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The Falkland Islands (Spanish: Islas Malvinas) are a British Overseas Territory (basically one of the bits of the Empire that didn't really want independence and thus still belong to the UK), disputed by Argentina. The Falklands have a population of about 3,000 people, a few million penguins and a few British soldiers stationed there — but by far the most interesting thing about them is arguments over their sovereignty. Climate records show that snow has fallen in every month of the year, but the winter is distinguished by even more foul, miserable, and windswept weather than usual.
Until the Falklands War, the islands (and the people on them) were almost entirely sheep farmers and were highly dependent on the Falkland Islands Company (FIC) for employment and supplies, and Stanley was more or less a company town. The economy has diversified since the war with sheep farming and a strong growth of tourism and fisheries as industries, and there is now a fully elected legislature alongside the continued posting of a governor by the UK (which the islanders seem happy enough with). Oil has been discovered off the coast of the islands in recent years, but as of 2015 no major drilling has yet occurred. If and when crude oil prices rise again, this may change, however.
History of the Falklands
France, not Britain, Spain or Argentina, was the first to establish a permanent settlement on the islands. The Spanish language name, Malvinas, is a corruption of the French Malouines, i.e. people from St. Malo in Brittany, France.
During the 1600s-1800s the islands changed hands multiple times between Britain, France and Spain, until France gave up, and Spain and Britain formed an uneasy truce to "live and let live" with regards to each other's claims. However, when Spain was jettisoned from South America in the various wars of independence, Britain was left with the last standing legal claim. It was only in the 19th century that a proper town was established. In this early period, cattle farming, and bludgeoning seals, penguins and whales to death for meat and oil seem to have been the main industries. Stanley was also used to repair ships that had been battered rounding Cape Horn, and acquired something of a dubious reputation in this area.
However, the early Argentine republic also decided it wanted this turf, but instead of outright claiming it, it attempted to subvert the private settlement/penal colony of one Louis Vernet (who had already gone to Britain for permission and had recognized their ownership) by making him governor on behalf of Argentina, and quietly posting a small garrison there with government representatives. According to the Argentinians, the Falklands should belong to them, because it was a Spanish possession at the time the country became independent. Therefore, they claim that the sovereignty of the islands should have been transferred to the South American nation (see uti possidetis juris).
Realizing what was happening and not desiring to lose a nice piece of real estate, as well as discovering how the settlement had been severely pissing off the USA with illegal sealing and piracy, Britain sent a ship to take direct control of the settlement (which was recorded in the diary of Charles Darwin), ejecting the garrison but allowing the settlers to stay as someone was needed to keep the place tidy.
While this irritated Argentina, it soon managed to cheer itself up through various campaigns of conquest/extermination against both native tribes and their neighbors, conquering vast tracts of land in the process, and by 1850 Argentina had forgotten about the issue and legally dropped its attempted claim in a treaty with the UK.
History of Argentina's little obsession
In a sane world, this would have been the end of it. However, nearly 100 years after Britain took direct control of the islands, the failed claim was resurrected and forcibly fused with extreme Argentine nationalism and an almost paradoxical (given the aforementioned mass conquests/exterminations) sense of victim-hood to create a potent national cause to unite Argentines behind an increasingly fascist government.
Since then the entire issue snowballed, merging with the old sense of the divine "manifest destiny" Argentina had to conquer all the land it could, conspiracy theories and the feeling of bitterness at the first world's perceived "cheating" Argentina out of its rightful place as a world power, and finally enforced through both violent propaganda and forcible indoctrination at schools, mutating into the Argentine government's main source of cheap support when times grow hard.
This increasingly delusional and deranged nationalist dogma was first evident in attempted terrorist attacks on the islands through hijacking and hostage taking, which were undertaken by private citizens against the will of their government (which was trying to negotiate with the British government to hand over the islands). Similarly, while Britain had been a fairly close ally for much of Argentine history, it swiftly became one of the most deeply loathed national enemies upon whom responsibility was heaped for various Argentine misfortunes throughout its history.
However, since Britain was in the latter stages of dismantling its old empire, it was more than willing to go over the Islanders' heads and try to start up talks for allowing Argentina to annex them, though this was more or less scuppered when attempts to talk the islanders into it went badly due both to the islanders continuing to wish to be British (as evidenced by their stubborn insistence to remain in a rainy, cold, miserable archipelago) and their growing unease over Argentina and how they were already being treated by them.
The Falklands War (or how Thatcher got reelected)
However, during the '80s, a fiercely unpopular Junta, which had spent almost a decade waging a war of extermination against left-wing opponents (and aided quietly by the West as an opponent of Communism) decided to invade and forcibly annex the islands, assuming Britain would not bother responding, a view reinforced by Thatcher's cuts of the military protection of the islanders (yet she gets the credit for defeating the invaders even though her cuts allowed them in, rather like leaving your house unlocked when a burglar is around and then claiming credit for catching them).
This was initially wildly successful, as the several thousand Argentine soldiers sent were swiftly able to overwhelm the 80-man Royal Marine garrison, and millions of Argentines celebrated in the streets, uniting both left and right behind the Junta. However, this quickly backfired when Thatcher (facing election defeat herself) sent a task force to retake the islands.
Despite possessing superior numbers (outnumbering the British 3-1), modern anti-ship technology as well as mostly identical field equipment (both sides had the same rifles and even the same classes of modern warships), Soviet (oh the irony) satellite info, the vital strategic high ground, and fighting right from their doorstep against a force fighting from the other side of the planet, Argentina was humiliated in the following war, and nearly 1000 soldiers died altogether on both sides.
Ironically, the British were the victims of colonialism in this case, since the Falkland Island residents overwhelming identify as British.
The British press made great capital of the fact that the Argentines had erected signs telling the Falkland Islanders to drive on the right (rather than the left, like true Brits). This might have been horrifically dangerous in most countries, but since 90%+ of roads in the islands were single track (or not even metalled in some cases), it made little difference.
The failed invasion led to both the Junta's utter collapse (fortunately) and Thatcher's re-election (unfortunately).
And the cycle of stupid continues
“”By the time the British had landed on the Falklands and were rolling over the poorly supplied and ill-clad Argentine soldiers, the Argentine public had retreated into a mythic world that was not unfamiliar to Germans in the last days of the Third Reich. There was no hint in the national press that the Argentine forces were being defeated. It appeared that the British were losing the war. When the Argentine forces surrendered it hit the country like a tidal wave.
However, in terms of the nationalistic dogma that led to the war in the first place, it seems no one in Argentina got the message that it was being used to rally them behind the government, and it has only gotten more extreme and desperate in the decades since the war, with the school indoctrination expanding, propaganda showing the islands ethnically cleansed of islanders still being produced, and just about everything in Argentina being given names like "the Malvinas Argentina stadium".
In recent years, thanks to the discovery of oil and the 30th anniversary of the war, tensions between Britain and Argentina have reappeared and redoubled. However, due to the massive military disparity (with the increasingly dictatorial Argentine government neutering the military to prevent a coup) this is confined to Argentine diplomats traveling the world and begging for pity. This has resulted in a symbolic "blockade" of the islanders using their flag, but which all nations involved (aside from Argentina) have been eager to stress is merely symbolic and can be countered simply by switching to the UK flag.
Argentina's current claim on the Falklands can be summed up thus.
- a) Their highly dubious claim that Spain not only had exclusive rights to the Falklands, but Argentina directly inherited them when it became independent due to it being part of the "same territory", despite the fact that Spain had a separate governor for its claim on the Falklands than it did for Argentina, which meant Spain saw them as two territories.
- b) The very dubious claim that Britain "gave up" its earlier claim as evidenced by abandoning one of its settlements there.
- c) The extremely dubious (and contradicted by all relevant historical sources) claim that once having owned the islands and the colony there very, very, briefly during the 19th century is far more important than the preexisting and subsequent UK rights resulting from both having a better inherited claim, having Argentina give up the claim in 1850, and having 200 years of ownership.
- d) The flat-out bullshit and rather sickeningly hypocritical claim that the utterly fictional "plight" of the settlers of this colony being forced to leave (again, completely contradicted by the historical documents) means the islanders have no human rights of self-determination or ownership 200 years later, and that this is mandated by the UN... because in the 80s the last general assembly resolutions did not mention the islanders (despite directly referring to the UN charter which mandates universal self-determination).
- Of course Argentina's brutal genocide and ethnic cleansing of the aboriginal inhabitants of land it wanted (i.e. all of Argentina) and mass implantation of white European settlers at the same time and for decades after Britain took the Falklands was absolutely fine, and is even celebrated on Argentine money (the 100 peso note).
- e) The completely unfounded claim that being "nearer" a territory makes it yours...despite this not making any fucking sense in any way when talking about populated or previously claimed territory.
- f) The simply confusing obsession with whining about how Britain invaded the Spanish colony that would become Argentina in 1806/1807, before Argentina even existed, and how this somehow means Britain can't have the Falklands.
Given Argentina's aforementioned history of mass land theft, genocide of native Argentines, and the mass settlement of millions of white Europeans on the stolen land, it would seem logical that they would not be so offended by a peaceful island community off its coast that wasn't even inhabited before white Europeans arrived, and would not hold the basic rights and humanity of the islanders in such loathing and contempt. However, to treat the islanders as people would bring with it screams of "treason" and being "unpatriotic", and because their existence is the most visible threat to Argentina's claim, they are given zero sympathy by those who buy into the dogma.
This hatred toward the islanders becomes even more unpleasant and ungrateful when one considers that the islanders regularly host hundreds of veterans and relatives to visit the graves of fallen Argentine soldiers (whom the islanders also allowed to be buried there despite the fact they fought to subjugate them), in a tragically doomed effort to build bridges.
Aftermath of the War to the mid 2000s
Officially Argentina considers the islands (plus the nearby territories of the South Sandwich Islands, South Georgia Islands, South Orkney Islands and British Antarctica which it added on when no one was looking) to be theirs, though is understandably loath to take it to the ICJ, favoring the technique of pleading for "moral support" as a way to give a fundamentally illegal and immoral dogma the illusion of legitimacy, while also spewing North Korea style condemnations of British "Imperialism" whenever a squaddie at the garrison so much as wipes his arse. The British argument is mainly based on the wishes of the islanders (there are no 'indigenous' populations), though given the history of both its claim and Argentina's claim, it would likely have full legal right whether or not there was a population.
Practically however, Argentina's efforts to take the islands since the war can best be summed up as "impotent". In the decade after the war the Argentine government focused both on blockading the Islands, and on forcing through multiple UN resolutions requesting negotiations (which the UK was legally required to decline due to the UN charter). However, in the 90s the Argentine government had the bright idea of trying to win over the islanders.
Their way of doing this however was just plain stupid. One might think they would have apologized for the war, lifted blockades, recognized their basic human rights and begun building trade, cultural and political relationships with the islanders. Instead of any of this, the Argentine government redoubled its claims that the islanders had no basic human rights, and that they were "owned" by Argentina.
To offset this the Argentine Government believed that sending the islanders toys, Christmas cards and videos saying how great Argentina was would be enough to convince the islanders to instantly switch sides, and when this failed, they simply offered to bribe the islanders.
However, when these condescending and insulting attempts to "buy" the islanders failed, Argentina reacted in the mid 2000s by breaking off any former deal it had with them and with Britain, and began trying to simply bully them into submission. However, this ended up backfiring when oil was discovered shortly after they ripped up the oil treaty which would have given Argentina a share.
During the war as well, Argentine Forces laid around 30,000 of nine different kinds of anti-personnel landmines to repel any invasions. Of course, as with most land mines, 99% of the buried mines remained after the conflict. In fact, on certain minefields across the island, penguin populations have exploded (pun intended) due to a lack of human interaction. Of course, the reign of power of the penguins is coming to an end, as it is expected for demining operations to finish up by at most by 2024.
Now after all this pointless idiocy, bloodshed, and nationalist hatred, one might imagine that it would be a good idea for Argentina, after 5 years of a policy not only costing them their wedge of mineral rights in the Falklands, but utterly demolishing any warm feelings or wish to engage with them on the part of Britain let alone the islanders, to put the subject on the back burner or to simply try and quietly restart the seduction campaign under less objectively fucking stupid planning (i.e. stopping the assumption they are all brainless country bumpkins who just need to see Argentina's glory and instead perhaps try restarting charter flights, offering business and economic cooperation) so that they have a vague chance of getting anywhere whatsoever. This idea was put forward by a dozen intellectuals and journalists in early 2012 before the 30th anniversary of the war.
This idea of introducing some vague sanity however has been universally and furiously rejected by the Argentine government and aligned press, which instead had a cunning plan to blackmail Britain into handing over the Falklands (hopefully ethnically cleansed of islanders by that point) by both claiming "regional solidarity" due to their neighbors' aforementioned rhetorical and verbal support for Argentina, and also claiming "international consensus" being on their side due to their habit of forcing small articles on "supporting peaceful negotiations/Argentina's legitimate rights" into every agreement Argentina makes, or that the larger organizations it's a part of like UNASUR make. Thus it has endeavored to "shame" Britain into unilaterally breaking a significant percentage of the UN charter mandates and other international laws, not to mention its own laws, simply to make Argentina feel better.
The problem with this, however, just putting aside the blindingly obvious and facts such as the language involved in such support, is about as vacuous and meaningless as it gets due to the fact that both "peaceful negotiations" and recognizing "Argentina's rights" could just as easily be used to tell Argentina to piss off and leave the Falklands alone, is that so far no country including its nearest neighbors has done anything but give disinterested supportive sounding words to Argentina. Zero military, political, economic, social, or any other form of pressure has been put on the Islanders or the UK by any country, and all countries involved happily condone if not indirectly support Britain's and the Islanders' rule of the Falklands with nothing but a few unconvincing tuts of disapproval if they think Argentina is looking. This in itself makes the idea of selling out the islanders (thus costing the next election) for the sake of placating Argentina's delusions, about as attractive for a British government as the idea of giving Hawaii to North Korea would be to the US government.
However, just to ensure that any dealings with Argentina will be about as desirable as inviting a rabid bear to a nativity play, the Argentine foreign minister decided in early 2013 to visit London personally to "rally European support" (in the form of a group of obscure far-left activists with less public influence than the Teletubbies) and to try and dissuade the British public from supporting the upcoming islander referendum. During his trip he openly declared the Islanders as Untermenschen who "do not exist" and the British as not being a "true democracy" like Argentina, gloated smugly to the British media over how Argentina would be conquering the Falklands in a few years, threw a tantrum to MPs when they asked why he was being such a dick to the islanders, and screamed for days for dialogue before throwing a tantrum when the British government took him up on this offer, but with the caveat that there would always be an Islander representative present. Needless to say this was rather unsuccessful in cowing the British government or public to hand over the islands.
Since that time the Islanders held their referendum and attained a 99.8% majority in support of continued British association, with only 3 islanders voting to change that position (it can be suspected these three may have instead supported full Falklands independence from both nations) which was overseen by international observers and held to be done both fairly and competently. Again relying on a distinctly clueless view of the UN General Assembly as being some almighty arbiter of all law and sovereignty (when it suits them of course) rather than a powerless forum subservient both to the security council and the UN Charter laws, Argentina declared that since they did not officially validate and celebrate this referendum, that it was meaningless with the Argentine president throwing a tantrum on Twitter over it.
Back in reality, however, this referendum offers pretty much the best way of showing that the islanders want nothing to do with Argentina whatsoever, and unless Argentina can somehow change the law of self-determination as described in the UN charter, ICJ, and God knows how many binding international treaties, from being "universal" to being "suspended when Argentina wants", it has zero legal argument against it.
In short, the entire issue is little more than a case study for the dangers and insanity of nationalism.[note 1]
- Just think about it. A large group of people is whipped up into a fanatical frenzy about some totally abstract "right" of their state to "own" some rocks, when in practical terms their lives would not be improved, or affected, by such an acquisition, and the inhabitants of said rocks do not even want to have their nationality changed.
- See the Wikipedia article on Luis Vernet.
- See http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?itemID=F10.2&viewtype=text&pageseq=326&keywords=brisbaneVoyages of the Adventure and Beagle, Volume II], p. 271 on Darwin Online
- See wikisource:1850 Convention of Settlement
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- See History of the Falkland Islands
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