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.
3 thoughts on “The Falklands War was a symbol of failure”
In one sense all wars are an admission of diplomatic failure. Carl von Clausewitz the Prussian general wrote “war is the continuation of government policy with other means.” It’s a very accurate description.
The US general George Pattern believed that war was the natural state of being for humanity with periods of peace in between for regrouping. Both those descriptions are simply a soldier’s view of politics. Politicians if they are any good usually can find solutions to conflicts before they begin. That’s why they are elected. In one sense any fool can start a war but ending one is a little more difficult.
General Galtierie gave Thatcher little choice but to respond with overwhelming military force. Her popularity was seriously flagging at the time and the invasion was a political gift. Thatcher became the most popular PM since Churchill afterwards. The Argentines had no business invading sovereign territory. If it was about oil then, even worse, it was a criminal act.
I actually believe she was right. I had serious issues with Thatcher on most matters but on this subject, I still believe she acted correctly and honourably. That opinion has nothing to do with jingoism which became nauseating at the time. It’s just a personal belief in right and wrong and the rule of international laws and decency.
What Thatcher would think now with Britain having a rogue PM and sycophantic government prepared to fragrantly break treaties nobody can know. However, I can hazard a good guess.
I think Carrington’s resignation illustrates the failure I refer to. Not just on his and MT’s watch though.
Yes I agree. Carrington was an honorable man who did the right thing resigning his office. Such a difference to today.