The Falklands

I’m not an expert on the subject, but I’m inclined to oppose the Administration’s stance of neutrality on whether the Falklands should remain British or be returned to Argentina.

I’m not moved by more-than-150-year-old territorial claims: When the residents of a territory that has long belonged to one country want to live in their homes as citizens of that country, I think they have a powerful moral claim to so live, regardless of who was right or wrong in the 1840s. There may be exceptions to this principle, for instance if continued status-quo-preserving popular sovereignty poses a serious national security threat to others, or risks serious oppression of a minority group within the territory, but these seem inapplicable here. (There is also a complicated question of what happens when popular sovereignty would undo a longstanding status quo, for instance when the Basques want independence from Spain, but that too is not applicable here.)

Moreover, the British are our close allies who are fighting alongside us in Afghanistan, and who had fought recently alongside us in Iraq; it seems to me we have some obligation of loyalty to them. And while sometimes loyalty must yield to morality, this is an area where loyalty to friends, the preservation of the territorial status quo, and the moral force of popular sovereignty seem to me to point in the same direction, for reasons I just mentioned.

To be sure, we also want to be on friendly terms with the Argentinians. And I can imagine situations where dire national needs can trump both loyalty and morality. Purity is not always possible in international relations. But this just doesn’t seem to me to be one such case. Indeed, I would think that loyalty to our closest friends would be more in our national self-interest than neutrality aimed at wooing future friends.

For a forceful criticism of the Administration’s stance from a British perspective, see Nile Gardiner (Telegraph). Thanks to InstaPundit for the pointer.