Max Hastings, who probably knows more about The Falklands War than anybody, writes about it 40 years on in The Times today.
I was living and working in The Netherlands during the Falklands War. My Dutch colleagues and friends thought that we were mad, but they admired us. Working in the oil industry I knew that there was a possibility of there being exploitable hydrocarbon resources in the South Atlantic. But there was insufficient certainty about this to justify sending in the fleet.
No – the War was about sovereignty and nothing else. The Dutch who thought that we were mad were mercantile pragmatists. The Falklands had no resources to speak of, cost a lot to supply, were miles from anywhere. Fewer people lived there than on a housing estate in Utrecht. “You Brits must love penguins” one said to me. “Why not give the 2000 residents a Scottish island” said another. He had a point.
But in 1982 I backed the War. There seemed a nobility about it and a moral logic to defending “our” people. In Holland my views were tolerated and even admired, though the quizzical looks suggested that the people thought that I was unhinged. On reflection I now think that I was.
Forty years before The Falklands the nation was in a life or death struggle. Eighty years on my admiration for those in that war, my own father included, is undiminished. But the skirmish in 1982? Not really. The loss of life in the South Atlantic was horrific and for what ? British honour ? Hmm. I am now convinced, though I wasn’t at the time, that a negotiated settlement was possible. That there was a war was a symbol of failure.