There's been a lot of chatter about the Falkland islands in the news again. The Argentinians have decided to start making a fuss over their claims to the British-owned islands, and are trying to get the UN involved. It's even led to Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela, going on a rant about the Queen, which was amusing.
I guess anyone over the age of 35 will know a bit about the Falklands. Or maybe not. I suspect that most people's knowledge of this remote outpost of Britishness is the 1982 conflict, after the military junta in charge of Argentina at the time decided to try and deflect attention from how badly the country was doing, by invading the Falklands. Sadly, he came up against a British prime minister who was doing badly in the polls and saw a great opportunity to attract some support by sending troops to reclaim the little-known islands.
And it went well, from a UK point of view. Mrs Thatcher won the next election, Argentina got a democratic Government, and the Falklands stayed British, albeit at the cost of 910 British and Argentinian troops. Personally, I reckon it was the right decision, but I still question the motives for doing it.
Because truthfully, there's nothing there. Most of the island is grazed by sheep. The major economy is based around fishing, according to Wrongipedia, and 255 British soldiers seems a high price to pay for protecting wool exports. It's a bit like Norway invading the Shetlands. Would we be so keen to take them back?
And 28 years on, it looks like we've discovered the real reason for the '82 conflict. The excuse Argentina are using to justify kicking up a fuss is regarding test drilling for oil, and indeed, it appears other minerals of value may be buried beneath the peat-bogs and mountains of these remote islands. Clearly, the reason everyone is so keen to claim the islands, is it's potential untapped mineral wealth. When oil is involved, anything is worthwhile, it would seem.
Like I said, though, I reckon we did the right thing in 1982, whatever the dubious motives, for two reasons. Firstly, the Argentine government of 1982 needed a reminder that the way we do business in the world is by democratic means. (Maybe Blair/Bush should take note, but that's a whole different article, I suspect!) More importantly, though, the Islanders themselves have always made it clear where their allegiances are. And that's to the Queen. In which case, we owe them our support, for as long as they want it.