How appropriate that with the release of the new feature The Iron Lady, a biopic about Margaret Thatcher, tensions in the south Atlantic are being ratcheted up again over the Falkland Islands, the site of a brief and successful British military action after the military regime of Argentina invaded the islands in 1982. The 74 day war was a source of pride for the British public, and set the stage for a new era of a more muscular UK foreign policy under Thatcher’s auspices.
The islands, originally named the Malvinas Islands, were a part of Argentina until 1833, when the British Empire occupied them and expelled the Argentine inhabitants. Argentina has never recognized the occupation, and the military action in 1982 was aimed at reuniting the islands with the country. Until now, the islands have had relatively little value, consisting of two large islands used mostly for sheep grazing and hundreds of smaller rock-like islets. Honestly, the 1982 war was mostly just a diplomatic-political pissing match, and it didn’t really have all that many consequences to it.
Now, thirty years later, the issue may be coming to the fore again. Why? One simple reason: oil, and lots of it. Potential oil reserves in the Falklands may triple the amount of UK oil reserves, and in this day and age, with surging global demand for black gold holding steady, that translates into billions of dollars. What was once a minor sore spot in international relations has once again become a potentially more significant conflict.
I’m no fan of imperialism. Whenever the British showed up anywhere in the 19th century, they basically took whatever they could lay their hands on. And I’m also not a fan of Latin American dictators manufacturing conflicts with enfeebled former colonial countries to deflecting attention away from their dismal domestic records. These two countries are going to have to work this out between them. Frankly, I think it’d be fair if the islands were jointly administered, and the rights to the oil were split between the two countries. But, I would expect for there to be a long period of muscle flexing and saber rattling over the issue for a few years before any eventual outcome is reached. Otherwise, it just wouldn’t be that political, and subsequently, not that interesting.