As the Vietnam war demonstrated, and the Afghan and Iraq occupations are demonstrating, its not the size of your hardware investment which counts, its how you use it.

    Granted the Argentine army is traditionally a badly managed conscript army, not unlike the shambolic Soviet army which occupied Afghanistan, but these things can change very quickly. They still managed to give Britain a bloody nose on more than one occasion during the last war.

    If Britain really wanted to protect the Falklands, they could give the Islanders a few nuclear missiles, and put them under local control. Wars of aggression are impossible (or at the very least hideously risky) when there is a real risk your enemy can turn half a dozeon of your biggest cities into a smoking ruin in a matter of minutes.

  4. ogga1 says:

    Cut out police cars work on flyover bridges so why not 3/4 cut out nuclear subs on time switches
    that submerge then pop up again at meal times i think you can be assured it would play havoc with
    their digestive system, if nothing else. Must stop now sides aching.
    Happy New Year to all.

  5. Linda Hudson says:

    Falklands is strategically placed to Artic oil fields, and plentiful fishing grounds, and thats the rub!

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