Argentina, Not the UK, is the Colonial Power in the Falkland Islands


The Falkland Islands remain part of the United Kingdom, and the inhabitants are happy to remain subjects of Queen Elizabeth II. Over 20 years ago, the UK and Argentina fought a war over the islands, which the Argentinians invaded, perhaps unwisely underestimating the determination of the British government to keep the island under British sovereignty. In the years since, the Falkland islanders, who identify themselves as British, have had to endure an unacceptable level of hostility from Latin America, in particular from Argentina. 

In December, a number of Latin American countries agreed to bar ships with the Falklands flag entry to their ports. In Argentina, reclaiming the islands known as Las Malvinas has become a politically unifying policy. Yet while the Argentinians, other Latin Americans, and actors like Sean Penn might like to view the British settlement of the Falkland islands as some sort of aggressive colonial hangover, the fact remains that the islands were never colonized by the Argentinians and the inhabitants want to remain part of Britain. If anyone is espousing colonial sentiments, it is the Argentinians.

That the Falkland islanders were ever ambivalent over their allegiance was put to the test in 1982, when the Argentinians invaded and occupied the islands, in a move that would prompt a war that cost the lives of over 900 people. Once the Argentinians surrendered, Maj. Gen Jeremy Moore sent a telegram to the British government saying that the islands were “once more under the government desired by their inhabitants.” However, since the war, oil has been found near the Falklands, a further cause of irritation to the Argentinians.

Recent escalation of rhetoric has led to a series of events, which some think cannot come merely as coincidence. The UK plans to send five members of parliament from the House of Commons Defense Select Committee to the islands, in time for the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War. That this visit might have been planned in order to send a message to the Argentinians has been dismissed by committee member Thomas Docherty. In addition, Prince William has been deployed to the islands as part of his RAF service. The final, and seemingly most overt show of strength and determination comes from the HMS Dauntless, the Royal Navy’s most sophisticated ship, which is set to arrive at the Falklands in weeks in what is supposedly part of its regular deployment schedule. That a Navy source has said that the HMS Dauntless could "take out all of South America's fighter aircraft let alone Argentina's," probably comes as some reassurance to the Falkland islanders.

There is a certain irony to the fact that Argentina is claiming that the UK is acting imperially when it defends the Falkland Islands. It is, after all, the Argentinians who wish to impose their sovereignty over land whose natives have explicitly said that they wish to remain British. The Argentinians do not have a moral or diplomatic leg to stand on, and the British have made it clear that Falkland sovereignty is not on the table. The Argentinians would get further by seeking useful and mutually beneficial economic arrangements with the Falkland islanders instead of using their own colonial rhetoric.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons