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Legacies of the Falkland Islands War:

Today is the 25th anniversary of the end of the Falkland Islands War. Since I am currently a visiting professor in Argentina, I thought it appropriate to mark the occasion, and consider the legacy of the War. Despite the tragic loss of almost 1000 lives, the impact of the war on both countries was probably positive.

The Impact on Britain

For Britain, the victory helped regain national self-confidence, and also ensured the continuation of Margaret Thatcher's free market reforms by giving her a big boost for the 1983 election. Back in 1982-83, the opposition Labor Party was not yet the Clintonized New Labor we came to know and love in the Tony Blair era. Instead, the party was led by hard-line old school socialist Michael Foot, who would surely have scrapped Thatcherism had he and his party returned to power in 1983. The War made what might have been a close election a slam dunk for the Conservatives.

Effects in Argentina

Argentina probably benefited from defeat even more than Britain did from victory. The war was initiated by the repressive Argentine military dictatorship in part to shore up flagging popular support for the military junta. In the short run, the gambit worked. Even most left-wing Argentines cheered when the junta's forces captured the islands on April 2, 1982. But, contrary to Argentine expectations, the British did not take the invasion lying down, but instead sent a task force that eventually recaptured the Islands. The defeat discredited the military government even among its supporters, and led to its collapse a year later. The restoration of civilian rule in 1983 ended one of the most repressive periods in Argentine history, and led to the trial and conviction of several of the junta's members for human rights violations.

Had Argentina won the war, the military government would have gotten a new lease on life. The resulting harm would surely have outweighed any meager benefit that ordinary Argentineans could have derived from possessing a few small islands with little economic value.

Decisive Victory as the Best Road to Peace

Despite the beneficial impact of the War's outcome, most Argentines remain convinced that their country is the rightful owner of the Islands, and regret their defeat. Official Argentine maps call the Falklands the "Malvinas" and label them a part of Argentina. It is an eerie (though less disturbing) parallel to the Palestinian maps that show Israel as a part of "Palestine."

This view is not quite universal. One Argentine academic told me that he was glad that Argentina lost the war. When I asked why, he explained that he could not support the war because he was "not a fascist" (as was the military regime that started the conflict). Nevertheless, his opinion was in a distinct minority. Probably 80 to 90 percent of Argentineans - including many who abhor the military government - take the nationalistic position. This, despite the fact that Argentina has not controlled the islands since the 1830s, and the population is almost entirely composed of people who want to remain under British rule. Obviously, irrational nationalist ideology is not limited to Argentina, and is just one example of the more general political irrationality that I have analyzed in my academic work. Irrational Argentine irredentism about the Falklands has many parallels elsewhere in the world, some of them far more virulent and dangerous.

Fortunately, polls show that only about 20 percent of Argentineans would support another armed attack to retake the Islands, and relations with Britain have gradually improved since the end of the War. This fact leads to another important less of the conflict: Because Britain's victory was so decisive and overwhelming, most Argentines have no desire to renew the fighting, even though they still believe in the justice of their cause, and the nationalist grievances behind that cause have not been satisfied. Indeed, Britain has taken a somewhat harder line on Falklands issues since the war than it before. Sometimes, the best way to achieve a lasting peace is to defeat an enemy so decisively that they desist from further fighting because they realize it to be hopeless. This approach is often much more effective than trying to address the "root causes" of the enemy's belligerency or trying to appease them.

It is a valuable lesson of the Falklands War that is all too often ignored. It will not work for every conflict, but it certainly did wonders for this one.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. A Libertarian Perspective on Argentina:
  2. Legacies of the Falkland Islands War:
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Sometimes, the best way to achieve a lasting peace is to defeat an enemy so decisively that they desist from further fighting because they realize it to be hopeless. This approach is often much more effective than trying to address the "root causes" of the enemy's belligerency or trying to appease them.

There are no magic formulas, tyrants and thieves could use these arguments too. Should the opposition have stopped opposing the Nazis, even when it was "hopeless"? Some groups are absolutely so far out of line that it is necessary to oppose them no matter what, and no matter how "hopeless" the situation.
6.14.2007 1:19pm
Oren (mail):
I would venture to say that is was British resolve, not power, that was being tested by the Junta - they knew that if it came to war they would lose but gambled on a compromise. Britain's overwhelmingly superior military was apparent from the beginning.

This approach has failed miserably in many other contexts. Israel has decisively defeated her enemies numerous times, occupied and reoccupied Southern Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza a number of times and could completely annihilate her enemies at will. Yet Iran &Syria still antagonize and destabilize her with impunity.
6.14.2007 1:23pm
Ilya Somin:
This approach has failed miserably in many other contexts. Israel has decisively defeated her enemies numerous times

Israel has defeated her enemies many times, but not decisively. Significantly, in none of those cases (unlike in Argentina) did the enemy regime fall. As a result, they had every incentive to come back for another round. If the Israelis had, for example, removed Assad from power after one of its victories, the next dictator of Syria would think twice about messing with them.
6.14.2007 1:27pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
It was also interesting how other countries lined up on this war. I was in France at the time. The French, including the friends I was staying with, who usually voted Socialist, without, I thought, much real thought, sided with Argentina, apparently because the British can do no good and Latin American countries are kin to France.
6.14.2007 1:34pm
whackjobbbb:
Israel was often precluded from doing such, Somin. In 1973 for example, Sharon was on his way to Cairo to (justifiably) string up Sadat, but the US and the Soviet Union "arranged" for him not to do so. On the other hand, Reagan stood aside to Lady Thatcher's efforts, as I recall. This might have as much to do with geography as anything else, "geography ia history" as they say. If the Falklands weren't islands, or if South Korea wasn't at the end of a peninsula surrounded by easily accessible waterways, things might have turned out differently in both the early 50's in Asia and the early 80's in the South Atlantic.
6.14.2007 1:41pm
Bob Leibowitz (mail) (www):
Only "decisive" victories decide issues, as was the case with the Falklands. "Indecisive" wars, such as those in which Israel has engaged with her enemies over the past 50 years, and America with hers, only set the stage for the next.

Decisiveness determines the future actions of the defeated, but also influences the behavior of all others. Scipio Aemilianus was on to something at Carthage.
6.14.2007 1:46pm
whackjobbbb:
And by the way, we can add a corollary to the above rule, based on our experience in the Middle East over the decades: "GEOLOGY is history".
6.14.2007 1:53pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
The Falklands war gave rise to my all-time favorite newspaper headline, though I confess I can't remember which paper it was in. The article was about the Royal Navy's controversial sinking of an Argentinian ship without first giving the crew a chance to abandon it -- as some critics said was required by tradition and by the laws of war. The headline: "Britannia Waives the Rules".
6.14.2007 1:55pm
amoeba:
Re. France siding with Argentina: nice troll but utter francophobic nonsense of course. The French government and people largely supported Britain:

See

How France helped us win Falklands war

by George Jones, Political Editor, The Telegraph:

"France was Britain's greatest ally during the Falklands war"
6.14.2007 1:59pm
James Lindgren (mail):
Actually, Reagan aided Thatcher by providing high level intelligence from sophisticated military planes.

Also, while it might have been a foregone conclusion who would win in the end, the way that the Brits took the capital by a brisk (night-time?) march over land from the backside with little loss in lives was a bold move, one that most military forces would not have been in good enough physical condition to pull off.
6.14.2007 2:03pm
Smokey:
Interesting comment in the Wiki link:

In his autobiographical account of the Falklands War, Admiral Woodward blames the BBC World Service for [disclosing] these changes to the bombs. The World Service reported the lack of detonations after receiving a briefing on the matter from an MOD official. He describes the BBC as being more concerned with being ''fearless seekers after truth'' than with the lives of British servicemen. Colonel H. Jones levelled similar accusations against the BBC... Jones had threatened to lead the prosecution of senior BBC officials for treason but was unable to do so since he was himself killed in action around Goose Green.

Compared to today's American mainstream media, which blabs every possible secret regardless of the resulting danger to our soldiers, the BBC looks positively patriotic. And the BBC didn't practically stand up and cheer at the report of every soldier KIA, like the American MSM does today.
6.14.2007 2:04pm
whackjobbbb:
I think the critics were mistaken, as I believe the Brits had declared the area a "no-sail zone", and unrestricted submarine warfare was something long practiced I believe. Recall at the Nuremberg trials, as the court prosecuted Karl Doenitz for his conduct of the U-boat war, and Admiral Nimitz sent communication to the court sorta like: "Ahem... uh gentlemen... I've been executing these same practices in the Pacific War these past 4 years... am I next up in the dock?"

Not very sporting perhaps to blow away a 50 year old US castoff warship, I'll grant you. But they were sending a message, and the Argentinians also sent messages, sinking several RN warships in those actions, with great loss of life. War is hell.
6.14.2007 2:04pm
Preferred Customer:


Israel has defeated her enemies many times, but not decisively. Significantly, in none of those cases (unlike in Argentina) did the enemy regime fall. As a result, they had every incentive to come back for another round. If the Israelis had, for example, removed Assad from power after one of its victories, the next dictator of Syria would think twice about messing with them.


There are lots of salient differences between the two situations that make, IMHO, a comparison useless. But note that Britain did not "remove" the Argentine government. The Argentine government collapsed as a result of the conflict, but not as a result of direct British action.

Had Israel "removed Assad" from power, it's far from clear that the result would have been salutory. After all, look at what happened when we removed Hussein from power. In the parlance of nation-state conflicts, it's hard to imagine a more decisive victory than the one that the US won in 2003. We excised the Baathist regime from power in Iraq completely, and in fact to the extent that was our mission, there is do doubt that we accomplished it--decisively.

But, as we found out in Iraq, and as Israel knows all too well, often the invasion can be the easy bit. Setting up some sort of power structure, whether in territories you intend to occupy or territories you want to relinquish, can be devilishly hard, especially when the local population hates you and views you as interlopers (as the Syrians no doubt would have viewed the Israelis). Removing a hostile regime from power may sometimes be necessary, but it is far from a universal balm for acheiving lasting peace and security.
6.14.2007 2:16pm
Don Miller (mail) (www):
I agree with most of the other posters. Decisive military victory with overwhelming force has ended more conflicts historically than the modern "limited" war concept.

Wars that drag on with no end are a product of the inability to get a decisive victory.

World War I ended with an Armistice Agreement. Everyone was tired of fighting. No one was willing to fight to overwhelming victory. Germany came out on the losing side, but the people held a grudge. The terms of the agreement were abusive and helped maintain those feelings of ill will, leading to resumption of hostilities less than 20 years later.

World War II ended with the unconditional surrenders of the Axis powers. Those unconditional surrenders were only possible because of overwhelming victory over both the military, political and civilian populations of those countries. To the depths of their souls, the people of those countries realized that if they continued fighting, they ran the risk of ceasing to exist at all. For the most part allied forces treated the populations of the defeated countries with respect and compassion following their victories. This helped set the stage for long lasting peace that followed.

Modern journalism brought the ugliness of this type of victory to people's homes. As a nation, the US developed a guilt complex about what we did to win that war. For the most part, we have been unable to muster the resolve it takes to obtain that kind of victory ever since.

Take for example, the Korean War. This conflict has dragged on for over 50 years now. Active major hostilities have ended, but both sides have committed major resources to defence of their borders, one side seems particularly belligerant even today. Border incursions still occur on a fairly regular basis. A decisive victory by one side or the other 50 years ago would have settled the issue. We would have one government in Korea.

Vietnam is an example on the other side. The US, for political reasons, fought to maintain the status quo, not for victory. After many years, we lost the political will to stay involved. North Vietnam was able to obtain a decisive victory over the Southern government shortly afterwards. That victory was painful for the southern region of the country, many refuges fled the region. There was much oppression and death. But, who would argue that the region hasn't been peaceful for many years. The losers of that war were afraid to continue fighting no matter how just they saw their cause.
6.14.2007 2:18pm
Preferred Customer:

World War I ended with an Armistice Agreement. Everyone was tired of fighting. No one was willing to fight to overwhelming victory. Germany came out on the losing side, but the people held a grudge. The terms of the agreement were abusive and helped maintain those feelings of ill will, leading to resumption of hostilities less than 20 years later.


But the Falklands conflict *was* a limited war. British troops never marched through Buenos Aires. In fact, the actual defeat + collapse of government scenario in the Falklands looks a lot more like the end of WWI than the end of WWII--recall that the Kaiser's regime also collapsed following WWI.

Your focus on the punitive sanctions after WWI, contrasted with the active engagement in rebuilding post WWII, is a more important point.

I'm not saying that it isn't important to win decisive victories. All I'm saying is that a) the Falkland conflict has little or nothing in common with, e.g., WWII, and b) decisive victories, especially over state actors, without proper attention to post-war policies, are not enough standing alone to remove the threat that one nation may pose to another.
6.14.2007 2:36pm
Ilya Somin:
Israel was often precluded from doing such, Somin.

I don't deny it.
6.14.2007 2:40pm
JB:
You who bring up Israel are forgetting Jordan 1967. Israel so badly beat Jordan that in 1970 Jordan fought a war against Syria in order to keep the PLO expelled from Jordanian territory, and since then the Jordanian government has had an express policy of not messing with Israel.

For that matter, Sadat saw the Israeli hammer coming down on him in 1973, and that was a significant contributory factor in his decision to make peace--which he was only able to do because he'd saved face by ending the 1973 war at a fairly even point. The man who'd fought Israel to a standstill was better equipped to make peace than yet another leader who'd been trounced would have been. (Furthermore, Egypt could never agree to a long-term peace without control of the Suez Canal) If Sadat had been crushed in 1973 like Nasser had been in 1967, the next Egyptian leader would have lined up for another eventual war. In 1973, Israel got the benefit of both a crushing victory and allowing their enemy to save face, at least in Egypt.
6.14.2007 2:44pm
JEM:
First off, on the eve of Operation Corporate the Brit military was rapidly being dismantled, they had to retrieve ships headed for scrapping and load them up with RAF Harriers 'cause the RN barely had any. Naval force, airpower, sealift, reconnaissance - the whole GB effort was a marvel of improvisation that still couldn't match one US carrier task force.

The Argentine AF fought like hell but screwed up fusing their bombs for the thin-skinned RN ships, the Argentine navy and their naval air arm mostly ran away and hid. There could have easily been another half-dozen RN units on the floor of the Atlantic. Would this have scared the British off?

The point of this thread is IMO entirely accurate, though. Taking a reasonably chunk of recent history - let's say French Revolution forward - how many significant conflicts have been settled to a lasting peace (and not a Korean-style faceoff) through negotiation before one side or the other had been exhausted, or at least faced with the prospect of imminent destruction? Boer War? Damn few, to be sure.
6.14.2007 2:47pm
fdcol63 (mail):
As harsh as it sounds, the enemy must be decisively defeated ..... including the enemy's CIVILIAN population, not just the regime.

All regimes remain in power due to the support of their populations:

1) Support that is enthusiastically given because the people agree with their regime's belligerancy and aggressive policies;

or

2) Support that is tacitly given because the people fear their oppressive regimes and fail to stop the belligerancy and aggression of their regimes.

In either case, the enemy regime does not operate in a vacuum without the support and compliance of its people, and the civilian populations must be forced to accept that further and future aggression will not be tolerated and that there is an even harsher penalty ahead for failing to stop the belligerancy and aggression of their leaders.

It would be nice if we could all just "get along" peacefully, with no need for war. But sadly, we don't yet live in the Utopian world we'd like to see, and must live in and protect ourselves as best we can in this one.
6.14.2007 2:49pm
dba dba:
Is this post a parody? Did you really say "despite the tragic loss of 1000 lives" the war was positive because it restored British self-confidence? Is there anyone who thinks that's an appropriate moral calculus?
And don't get me started on the business of a decisive military victory being good because it promotes a lasting peace. Does the normative "correctness" of the disputants matter not at all? In the grand scheme of things the status of the Falklands/Malvinas is very trivial, but in more important matters, shouldn't the evaluation of who is on the right side of history take precedence over the supposed "lasting peace" of a brute military victory? Not to mention that this lasting peace is probably chimerical in situations where the parties are more aggrieved and national passions are more inflamed (just because the invasion was overwhelmingly popular in Argentina does not mean that this cause was particularly important -- I can think of a lot of things Argentines would be much more worked up about and less willing to just "let go" due to evaluations of relative military might).
This is one of the dumbest posts I've ever seen on the VC.
6.14.2007 2:55pm
whackjobbbb:
JB, you're correct that Sadat "made peace", or more precisely, peace was imposed on him on the battlefield, as Sadat fought precisely NOBODY to a "standstill". In 1973, Sadat was an exposed jugular, and Sharon was a razor sharp boxcutter, absent the Superpowers' involvement. And the fact that Sadat's neck wasn't then properly stretched left the Brotherhood open to blame Sadat in a "Treaty of Versailles" sorta way... and continue their murderous crusade against the crusaders, which ultimately led them to murder Sadat anyways.

The moral? If the guy's goin' down anyways, just kill him, and save the US taxpayers $60B dollars of financial support for a squalidly corrupt bunch of thugocrats who were beaten ANYWAYS... long before the peanut farmer chatted them up at Camp David.

/rant
6.14.2007 3:06pm
rarango (mail):
From a standpoint of military insights, the ability of Britain to project power over 12,000 miles and the Argentines inability to project power, was the real military lesson.
6.14.2007 3:09pm
ys:

It was also interesting how other countries lined up on this war. I was in France at the time. The French, including the friends I was staying with, who usually voted Socialist, without, I thought, much real thought, sided with Argentina, apparently because the British can do no good and Latin American countries are kin to France.

While the role of France, as opposed to the French, has been presented in different aspects in this thread, it is interesting to see how different languages refer to the islands now. Tracing through Wiki, most languages list Falkland Islands first and then Malvinas in parentheses. The exceptions are Spanish (naturally), French (!), and also Portuguese. Just to show that this is not the feature of Romance languages, the Italian entry lists "Falklands" first. Even more interestingly, the Portuguese entry does not reflect the Brazilian position. While in Brazil, I bought a map of South America where the islands were marked as Falklands belonging to Reino Unido with no mention of Malvinas or Argentina. There is neighbors for you. It might be interesting to find what the Chilean position on the topic is.
6.14.2007 3:11pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
Amoeba,

You're full of it. First, I'm no francophobe and nothing I wrote even suggests that. Second, the article you cite in no way refutes what I said. I was talking about popular opinion, that of my friends and what I heard on TV. The article you cite is about the secret action of the French government.

Incidentally, people who post things that you disagree with are not necessarily trolls, even if they are wrong, which I wasn't.
6.14.2007 3:14pm
jimbino (mail):
Funny you refer to the Falklands as "a few islands of little economic value" while NPR reported this morning that, because of their squid, the per capita income of an islander is $50,000 and expected to make them richer than Croesus from the coming wealth of new-found oil in the surrounding seabeds.
6.14.2007 3:21pm
Michael Seifert (mail):
I believe your last sentence is incorrect. I cannot think of a single instance of overwhelming, decisive victory that resulted in a consequent re engagement. I can think, however, of a number of negotiated settlements, marginal victories that led to version II and beyond.
6.14.2007 3:21pm
bertram (mail):
On the other hand trying to seek total victory when you can’t get like MacArthur in North Korea can have bad consequences. And IMHO Northern Ireland is better off for Britain not seeking decisive victory over the IRA.
6.14.2007 3:28pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
I would add that another problem with Prof. Somin's analysis is that Britain's hand was basically forced in the Falklands. The Argentines invaded, the Islanders did not support Argentine rule, and the British had to kick them out. There really wasn't a diplomatic solution to this. Plus, the Falklands were a discrete territory thousands of miles away that did not threaten to involve Britain in a broader conflict with Argentina.

In other situations, though, the underlying facts are different. For instance, where there has not been an invasion, there is the issue of whether you should launch a preemptive war. Where there is no threat of an invasion, there is an issue of whether you should launch an offensive war or try diplomacy. When a broader conflict is a possibility, you have to factor that into account.

There's a desire among some people to say that force is always the answer. But it seems to me that the Falklands War proves nothing more that when a foreign army thousands of miles away invades your territory, and the local populace wants you to kick them out, and you can do so without suffering disproportionate costs or broadening the conflict, yes, force is a good response. Force can be a stupid response to all sorts of other situations.
6.14.2007 3:29pm
Just an Observer:
I have no idea what the current state of military force is in Argentina today. But that of Britain -- particularly the Royal Navy -- is but a fraction of what it was in 1982.
6.14.2007 3:30pm
JEM:
"Is this post a parody? Did you really say "despite the tragic loss of 1000 lives" the war was positive because it restored British self-confidence? Is there anyone who thinks that's an appropriate moral calculus?"

Yes, it certainly is.

If a nation is to shy away from any assault on its sovereignty because there's the potential that some of its nationals, some of its servicemembers, may die in the effort to reassert said authority, then it will eventually - but certainly - cease to exist as a nation. It will be pecked and picked to death by entities with no such qualms.

Its only hope in such a situation would be to position itself under the protection of - and therefore pretty much under the control of - an entity that is willing to expend its blood and treasure to maintain not only its own position but those of its supplicants.

But what happens when you go down that road and find that the supposed power bloc you've hitched yourself to - oh, maybe something that starts with "North Atlantic..." - is chock-full of other nation-states who likewise believe that defending their territory and their interests ought to be someone else's job?
6.14.2007 3:47pm
EvanH:
I wonder how many VC posters actually remember the war. For those applauding Reagan for providing intelligence and in-flight refueling for the Vulcans, you should remember America was if not slow not fast in extending support to Britain. You have to remember this war was fought against the backdrop of the cold war and we didn't want to do anything to drive the Argentines toward the Soviets.

Then there's the question of if Argentina really thought they could defeat the Brits militarily. I tend to believe that they thought they could. You have to remember that during this period the Royal navy was basically an ASW force for the Baltic and North Atlantic. The idea of British force projection was almost laughable.
6.14.2007 4:03pm
davod (mail):
At the time of the invasion British political opinion was divided (and still is) but was muted after Thatcher rallied the country. The Brits would have probably traded the Falklands away, much like they would love to do with Gibralter (well the Labour party anyway).

The Falklands operation could have gone either way. The Argentines on the Island were isolated from Argentina (although the Argentines were flying in) but the Brits were at the end of their supply chain and had to make do with what they had.

The Argentine Air Force did a good job sinking ships. The reason the Brits slogged overland is because all but one of the CH47 medium left helicopters went down in one of the ships.
6.14.2007 4:31pm
A.S.:
It might be interesting to find what the Chilean position on the topic is.

Yes. But given that there are still minefields on the Argentine-Chilean border, I'm betting I could make a pretty good guess.
6.14.2007 4:44pm
JB:
Whackjob: Yes, Israel was poised to give Sadat a crushing defeat. But because they didn't, Sadat could go to the Egyptians and say he'd fought Israel to a standstill, and the Egyptians would accept that he, who had achieved that success, had the political capital to make what otherwise would have been a politically-impossible peace.

If Israel had ended the war a couple weeks later, when the battlefield would have looked like it did in 1967, Sadat or whoever succeeded him would have fought another round instead of going to Camp David.

That's the flipside of Somin's argument--when the enemy's leadership is more moderate than their followers, you need to not humiliate the leadership, even if you can, or it will be replaced with less-moderate people. You need to leave the leadership sufficient face so it can retain control. It's when the enemy leadership is more radical than their followers, like with Argentina in 1983 (or, to invoke Godwin, with Nazi Germany), that you need to grind the enemy leadership into paste--because the next leaders will be easier to deal with.
6.14.2007 4:44pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
There was another headline even better than "Britannia Waives the Rules". As 'davod' says, British political opinion was divided, especially on the left, which had trouble deciding between its contempt for Thatcher and its contempt for military juntas. As the ambiguous headline put it, "British Left Waffles on Falkland Islands".
6.14.2007 4:52pm
Ilya Somin:
Is this post a parody? Did you really say "despite the tragic loss of 1000 lives" the war was positive because it restored British self-confidence? Is there anyone who thinks that's an appropriate moral calculus?

I never said that that ALONE justified the war. I merely said that it was one of several beneficial results of the conflict.
6.14.2007 4:52pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
'In the grand scheme of things the status of the Falklands/Malvinas is very trivial'

dba, if you can honestly say that the status of your neighborhood is equally trivial and that, if it were occupied by jackbooted killers, you'd shrug and say, C'est dommage, then I'd listen.

Yours is the profoundly immoral position.

++++

Adm. Woodward's book makes it plain that the British victory was a near-run thing.

If there is a 'lesson' to be learned it is, have a bigger, better army than the biggest, best country that dislikes you.

++++

The question of overthrowing Assad neglects the fact that the Baath regime Israel faced in Syria was a comparatively moderate replacement for a truly, insanely radical Syrian regime that was erased due to military action in '54.
6.14.2007 5:00pm
Tatterdemalian (mail):
Since the spread of the nuclear bomb, decisive victory has been too dangerous to seek, except in very limited cases such as Afghanistan and Iraq, and even then we are not allowed to interfere as Chinese- and Russian-backed Arab forces move in to take it over in the name of their respective governments.

Soon, the only way we will be able to delay Armageddon is to give up our freedom to whatever dictatorship proves themselves the most ruthless nuclear power in the world.
6.14.2007 5:36pm
dba dba:
Professor Somin -- I think the tone of your post is such that it is reasonable to infer that you are offering post-hoc justifications for the war. The way your post reads is something like the following: "while it was unfortunate that 1000 people lost their lives in the war, it was worth it in the end because of the increase in national pride and consequent increased support for continued Thatcherist policies." Even if we assume that "increased national pride" and "continuation of Thatcherist policies" are good things, I would still make the following response to you: surely there could have been some far superior way to attain these goals than a costly war which sacrificed many lives. The war should be justified on its own terms, whereas your argument sounds to me very much like the argument "successful wars are good in and of themselves in that they induce positive patriotic feelings in the citizens of the victorious country." If you in fact don't believe that argument, you should have either said "the war benefitted Britain in that it boosted national pride and renewed support for Thatcherism, ALTHOUGH THAT BENEFIT DOES NOT OF COURSE OUTWEIGH THE TRAGEDY OF THE WAR" or else you should have provided independent reasons for why the war itself was just. Again, the way the post is written suggests to me that the beneficial results you indicated are enough to have justified the war.

JEM/Harry -- you'll note, if you read my post carefully, that I took no position on the merits of the war itself. What I was arguing against was what I took to be Professor Somin's very callous attitude that increased national pride can be a sufficient justification for an aggressive war. I don't know enough about Falklands/Malvinas to have an informed or educated opinion about who was right in that war. Indeed, I suspect that it was probably the British. However, that argument was not made or even really considered in the initial post, and it was that lack of argumentation that I objected to. In other words, you did not understand my point at all and erroneously ascribed views to me that I do not hold.
6.14.2007 5:39pm
NotTheNewYorkTimes:
The post about the French government's role during the Falklands War is an interesting one. It shows how the nominally socialist Mitterrand was probably less neurotically anti-American and anti-English than his successor Chirac. Incidentally, his brother, General Jacques Mitterrand, played a role in the sale of the French-made Exocet missile to Argentina. That was of course the same Exocet missile that sank British ships.

Mitterrand's behind-the-scenes attitude contrasted with the attitudes of French-speaking intellectuals and media. Living in Canada during the 80s, I was very aware of this. French-language newspapers, television, and radio (from both Quebec and France) were generally sympathetic to the Argentines, tending to see them as noble third-worlders standing up to imperialism. English-speaking Canadians tended to be reflexively supportive of Britain, with the exception of the far left. In spite of the fact that in the 1970s and 1980s the left regularly protested what they called the U.S.-supported military juntas of Latin America, they did an immediate U-turn as soon as it became apparent that Thatcher-led Britain was actually going to fight to get the islands back. Although Canada played virtually no role in the far-away conflict, it threw Canada's internal linguistic and cultural divisions into stark relief.
6.14.2007 5:49pm
ys:

Tracing through Wiki, most languages list Falkland Islands first and then Malvinas in parentheses. The exceptions are Spanish (naturally), French (!), and also Portuguese.

On further investigation, the French do have a separate historic right to naming the islands as Les îles Malouines. They occupied the place in the mid-18th century and named it after their own port of origin - Saint-Malo.
6.14.2007 5:56pm
Martin H. (mail):
As an Argentine, I think that a good side long-term effect is that, as a result of the abd experience with teh war, -mandatory- conscription was abolished in Argentina during the 90s. This may be due to the fact that, after the war, where 18 year-old soldiers were sent, it was entirely clear that it made no sense to force people to spend a year of their lives working for free for the military - that is, pursuing a plan that they would not necessarily share.
6.14.2007 6:25pm
JEM:
dba dba: The Falklands war was a defensive war. It was also a very small war. And you'll no doubt consider it callous of me to say so, but 1000 dead is a very, very small number for a nation the size of the UK.

It's also quite likely that the Galtieri junta would never have tried to take the islands had not Her Majesty's Government, under Labour and Tory alike, let the British military (in particular, the Royal Navy) shrink as far as it had. And, after a brief post-war hiatus, I think the UK military has continued to shrink.

The US, of course, faces much the same situation today: Iraq is a small war, the kind of war that the planners used to assume that the country could fight 'on the margin' while maintaining its commitments elsewhere. But, where past practice would have indicated a force of 350-400K soldiers in-theater, Rumsfeld sends in a third of that, we have to squabble over another 25K, and we have Guard units on their fourth deployment just to keep up that number.
6.14.2007 6:31pm
arthur (mail):
"Decisive Victory as the Best Road to Peace" isn't a terribly useful lesson. Baseball teams also believe that decisive victory is the best, uh, strategy, yet half of them seem to lose every night, and many of the victories aren't especially decisive.

But there is a good lesson for our time: the government that launches an invasion of a hostile territory thousands of miles from the homeland based on a fraudulent or spurious rationale, and doesn't even consider the possibility that the invaded territory might fight back, will eventually lose both the territory and the support of the people back home.
6.14.2007 6:38pm
davod (mail):
DBA: The Argentinians, or the Junta if you prefer, invaded the Falklands. Unless every invasion is to be treated as fait accompli you have to do something. Negotiation is not the answer. Politically the Junta would not have been able to give the Falklands back regardless of international pressure.

Martin H: I read the comments of an Argentinian the other day. He mentoned that while a large number of the troops on the Falklands were conscripts, most of them were at the end of their time. They were as experienced as they could be.

JEM: The US never had 350,00 to 400,000 combat troops available. The number has always been a canard usefull to those in the military who did not really want to do anything. The same figure was bandied about for Afghanistan.

What would have made a diference was if 4ID could have come in from Turkey. As it was,the quick move prooved to be very effective. What happened after the initial victory is a separate matter.
6.14.2007 6:49pm
Seamus (mail):
For the most part allied forces treated the populations of the defeated countries with respect and compassion following their victories.

Only because we decided we needed their help in the Cold War. Otherwise, there would have been plenty who would have liked to see us go ahead and implement the Morgenthau Plan, and maybe something similar in Japan.
6.14.2007 7:15pm
Preferred Customer:

What happened after the initial victory is a separate matter.


From a strictly military perspective, perhaps...but from a policy perspective, this is kind of like Yamamoto saying "I hit them real good and destroyed their ability to make war; what happened after December 8 is a separate matter." A tactical victory (destroying the Baathist regime) is not the same as a strategic victory. At the end of the day, the strategy in Iraq was to establish a stable, friendly government. That did not happen, and it did not happen partly because we did not plan for it and partly because we did not have sufficient forces on the ground to bring it about.

If, at the end of the day, the answer is we never had sufficient forces to bring it about, that's an indictment of the size of our military and of our own bad planning for biting off more than we can chew. But it doesn't get anyone off the hook, because you can't just get a job half done and call it quits--and if you don't have the manpower to finish what you start, you shouldn't start it.
6.14.2007 7:41pm
JEM:
davod: Exactly my point. We sent an inadequate force to do the job because mustering an adequate one was beyond our current abilities.
6.14.2007 7:49pm
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
This, despite the fact that Argentina has not controlled the islands since the 1830s, and the population is almost entirely composed of people who want to remain under British rule.
If I had to choose between British and Argentinian rule, given the political resumes of both countries I'd make the same choice.
6.14.2007 8:56pm
Enoch:
For those applauding Reagan for providing intelligence and in-flight refueling for the Vulcans, you should remember America was if not slow not fast in extending support to Britain.

Incorrect. American help was swift and absolutely critical to the British war effort. The US rushed massive amounts of supplies, weapons, and equipment to Ascension Island. The British Task Force picked these materials up en route to the war zone, and couldn't have fought the war without them.
6.14.2007 9:09pm
PDXLawyer (mail):
My talley of US major wars is as follows. I classivied them as to whether they were Decisive (ie the loser's capital was occupied) and whether they were lasting (that is, whether there was a re-match).

Revolution N N
1812 N Y
Mexican War Y Y
Civil War Y Y
Indian Wars Y Y
Spanish-Am. War N Y
WWI N N
WWII Y Y
Korean War N Y
Vietnam War N Y
Persian Gulf I N N
Persian Gulf II Y ?

Score:
Decisive and Lasting: 4
Decisive and Not Lasting 0
Indecisive and Lasting 4
Indecisive and Not Lasting 3

The category of decisive and not lasting seems to be small, but I don't think its non-existant. The Franco-Prussian War? The Boxer Rebellion? Napoleon's exile to Elba? British conquest of India? Poland 1939? France and the Low Countries, 1940? Japanese incursion in China prior to WWII?
6.14.2007 9:16pm
Mark Field (mail):

The category of decisive and not lasting seems to be small, but I don't think its non-existant. The Franco-Prussian War? The Boxer Rebellion? Napoleon's exile to Elba? British conquest of India? Poland 1939? France and the Low Countries, 1940? Japanese incursion in China prior to WWII?


How about the 30 Years War? The Hundred Years War? The English Civil War? The Second Punic War?
6.14.2007 9:23pm
whackjobbbb:
JB, Sadat didn't need the "people's" support, he was a frickin dictator. To stay in power, he only needed to keep his fellow thugs well-oiled, and by consenting to the idiotic "peace process" the peanut farmer launched us into, the US taxpayers have provided that cash for those thugs to stay in power... all these many years. No need to talk about what was "politically possible"... because this had nothing to do with "politics", other than whatever goofy politics the peanut farmer had.

Sadat or whoever succeeded him COULDN'T fight another round... they were defeated on the battlefield, remember. And the peanut farmer PAID them for their battlefield incompetence.

You wonder why the illiterate, paranoia ridden Mohammed Six-pack in Cairo hates the US so much? Like he cares about Saddam Hussein... right... he only cares that the US supports the jackbooted thug in HIS neighborhood... the thug with the jackboot on HIS neck... the jackboot that the peanut farmer committed us to pay for.

/rant .... ok for real this time.
6.14.2007 10:39pm
neurodoc:
[b]IS[/b]: Israel has defeated her enemies many times, but not decisively. Significantly, in none of those cases (unlike in Argentina) did the enemy regime fall.
Israel did not defeat the Egyptians "decisively" in '67?! It was not "decisive" because the Israelis did not go all the way to Cairo or reduce Egyptian cities to rubble? I simply don't understand how the military result in '67 can be characterized as other than "decisive," unless it is because Egypt was able to muster another attempt in '73.

IS: repressive Argentine military dictatorship
We have seen many "repressive military dictatorships." The Argentine one deserves to be remembered as truly neo-Nazi. (Have someone drive you past tne Navel Engineering School so you may see how innocently this Gestapo post sits in its pleasant Buenos Aires suburban neighborhood.)

irredentist vs revanchist. Is there a difference between them, and if so, should it be "Irrational Argentine revanchism"?

Argentina, where we honeymooned in December of '75, when the craziness was really taking off, and where I have returned a number of times since, is in many ways, both good and bad, a singular country. For a cynical view of the country, I recommend V.S. Naipul, who notes that they started with a very thorough genocide and the various ways they have so botched the great advantages the country enjoys (natural resources, education, etc.); for an amusing view, see the movie Apartmento Zero.

sinking of the Belgrano: the Brits violated the rules of war when they sank this troop carrier? How?
6.15.2007 12:35am
Gildas:
The Falklands war gave rise to my all-time favorite newspaper headline, though I confess I can't remember which paper it was in. The article was about the Royal Navy's controversial sinking of an Argentinian ship without first giving the crew a chance to abandon it -- as some critics said was required by tradition and by the laws of war. The headline: "Britannia Waives the Rules".

Of course the headline which more aptly captured British public opinion on that subject (the sinking of the General Belgrano), appeared in the Sun newspaper. The single word headline: "Gotcha".
6.15.2007 1:18am
Gildas:
Minor piece of Falklands-related trivia.

Someone mentioned that Argentina had not administered the Islands since 1830 [The dispute goes back to a British settlement on the Islands being ejected by Spain, prior to the South American revolutions]. The reason Argentina lost control in 1830, was that the Governor of the Islands seized an American whaling vessel and had its crew turfed to Montevideo...where they arrived at the same time as one of the few US Warships of that era. The Captain of the American ship was so put out by what he considered illegal conduct by the Argentines that he sailed down to the Falklands and destroyed the colony, turfing its inhabitants back to the mainland. The unoccupied Islands were promptly re-settled by the UK.

Incidentally, British and Argentinian relations were very good through the 19th Century and the first half of the 20th (there is even I believe a small part of Patagonia where they speak Welsh, because so many migrants from Wales moved there), in spite of this dispute. Relations between the two countries were wrecked by Peron's disastrous economic nationalism, and never really recovered.
6.15.2007 1:29am
M. Simon (mail) (www):
The Belgrano was an Argentine Naval Cruiser.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ARA_General_Belgrano

In the American Navy it would be a CL. A light cruiser. About 12,000 tons loaded.

In fact when it was in the American Navy it was:

USS Phoenix (CL-46)
6.15.2007 1:32am
M. Simon (mail) (www):
6.15.2007 1:34am
Will Sheward (mail) (www):
The original post fails to mention one additional effect of the war, that on the Falkland Islanders themselves. This fiercely patriotic crowd went from being ignored, neglected and forgotten (when it happened I was growing up in Plymouth, I remember my mother wondering why Argentina had invaded islands that she thought were off the coast of Scotland), to famous and thriving.

The Falklands is now self-sufficient in all but defence (and paying for that is what they intend to do with any oil money) with a comfortable economy and growing population.

And for those of your commentators who believe that the RN could not do the same today, they make the mistake of confusing numbers with effect. The RN is in a FAR better position to conduct that sort of operation otday than it was in the eighties.
6.15.2007 8:10am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Geoffrey Blainey, in his "The Causes of War" lays most of the blame on failures to communicate, which is to say, one side does not convince the other of its resolve.
If there were any better example of Blainey's point than the Falklands War, I haven't heard of it.
There may have been some confusion about Desert Shield/Storm, when various folks claimed April Glaspie wasn't sufficiently clear to SH. But that hasn't been proven.
Problem is, with communicating to those about to start a war, they really, really want the expected fruits of the war. They really do. And they have convinced themselves they'll get what they want. Hard to tell them otherwise in such a fashion as to get them to reverse course.
But this is the Brits. Nobody's beat them in five hundred years except us, and that was a long time ago and we had help.
IMO, those spit-shined, gold-braided macho studs in BA, stomping about in their brutal riding boots, didn't think a couple of women could stand up to their incredible manhoodliness. The women in question being the Queen and Lady Thatcher.

However, the issue is, frequently, communication. "If you try anything, I'll kill you." is undiplomatic and so will be couched in terms which could, given the desire to get the fruits of the intended war, be seen as ambiguous, and, given the thinking of the other side, not often believed anyway.
6.15.2007 11:09am
whackjobbbb:

We have seen many "repressive military dictatorships." The Argentine one deserves to be remembered as truly neo-Nazi.


neurodoc, I don't know much about Argentina besides "Evita" and the Peron newsreels, but back in the 90's, both Iran and Iranian-sponsored Hizbollah were connected with multiple terrorist bombings in Argentina against various jewish/Israeli "targets", including one in 1994 in which 85 people were slaughtered. This may have been during an era post-Falklands military dictatorship, but the then Argentinian president was accused of disrupting and delaying the investigations into these attacks, so there's at least some evidence to suggest that those folks ain't exactly liberal democrats (but that Maradonna could sure play some soccer!).
6.15.2007 11:45am
rdv (mail) (www):
After reading some of the noted information I have to wonder where these people received their information.
Why was it unfair to sink the belgrano ship? Probably because they were navigating miles away of the war zone.
And it was a vessel that had 450 naval students.
It seems that people are making the english to be modern day heros . They were lucky to beat a third world country
in a war that was supported by americans and not to mention a chile.
There has been mention of the argentinian marine and navy
running away, interesting as the hms Invincible and a few other ships barely made it back to England.
As a Canadian I can say after watching many documentaries
on the war that it was not that one sided!
As a matter of fact the English where releived to hear that the Argentinians surrendered. For the short period of time that it lasted there many more casualties than the english were planning on.
I ask was this war really Won or was it a loss for both
countries?
6.15.2007 2:01pm
Jeek:
Why was it unfair to sink the belgrano ship? Probably because they were navigating miles away of the war zone.

What's that got to do with anything? An enemy warship anywhere on the ocean is a legitimate target in time of war. The British made it clear at the time that while ships inside the MEZ would be attacked, this did not mean that ships outside the MEZ would not be attacked.

In addition, the British thought the Belgrano and its accompanying destroyers were trying to get within Exocet range of the British fleet. Thus, sinking the Belgrano was not only legally and morally justified, but required by military necessity.

And it was a vessel that had 450 naval students.

Well gee, they shouldn't have gone to sea during a war with these "students" on board if they didn't want them to get hurt.

I ask was this war really Won or was it a loss for both countries?

Seems pretty clear to me who won and who lost.
6.15.2007 2:15pm
rdv (mail) (www):
I would have to agree on both counts.
First of all do you know how far away from the war zone the Belgrano was at the time? Second of all the English were relying on American satellites for not only range of missiles but for all other espionage.
As for who won the war I think that the british people who lost loved ones should answer the question.
It was evident that in a bbc documentary the british said
that they were not expecting such a fight and if the american and chilean support was not given they would have heavy casualties.
The English obviously offered a the option to surrender because it was becoming to difficult to handle battle.
I am currious where you are from?
6.15.2007 3:48pm
Enoch:
First of all do you know how far away from the war zone the Belgrano was at the time?

That is irrelevant. Argentine warships anywhere on the ocean, in the "exclusion zone" or not, were legitimate targets.
6.15.2007 7:34pm
gr (www):
"The French, including the friends I was staying with, who usually voted Socialist, without, I thought, much real thought, sided with Argentina, apparently because the British can do no good and Latin American countries are kin to France."

Not hte government. They halted their shipments of Exocet missles and Super Entedard jets. With the 5 already delivered argentina sank 2 ships. With more, the British task force could have been in real trouble.
6.15.2007 10:31pm