Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Reheating stale argument

Which might actually be a subtitle for much of the blogosphere as a whole. In this case, however, I'm referring specifically to the arguments over the justice of the Falklands War. Mick Hume, the former editor of Living Marxism who now writes for the Times, writes today about the difference between the Britain of Margaret Thatcher, and the Britain of Margaret Beckett. While Thatcher could summon up the last dregs of British Imperial power and retake the Falklands from Argentine attack, Beckett's sheer provincialism is indicative of Britain's reduced standing in the world.
I think the comparison between the Falklands War and the current hostage crisis isn't terribly helpful. For one thing, had Iran captured 15 British sailors in 1983 there is simply no way that Mrs Thatcher would have responded with a full military invasion. Then, as now, we simply lack the military capacity to engage, independently and on its home soil, a country with a far larger army in a situation where the ostensible 'war aims' would be so ill-served by military action. In any event, Hume finishes by reminiscing fondly over his anti-war protests in the 1980s.
In contrast to the widespread acclaim for woolly antiwar protests today, we revolting students were threatened with being charged with treason, for marching behind a (historically and geographically correct) banner declaring that “The Malvinas are Argentina’s”.
The Falkland Islands are 300 miles off the coast of Argentina - why should that make them Argentine? The Channel Islands are closer to France than to England - should they be French? The Canary Islands are closer to Morocco than to Spain; Lesotho is entirely subsumed within South Africa: there is more to sovereignty than geographical proximity. As for historically, there were British settlers in the Falklands before Argentina existed as a country. The argument between Britain and Argentina boils down to a question of which of them should have possession of a colony. Argentina as a nation has never occupied the Islands; there are no historic links between 'the people' of the Falklands (since the islands were uninhabited) and 'the people' of Argentina.
The future of the Falklands must be in the hands of the current Falkland Islanders. The right of self-determination has to be observed. Accordingly, given that the 3,000 islanders have full British citizenship and consider themselves to be British, there is little or no prospect of the islands leaving British control in the foreseeable future. That aside, it would presumably come as little surprise to Nick Cohen to see that avowed Marxists were marching in the street to oppose action taken against a quasi-fascist military dictatorship. The seeds of the Stoppers were clearly sown a long time ago.

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