Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Foreign Policy 180 Degrees of Wrong - The UK's Falkland Islands


Everything that the Obama administration does in the foreign policy realm seems coldly calculated to harm our interests. And as we saw with Honduras, when democratic principles are implicated, the Obama administration seems sure to come down on a position at odds with those principles. All that and more is showing up in the most recent bit of foreign policy insanity - refusing to support - or at least stay wholly neutral - as regards Britain's centuries old claim to the Falkland Islands. But Argentina wants the Falklands - and they just got a big boost from Team Obama.

This is sheer insanity. Our most important ally for well over the past century has been Britain. Britain has stood with us shoulder to shoulder on countless issues and in countless ways. We should be supporting them fully unless it is clear that they are overreaching. But they are not. Britain's claim to the Falklands is in fact significantly stronger than Argentina's. Moreover, in terms of democracy, the people of the Falklands overwhelmingly want to continue British rule - something not hard to understand if you know the political and economic history of Argentina.

The Falkland Islands don't sit within the territorial waters of Argentina - the islands sit fully 300 miles off the coast. Native Argentinians never inhabited the Islands - in fact the Islands lay uninhabited until discovered by European explorers around 1502. The Brits laid claim to the Islands in the late 1600's and started a settlement in the Falklands in 1765 - nearly half a century before Argentina even came into existence. Britain arrived in the Falklands in force in 1838 and has ruled the Islands ever since. The population of Falklands is 3,100 - the vast majority of whom are of British descent and all of whom, are by law, British citizens. When, 25 years ago, Britain broached the idea of turning the Falklands over to Argentina, there was rioting in the streets of the Falklands.

Argentina wants to take the Falklands by hook or crook. Argentine politicians have long used the Falkland issue as a political tool to focus nationalism in their country - often in an effort to deflect from the true and serious problems inside Argentina itself. But there is an economic motive also. There is valuable fishing and the possibility of large oil reserves near the Falklands. The UK's position has long been that, regardless of the relative merits of the competing claims, they will happily put the issue to a referendum of the Islanders - something which Argentina refuses to honor. Instead, a military junta governing Argentina in 1983 attempted a military takeover of the Islands and were beaten back by a British Expeditionary Force. Ronald Reagan fully supported Britain in that short, brutal war.

But that was then. When the Argentine government raised the issue of the Falkland Islands with the Obama administration, here is what happened according to the UK Times:

Argentina was celebrating a diplomatic coup yesterday in its attempt to force Britain to accept talks on the future of the Falkland Islands, after a two-hour meeting in Buenos Aires between Hillary Clinton and President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

Responding to a request from Mrs Kirchner for “friendly mediation” between Britain and Argentina, Mrs Clinton, the US Secretary of State, said she agreed that talks were a sensible way forward and offered “to encourage both countries to sit down”.

Her intervention defied Britain’s longstanding position that there should be no negotiations unless the islands’ 3,000 inhabitants asked for them. It was hailed in Buenos Aires as a major diplomatic victory, but condemned in the Falklands.

Britain insisted there was no need for mediation as long as the islanders wanted to remain British. “We don’t think that’s necessary,” a Downing Street spokesman said. . . .

Héctor Timerman, the Argentine Ambassador to the US, said he had never seen “such substantial support” from Washington for his country’s claim. Mrs Clinton had not only offered to mediate but had also signalled that talks should be in line with existing UN resolutions, he insisted, referring to non-binding UN General Assembly resolutions from the 1970s that urge both sides to negotiate.

Ruperto Godoy, the official Argentine government spokesman on the islands, said the new pressure from Mrs Clinton was “very significant, very important” and would help Buenos Aires to force Britain to the negotiating table.

In the Falklands, reaction to the meeting ranged from dismay to fury. “It’s outrageous after all the support we have given the United States,” said Hattie Kilmartin, a sheepfarmer’s wife. “They are not looking at the people who are actually living here and what they want, and it’s crazy that they are even contemplating going against us.”

Jane Clement, who works at Stanley airport, said her reaction was “probably unprintable”. She added: “I’m very disappointed. I always thought we would have support.”

Tiffany Gillen, an American citizen living in the Falklands, wrote a letter of protest to President Obama, asking: “How can we not support these people, this country? Have we ceased to be allies of the United Kingdom?”

With allies like Obama and Hillary, who needs enemies?

How much do you want to bet that neither Obama nor the Hildabeast know the first thing about the history of the Falkland Islands?

How much do you want to bet that Hillary was operating without the slightest awareness of or concern for the desires of the citizens of the Falkland Islands.

I would bet my meagre life's savings that they look at Britain occupying an island far from their coast for 200 years and assume its a simple hold-over from the colonial period. But colonialism by definition means a foreign power occupying terrain owned by another and imposing their government by force on the natives - or, in the alternative, displacing the natives. None of that applies to the Falkland Islands' situation. Ironically enough, it will be colonialism if Argentina is allowed to impose its foreign government on the Falkland Islands against the will of the native citizens.

Let me ask my British friends, in light of the fact that Obama was more popular in the UK come last election than he was in the U.S., are you wishing George Bush was still in office now? Lord knows I am. For that matter, I would even settle for the grossly incompetent but well intentioned foreign policy of Jimmy Carter at this point.

4 comments:

Paul_In_Houston said...

This exemplifies my worst fear about Omama -- a predilection towards selling out a people when convenient.

Taiwan: You might take note.

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GW said...

Hello Paul. I think its deeper than that. The Obama administration sees nothing special about "democracy." Further, they seem to be operating with an animus towards all of our traditional allies, the UK being number 1 on the list.

OBloodyHell said...

1) Team Obama: Is there a Foreign Policy issue they CAN'T f*** up?

2) Team Obama: Is there a Domestic Policy issue they CAN'T f*** up?

ergo:

Team Obama: Just Plain F***-Ups.

OBloodyHell said...

P.S. 1055 days.

The longest kiloday in human history...