Monday, 22 February 2010

A secret history of the Falkland Islands

I don't know how I do it, but I always manage to get into conversations where my unfailing habit of picking up obscure information gets me into trouble.

Take for example Faisal Islam's short exploration of the current oil explorations in the Falklands.

Now I've got an ear for controversy, I'll admit, so it would almost be automatic that I like a good spy story too.

Thus I remember the announcement in 2002 of documents from the public record office held under the 30-year rule recording the secret discussions held during the 1960s showing Wilson's Labour govt to have considered ceding the Falkland Islands to Argentina.

This is exactly the kind of delicate diplomacy which rouses my interest.

Obviously Labour managed to back itself into a corner by making ideological commitments to decolonisation and more realistic negotiators were able to take full advantage.

The UN's desire for a peaceful negotiated solution to the conflict resulted in a memorandum of understanding to be passed that gave the impression to the Argentines that Britain was committed to a handover, which grew into legitimisation of the invasion as an excuse to distract from internal troubles.

Unfortunately it was a big mistake. The popular feeling among the inhabitants was (and still is) strongly opposed to a takeover by Buenos Aires.

Argentina pushed for a right to settle on the island hoping that this would sway any plebicite on the matter (in much the same way as Britain took control of the Orange Free State), but this was rejected.

Now it seems obvious with hindsight that it was only stoking up future conflict to even enter into negotiations with anyone who seeks unilateral agreement and then pull out, but I'm surprised that this important background phase has been all but ignored by popular history.

Of course Labour made huge campaigning waves by allying the anti-nuclear movement to opposition to the Falklands war which they could not have done if they had been open about the blame they shouldered for it, but I'm surprised that LibDems and tories haven't found themselves able to mention it to highlight just how the truth gets twisted to fit agendas (well, I'm less surprised that the tories don't mention it).

Anyway, I think there's a lesson there for Nick Clegg in the potential event of a hung parliament that taking sides with an ideological opponent may provide a temporary resolution, but in the longer term it will have the potential to explode.

And for what it's worth I think the only possible long-term solution is one of cooperative independence - both for the LibDems and for the Falklands.

But it seems particularly odd to me that the whole Foreign Office was taken completely by surprise by Galtieri's junta sending the troops in given it was only 14 years earlier (almost exactly the same period of time between the two Gulf wars) that the negotiations had been stalled.

I also read that Venezuelan socialist leader Hugo Chavez is calling on the Queen to hand the Islands over.

Hilariously he fails to grasp the irony in his complaint that Britain is undemocratic for maintaining a Queen: the role of a constitutional monarch in a representative democracy is far more limited than his own, given that he has a weekly television address to spout his ill-considered personal views direct to the nation as his means of asserting his preeminence.

But then that's socialists for you: they always allow their ends to justify their means.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

No comments: