The Falkland War of 1982 was an undeclared war between the United Kingdom and Argentina and lasted for about ten weeks. The main reason for the fighting was because of two islands under British control that the Argentines insisted were supposed to be theirs since they were located only 300 miles from their coast (Ashton, 2018, 1). These islands were South Sandwich and the Falkland Islands. In response to the above prompt, the essay will look at the war in detail, both from the military perspective and diplomatically, to uncover why the war broke out and the liability that Argentina had on the loss of lives experienced in the course.
Before delving into the intricate details, a general background will be provided on the events that occurred. The conflict officially began after Argentina's military forces invaded both South Georgia and the Falkland Islands on April 2nd and 3rd. This forced the British government to release its armed forces in response to the aggression. This culminated in a conflict that would last for 74 days before ending in a unanimous victory for the United Kingdom, who had overwhelmed the Argentine forces. The result was that three civilians on the island died, and 255 British and 650 Argentinians (Borsani, 2018, 267), all of them being military personnel fighting on either side.
One has to acknowledge how diplomacy failed both states in addressing the matter of the two islands that were under dispute. Should the situation have been handled better, there would not have been an excessive and unnecessary loss of life. The main issue that was used to rally the Argentines was the case it made on its sovereignty, considering that it insisted the islands were in their territory. The Argentinian government decided that military action was the only way recovery of the islands could be made at the time. With communication and fast decisions following, the British government had to respond to aggression with aggression since it considered military action against the islands an invasion of an area under the crown's protection from 1841 (Bruni, 2015, 14). The irony is that neither nation declared war on each other, but they both explained their actions by saying that the island was a war zone.
Failure in diplomacy
It is essential to look at the background of the matter before looking into how Argentina forced the war to happen. The dispute for the islands had been in existence for a long time, even before the war was fought. In 1965, the United Nations had called on the United Kingdom and Argentina to resolve their issues diplomatically (Freedman, 2020). There would be negotiations that would not bring any fruits because the British citizens that lived in Falkland and New Georgia refused to be under the South American government.
Argentina, on the other hand, refused to have parts of its territory under European rule. The British government wanted to have a lease-back option with the Argentine government, but opposition to the notion saw that this idea failed without taking off. Warnings were issued via intelligence briefings that the Argentinian government preferred military action should their short ten year period of leasing not be granted; as per their negotiation conditions (Green, 2019, 89). There were oppositions to the notions of granting Argentina any concessions because there were British citizens who did not want to be under the South American nation living on the islands.
On the Argentinian side, things were looking bleak daily because of the incompetence of the military governments that had been in place for the last number of years. Before the war started, there had been a transfer of power from one military dictator to another, Rafael Videla to Roberto Viola in 1981. This military juntas had been in charge of the nation since 1976 but had brought on civil strife caused by the economic hardships that affected the Argentinian people. In December of 1981, there were changes in the junta whereby Leopoldo Galtieri was brought in as acting president (Gibran, 2015, 74).
The new acting president had lackeys supporting a military decision to have a claim in the long-standing dispute for the islands against the British government (Bermant, 2019, 250). The reasoning employed is that the United Kingdom would never attack by responding militarily. Since there was civil unrest already from the economic hardships, the Argentinian ruler saw it fit to bolster patriotic feelings to turn attention away from the country’s problems. According to the Journal of Historical Research, creating a nationalism wave became an imperative venture to divert attention towards a new cause for the people in Argentina.
In order to understand how the government led by a military junta was unpopular in Argentina, specific reasons will be given. There was the Dirty War that had been backed by the United States in which more than 30,000 people had disappeared or had been killed through state-sponsored terrorism (Berbéri & Castro, 2016). Human rights were violated to rout out the suspected socialists and left-wing sympathizers, and many citizens felt that the military junta was illegitimate in their eyes. Added to this was the fact that chronic financial problems were facing the common Argentinian and their dwindling support.
All this while, UN-led diplomatic negotiations were taking place between the United Kingdom and the Argentinian government. Decisions by the junta followed in which they anticipated the talks being fruitless. Therefore, they started a systematic plan that involved cutting off supplies to the two islands to frustrate the inhabitants (Freedman & Gamba-Stonehouse, 2014 17). With the United Nations talk having little to no progress, tensions only increased between the two countries. It was evident that the military junta preferred military action over diplomacy for the reasons named above.
The United Nation Security Council
Before the invasion, the Argentinan ambassador to the United Nations called for resolutions to be passed against any form of build-up by the United Kingdom in the areas near Argentina. The ambassador operated from inadequate information collected that indicated the United Kingdom was bolstering its defenses in the region after the scrap metal workers had raised the Argentine flag in the British territories (Ashton, 2018, 2). The effort to pass new resolutions was a last ditch effort to move the Security Council away from the already decided diplomatic actions to resolve the dispute over territories.
One can note that from these actions that were engaged, the Argentine government did not want a diplomatic solution to be attained. The threat to forcefully remove the scrap metal workers from South Georgia was agreed upon to be the excuse that would be used by the Argentinian government to lay the military decision on. This was to portray the British as the ones resorting to using force instead of complying with the council's decision to use diplomacy. The efforts to make the United Kingdom the aggressor did not bear any fruit because Britain was not aware of the actions that the military junta was planning behind the scenes (Ross, 2016, 18).
More tension would arise on March 19th when some scrap metal merchants from Argentina, who had been infiltrated by some military personnel, raised their national flag in the South Georgia Island that was in dispute. The action was considered the first offensive in the already charged up situation, which prompted a reaction from the United Kingdom through its Royal Navy that sent a patrol vessel to respond (Green, 2019, 91). In Argentina, the military junta panicked because they thought the British would reinforce their response team and thus invaded the islands on April 2nd.
On the eve of the invasion by Argentinian military forces, the United Kingdom ambassador to the United Nations Security Council was made aware of a planned invasion and therefore was advised to get the British government a favorable position. Sir Parson, the ambassador at that time, had to get nine votes and avoid a veto vote from the rest of the other permanent members. Thus, Resolution 502 was adopted after getting much-needed votes to support the British machinations (Freedman, 2020).
Stated in the resolution was the fact that there was planned aggression by the Argentine military junta on the islands, which were British territories. The resolutions supported the notion that the Argentinians were the first ones to breach the peace agreement that had been in place between the two nations. There were demands made for the cessation of the hostile actions from either side and immediate withdrawal of troops from either island (Borsani, 2018, 269). As a final resolution, both governments were called upon to seek solutions diplomatically since they were in contravention of the United Nations Charter by being hostile to each other.
It should be noted that most of these resolutions were made for official purposes and to give the United Kingdom’s government the legitimacy it needed should it have to respond using military action. No one expected either nation to go back to discussions now that the Argentinian junta had chosen military action. Independent studies by scholars indicate that the tactic used by the British government was brilliant because they did not concentrate on the issue of sovereignty that was insisted upon by the Argentinians (Mercau, 2019, 69).
On the sovereignty concern, the Argentines had the upper hand; thus, they focused their diplomatic actions of painting the South American nation as an aggressor by concentrating on Chapter VII (Anderson, 2014, 89). In the United Nations Charter, all signatories were banned from using force to settle any disputes. Although both nations intended to use force, the passing of such a resolution allowed the United Kingdom government to retake their territories with military force. The only premise was that they would be acting in self-defense because the aggressors had refused to leave.
By studying the activities in the United Nations assembly on the eve of the invasion, during the military actions by both sides, and after the action settled, one can see why Argentina goes down in history as the cause of the Falkland Islands War. As explained in the above paragraph, the picture painted is that the United Kingdom was only acting in self-defense while Argentina was the aggressor. The positions adapted by other nations in the matter would grant legitimacy to the United Kingdom by placing the blame on Argentina (Bellot, 2018, 90).
Third-party countries position on the matter
Most of the support that the United Kingdom received came from the countries in the Commonwealth of Nations, such as New Zealand, Australia, and Canada (Schenoni and Battaglino, 2020). These three nations were the first ones to withdraw their diplomats from their postings in Argentina. There was the European Economic Community, which was an influential trading partner with many South American countries, including Argentina, that imposed economic sanctions on the nation. Considering that Argentina had many economic concerns even before the war, this was a significant undertaking at the time.
On Argentina’s side, most of the nations in Latin America supported them on their issue with the sovereignty of their territories except Chile, as put forward in The Encyclopedia of Diplomacy, which was engaged in another dispute over an island. Other nations were in the Non-Aligned Movement in Argentina's corner, such as Nicaragua and Cuba. These nations were instrumental in getting the other nations non-aligned in the Cold War to support Argentina (Mundel & Nieves-Pizarro, 2019, 167). Western nations were surprised by the position that was taken by Cuba since it had no relation with the junta in Buenos Aires.
Later on, it would be documented that Israel secretly sold tanks and other weapons through Peru to the Argentine military junta, even though there have been official denials from the Israeli government. Peru was the most vocal supporter because it lend Argentina with its missiles, followed by Guatemala and Venezuela, which offered financial aid. Under Muammar Gaddafi, Libya sent machine guns, missiles, mortars, and anti-aircraft launchers to support Argentina's military action against the British (Green, 2019, 92). The Soviet Union engaged in clandestine operations to support the Argentines through the use of their satellites, thus enabling them to track British ship movements.
After Argentina invaded the islands, the first country to express all its support to the United Kingdom was New Zealand, which considered the military action from Argentina wrong. The first action taken was expelling all Argentinian diplomats from the nations, with the Prime Minister of New Zealand (Robert Muldoon) being quoted pledging support, including military, to the British (Nietzel, 2015, 109). The man was quoted by a statement issued on BBC;
"This is Rob Muldoon. We are thinking of you and we are giving our full and total support to the British government in its endeavors to rectify this situation and get rid of the people who have invaded your country.” (Fehrs, 2014, 241)
The United Kingdom would receive most of the support from the international community because from the events leading up to the invasion of the islands by the Argentinian military junta; it was clear that Britain had legitimacy. Faulted by their action, Argentina could not source or mobilize material support to aid their efforts the same way Britain was able to. The United Kingdom had allies from all quarters, helping with intelligence gathering, ports to refuel, and other forms of support.
France would issue an embargo to its companies against selling arms and missiles to the Argentinian government. Since they were the principal providers of military aircraft to the South American nation, they trained British pilots on how to fight against the French planes used by the Argentinian military. French intelligence agencies helped prevent Argentina from acquiring arms from any other international partner and could tip the scales of the war in favor of the United Kingdom (Green, 2019, 93).
The United States helped the British by passing a resolution in Congress to support them should a need arise during the Falkland War. Chile was the only nation in the South American region that did not support the Argentine overtures in Falkland since the two countries had their won rivalry because of Patagonia (Durán, 2016, 61). They would help the British by giving intelligence reports on the Argentine military and aircraft movement beforehand, thus aiding the war efforts.
The war itself
The United Kingdom was taken by surprise since the South American country had brought forward its dates for any form of military aggression, elucidates Journal of Social Sciences, Humanities and Education. No one thought they would follow up on the plan of attack, but they did not know how the desperation in Argentina had influenced the military junta’s decision. Despite many warnings from the response teams in that area, the United Kingdom government failed to act and were thereby caught flat-footed in the unexpected invasion. They were, consequently, initially unable to defend their citizens in the Falklands and their territories.
The war was very brief and ended up with the British being victorious over the Argentine military forces. The consequences were immediately clear on both sides, with the Argentinian government suffering most of the fallout since it was faulted for starting a pointless war. Diplomacy had failed earlier on, thus shedding some light on how international bodies such as the United Nations were useless in averting international tensions that might lead to future wars. Lives were lost in the war on both sides, but the Argentines suffered the most with 650 people killed, about 1,600 wounded, and more than 11,000 captured compared to the British side 255 were killed, 775 wounded, and 115 would be captured (Maltby, 2016, 650).
Propaganda was a tool that the Argentine military junta used to get its citizens behind the military campaign. Through initial victories that resulted in the sinking of a naval vessel belonging to the British, the press was used to release messages that favored the Argentines in the war. The intelligence services in Argentina would release reports aimed at giving the Argentinian military government the moral high ground by playing into sovereignty, as per the Journal of Social Sciences, Humanities and Education.
Newspaper reports would be released with full page pictures of naval vessels in flames in the Argentinian media, even though most of them were faked. The tabloid press had a field day doing the government's bidding in reporting with bias to the citizens. There were reports in popular magazines and newspapers of the Argentine military forces winning the war even though it was false. Some publications were given to the troops in the frontline to boost their morale, even though the items reported were fictional. Although most of these news items would later be discovered to have a false bearing, they served their purpose, as later on remarked.
"In Argentina, it is not a military dictatorship that is fighting. It is the whole people… regardless of their political persuasion…fighting to extricate the last vestiges of colonialism. Don't be mistaken, Europe, it is not a dictatorship that is fighting; it is the whole nation" (Wanwarn, 2016, 15)
Other consequences came about as a result of the Falklands War that saw how the Argentinian fault shaped the politics of both the aggressors n this scenario. In the United Kingdom, the people viewed that the government had responded well to the Argentinian aggression to its citizens in the best way possible. Margaret Thatcher, the prime minister at the time, saw a popularity increase and would top the opinions polls once again (Smith, 2017, 41). Considering that the Conservative establishment was waning in popularity before the war, this came as a boost that would set it up to win elections in the coming year.
The fallout from Argentina was immediate after the embarrassing defeat in the hands of the British military. Initially, the military establishment wanted to whip up a nationalist fervor by invading the Falkland Islands (Privratsky, 2016, 20). Although successful in the short term, the effects of a defeat soon took to the stage in the South American nation. The people would soon discover that the military junta was responsible for the actions since they had started the aggression that led to the loss of lives and destruction of the country's image internationally. The people had a common view that the military government had shamed the nation on the international arena, and there was, therefore, no coming back from this. This also meant that any prospect of a confrontation with Chile was put on hold to deal with the fallouts from the Falkland War.
The Falkland Islands War was very consequential in Argentina's social and political life because its military image was destroyed. Originally, the military was seen as a moral reserve for the country, an image that had helped it cling on to power for most of the 20th century (Redding & George, 2020, 31). This was about to change because of the apparent greed to be in power even though it meant risking the lives of their country people. What followed from the fallout was that in 1983, there was a democratic election that resulted in a new government being elected (the first democratic government since 1973 (Åhäll & Gregory, 2015, 231).
The essay was written in response to a prompt that will look at the war in detail, both from the military perspective and diplomatically. This is to uncover why the war broke out and the liability that Argentina had on the loss of lives experienced in the course. The main reason for the fighting was because of two islands under British control that the Argentines insisted were supposed to be theirs since they were located only 300 miles from their coast.
Although the war was undeclared, it had many ramifications to either side because of how it came about, how it was fought, and the consequences. Sovereignty was the main concern that the Argentines used as cover to initiate the invasion. The guise was to hide the need to raise nationalism feelings in the people of Argentina who had started seeing the military junta as a failure. Tough economic times were being experienced as a result of the incompetence of the military establishment in place. To divert attention from the occurrences within Argentina, the military junta manufactured a conflict that resulted in the loss of Argentine lives. For this reason, it can be stated that the Argentine government was responsible for the outbreak of the Falkland Islands War of 1982.
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