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Falklands war 3_articles

  1. 1. IB History Articles: Falklands/Malvinas War 2011/12 Political Blunders Behind The Falklands War From Tempest in a Teapot by Reginald & Elliot, 1983The American academics Reginald & Elliot in their excellent 1983 study of the Falklands War entitled Tempest in a Teapot posethe questions, "Why did two apparently civilised nations go to war over a group of 2,000 worthless islands in the South Atlantic?Could the fighting have been prevented?" They suggest, "The answers lie in the shortsightedness of the governments involved",the real causes of the war being more to do with "governmental blunders" than with historic claims."While Britain agreed to negotiate with the Argentines over the Falklands question in 1965, it did so halfheartedly, without anysense of urgency or purpose. Indeed, one is struck while studying the recent history of the Falklands by Britains seeming inabilityto decide just what it wanted to do with the islands. At times the British government appeared ready to cede the Falklands toArgentina, in whole or in part, irrespective of the inhabitants wishes; on other occasions, Britain said it would respect the desiresof the natives without actually taking steps to defend them should the worst come to pass.Of course, the Falkland Islands occupied only a small part of Britains attention during a period filled with perilous crises. Still, thebasic policy followed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office during the decades of negotiations seemed to be a fervent desirethat the issue would just get up and walk away. The professionals of the British Foreign Service consistently underestimated thepersistence of their Argentine counterparts, consistently misjudged the long-term effects of delay on the Argentine populace andgovernment, and consistently downplayed threats of action by the Argentine military if negotiations remained stalemated.From the Argentine point of view, seventeen years of negotiations, with little more to show than a minor trade and travelagreement, were more than sufficient to address the key issues, particularly the sovereignty question. There were signs from thevery beginning of the negotiations that Argentina was willing to compromise on some middle ground, if the end results wouldallow them to at least show the Argentine flag in the islands. One cannot condone the Argentine military solution, but the invasionis at least understandable, given the fact that virtually nothing had been achieved for thousands of hours of work on both sides.Whether from lack of attention, or more probably from lack of consideration, Britain never seemed to take Argentina seriously, orto understand its peculiar viewpoint on matters related to national honour. It is, of course, easy to make judgementsretrospectively; yet one fact stands out quite clearly: Britain made a series of minor diplomatic oversights that blended togetherinto one horrendous blunder, including: its inability to educate its public, either in the Falklands or in Britain itself, on the dangersand options involved; its lack of decision, either to stand by the Falklands and provide a sufficient military presence to defendthem, or to abandon the islands, all at once or over a period of time, by forcing the issue and transplanting those islandersunwilling to live under an Argentine administration; its failure to predict the consequences of its actions, such as withdrawing thearmed icebreaker Endurance during a period of mounting tensions; its faulty diplomatic and military intelligence, which providedthe government with only two days advance notice of the Argentine invasion; and, finally, a certain condescension in its dealingswith the Argentine government, which contributed mightily to the failings mentioned above.Alone, these might have been minor bumps on the road to good relations between two sovereign countries. Cumulatively, theyhelped bring on a war neither government really wanted. In the end, Britain had helped manoeuvre itself into a position in whichMargaret Thatcher had no option, in her opinion, but to strike back.….. Galtieri miscalculated at every turn, judging that the United States would remain neutral; that Britain would do nothing butprotest to the United Nations; that in the unlikely event of military action, Britain would receive no help from other nations, anddid not have in any case the military capability to retake the Falklands; that Argentina could defend its beachhead on the Falklandswith ill-trained conscripts; that Brigadier General Menendez, having deployed his soldiers so poorly that even Galtieri noticed theirmisplacement on his visit to the Falklands, was still the man to lead the Argentines to victory; that after the Argentine surrender,Galtieri could still continue fighting a shooting war, while remaining leader of his country.….. With both sides failing to take the other seriously, a confrontation was almost inevitable sooner or later. The crisis wasprecipitated by a conjunction of unfavourable events following the February 1982 negotiating session between Britain andArgentina. Although Britain somehow believed that relations were back to normal following these discussions, Argentina clearlycame away from the talks with a feeling of déjà vu, and a sense that nothing would ever come from the negotiations. At that pointGaltieri, undoubtedly pressured by Anaya and the Generals own subordinates, decided to increase the stakes and put pressure onthe British.The first sign of this new policy was the release in Buenos Aires of the text of the proposed agreement. Simultaneously, Galtieriordered preparation of a military option, in the event discussions reached an impasse within the next few months. Galtieri was notonly impelled by his own sense of destiny and by the higher ranking officers in the Argentine military, but by a declining economythat threatened an end to the junta system itself. He gambled - and he lost.As the month of March progressed, both sides began to lose control of the situation, essentially just reacting to events and to eachothers responses to those events. The riots of March 30th and 31st forced Galtieris hand. To save himself more than his country,he ordered the invasion to proceed, thereby raising the stakes one step higher.Once the Argentine forces were committed, neither side could back down, since doing so would mean the end of whichevergovernment broke ranks first. Furthermore, one of the two governments was almost certain to fall in any event, depending on thewars outcome. By this time, any real possibility of a negotiated settlement had long since passed. Barring the unlikely event of abattlefield stalemate, the war would continue until one or the other side emerged victorious, thereby vindicating the judgementof the political leader in question, and dooming the fate of the loser."Source: R. Reginald & J.M. Elliot, Tempest in a Teapot : The Falkland Islands War, (1983), The Borgo Press, San Bernardino,California, USA Page 1 of 4
  2. 2. IB History Articles: Falklands/Malvinas War 2011/12 Why Britain Won The Falklands War From Tempest in a Teapot by Reginald & Elliot, 1983This was the question posed by American academics Reginald & Elliot in the conclusion to their excellent 1983 study on the FalklandsWar, Tempest in a Teapot."Why did Britain win? The British victory was composed of equal measures of professionalism and luck, both essential factors in theprosecution of a war. On paper, Argentina appeared to have a decided edge, in men, materiel, planes, position, and supply lines. TheArgentine advantage, however, was eroded away by the British forces as the war developed, the experience of the British military being adecisive factor.Britain also used the press much more efficiently than Argentina, giving the impression of evenhandedness, truthfulness, evenhumbleness in advancing its claims, when in reality the military manipulated the few reporters assigned to the fleet by feeding themexaggerated but believable reports about the large numbers of British troops, ships, and planes being sent to the South Atlantic. Whilethe Argentine press releases were discredited almost from the first day of the campaign, Britains official government press office wasregarded by most westerners as the only news source that was even partially veracious. In other words, Britain won the psychologicalwar, and by doing so, gave an enormous boost to its military position. As the war progressed, even Argentina began believing Britishclaims. This was, of course, precisely what Britain intended.The sinking of the Argentine ship General Belgrano not only removed from the seas Argentinas most powerful warship, but alsoeffectively marked the end of the naval war in the Falklands; thereafter, Argentina kept its ships within sighting distance of the mainland.Argentina seemed to have a large advantage in air power at the beginning of the conflict, but never was able to use its large numbers offighter-bombers to establish control of the air space over the Falklands. Instead, twenty British Sea Harriers flying round the clockeffectively knocked the Argentine Air Force out of the sky in the first two weeks of the shooting war. The slower Harriers showed anuncanny ability to outmanoeuvre the faster but clumsier Skyhawks and Mirages, shooting down the Argentine planes in an astonishingratio of about fifteen British kills for every one for Argentina.The Argentine Air Force demonstrated immense bravery and tenacity in attacking the British fleet, which was bottled up in FalklandSound with no room to manoeuver. But its best efforts were thwarted by a high number of dud bombs, including six that actually hitBritish ships, by the myriad of antiaircraft missiles thrown at the attacking Argentine jets, and by the short amount of combat time (2-10minutes) that each Argentine plane actually had over the target areas. Essentially, each Argentine aircraft had to line up over the combatzone, quickly dump its bombs and missiles, perhaps turn around once for a strafing run, and then head back to home base, or run the riskof running out of fuel. This left the Argentine craft at an enormous disadvantage in pursuing the Sea Harriers, in picking better targets, inavoiding missiles. In the end, Argentina lost perhaps one-half to two-thirds of its serviceable combat planes, depending on which claimsone chooses to believe; more importantly, the Argentines lost a large percentage of its trained fighter pilots, a resource that will be farmore difficult to replace than the aircraft themselves.On land Argentina fared little better. Brigadier General Menendez, who had spoken out against the original Argentine invasion, wassimply the wrong man to be defending the Argentine beachhead. He consistently showed himself incapable of making the simplestmilitary judgements. His strategy, his placement of troops, his supply lines, his responses to British actions, all demonstrated woefulmilitary incompetence. Paradoxically, President Galtieri recognised Menendezs deficiencies on his only visit to the islands, but refused toreplace him, on the grounds his removal might demoralise the Argentine populace and soldiery.The British forces were allowed to land at San Carlos Bay virtually unopposed. Argentine troops at Goose Green were reinforced byMenendez, but provided with no further support when they most needed it. Once Goose Green fell, Menendez seemed to pursue apersistent policy of retreat, falling back from entrenched positions at the least sign of pressure from the advancing British. As a result, hesoon found himself besieged at Puerto Argentino / Port Stanley, encircled by land and cut off by sea, with no air support whatsoever. Atthe end, his soldiers broke and ran before the final British attack.Contributing to the Argentine defeat on land was the dichotomy between the Argentine enlisted men and their elitist officers, many ofwhom never moved from their relatively plus surroundings in Port Stanley, while the men in the trenches were struggling to findsomething hot to eat and something warm to wear. A number of the intermediate officers abandoned their units under British militarypressure, leaving them in charge of their sergeants or corporals. The vast gap between the privileged officer class and the poorly trainedconscripts that comprised much of the Argentine army resulted in a demoralisation of the forces in the field, and a tendency for them tocrumble before the relentless British onslaughts.Contributing to this was Argentinas poor supply chain: while goods and war materiel piled-up in Port Stanley, the soldier in the fieldreceived less and less in food, clothes, and weaponry as the war progressed. He felt abandoned by his own people, and consequently didnot fight as well as he could have fought, had he been properly maintained and directed. The fault for the military debacle must liedirectly with the heads of the Argentine armed services.Leaving aside political considerations, could Argentina have won the military struggle? There is no certain answer to this question, butmost observers seem to feel that Argentina could at least have made a better showing in the Falklands than it did. Argentinas threesurviving submarines were never a factor in the struggle: one was apparently unserviceable, but the remaining two could and shouldhave been deployed near the British fleet. The long Argentine aircraft carrier could have been deployed near enough to the Falklands toincrease Argentine air cover there tremendously. The sinking of a British aircraft carrier would have halved British air power, as well asdemoralised the entire British expeditionary force - this should have been the first priority of the Argentine Navy. The Argentine Air Forceprobably did as well as possible with the mixture of old and new equipment available to it: if more Exocet missiles had been purchased, ifnewer aircraft had been obtained, perhaps the outcome might have been different. The Argentine Army made a very poor showingindeed: with better officers, better supply lines, with more aggressive tactics, Argentina could have at least fought the British to astandstill, and perhaps driven them off the beaches at Port San Carlos. But they did not, a fact over which military historians will bepondering for decades to come."Source: R. Reginald & J.M. Elliot, Tempest in a Teapot : The Falkland Islands War, (1983), The Borgo Press, San Bernardino, California,USA Page 2 of 4
  3. 3. IB History Articles: Falklands/Malvinas War 2011/12 Falklands War official history verdict: result could have been different Harold Briley - June 2005New revelations in the soon to be published British official History of the Falklands Campaign indicate that a few key acts byArgentine commanders could have produced a different outcome, possibly avoiding defeat. And, if General Galtieris military juntainstead of launching an impetuous invasion, Argentina may peacefully have attained its long-term ambition of sovereignty overthe Falkland Islands because economic and social stagnation and population decline before 1982 could eventually have made thesituation untenable.These are two of the many controversial arguments examined in this official history, written by one of Britains foremost militaryacademics, Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman, who is Professor of War Studies at Kings College, London, invited by theGovernment to carry out the task. He has taken eight years to collate and assess masses of information, much of it hitherto secretintelligence.The issue is comprehensively covered in two volumes. The first deals with the origins of the Anglo-Argentine dispute going backcenturies and with the run-up to invasion. The second volume covers the conduct of the war and its aftermath until diplomaticrelations were restored in 1990. The two volumes run to more than 130,000 words and cost £90, published by Frank Cass Limited.In advance of publication, Professor Freedman has given extensive clues to his conclusions in an article in the magazine HistoryToday.Professor Freedman had access to secret official files which focus fresh light on the help given to the United Kingdom by Chile andthe United States and also on the tensions that developed in American-British relations in the immediate aftermath of theinvasion as President Ronald Reagan and his Secretary of State, General Alexander Haig, acted at first as even-handedintermediaries in an attempt to achieve a diplomatic settlement.At the same time the Pentagon and the United States military were making "extraordinary efforts" to supply equipment andmaterials, for example updated side-winder missiles which proved so effective on Harrier jump-jet aircraft.The history may also explain the mystery of why a helicopter carrying elite SAS troops made an emergency landing on Chileanterritory.Professor Freedman emphasises that "success could by no means be taken for granted" as the military commanders knew at thetime. In this, he echoes the assessment of the task force commander, Admiral Sir Sandy Woodward, that it was a close-runoutcome as ammunition was expended and his ships were mercilessly battered by Argentine air attack and severe Atlanticweather.The professor points out that it was a war fought with a "small margin for error". The campaign and individual militaryengagements "could be turned by a moment of heroism or a loss of nerve, by an act of will or a critical error".He suggests that the outcome could have been different if the Argentines had not made a series of military errors such as notkeeping their navy at sea after the sinking of the Belgrano, or by attacking warships instead of the ships carrying troops andequipment, and by not patrolling "more aggressively" as the British advanced towards the capital. If they had acted differently, hesays, "the result could have been different. And the loss of one of the two British aircraft carriers would have forced the BritishGovernment to reconsider."With so many previous accounts of the war written by the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, other Ministers, militarycommanders, diplomats and journalists, and with so many contradictions, he says an official history, given access to the bestpossible official documentary information, can explore the "lingering controversies" and also examine how Britain arrived at somedecisions and not at others.Professor Freedman recognises that access to so much official material might have resulted in a "sanitised account" confirming the"official line" and expressing only "safe and agreed opinions". He insists that the credibility of his history depends on its being his"own independent review".While accounts of the military campaign remain confused, Professor Freedman has benefited from full diplomatic informationavailable from two key ambassadors, Sir Nicholas Henderson in Washington, and Sir Anthony Parsons at the United Nations.First published in the Penguin News on 17 June 2005, and reproduced with the kind permission of the Editor Page 3 of 4
  4. 4. IB History Articles: Falklands/Malvinas War 2011/12 The Argentine militarys lost cause By the BBCs Peter GresteEvery day for the past decade, an honour guard of Argentine sailors has raised the national flag over a monument to their comrades whodied defending the South Atlantic cluster of islands they call Las Malvinas, and Britain call the Falkland Islands.At the end of the short but solemn ceremony, two sailors are posted as honour guards, standing rock-still day in and day out in front of avast granite panel with names of the 649 dead Argentine servicemen chiselled into it.The stone is a symbol of the countrys commitment to those who perished and to the islands they were fighting for.The war was brief - barely three months from the moment the first Argentine troops stepped foot on the islands in the early hours of 2April until the Argentine troops surrendered on 14 June.And as far as wars between nations are concerned, there were relatively few deaths.But it profoundly changed the South American country and led to the downfall of the military regime that ordered the original invasion.Just before the war, the President, General Leopoldo Fortunato Galtieri, was struggling to hold on to power. Large parts of the population had lost their fear of the brutal regime and had begun turning out in huge anti-government protests.The economy was faltering badly and the government needed something to galvanise the nation and regain respect.Its solution was to recapture the Falkland Islands - a British colony since the 1700s but an archipelago that Argentines passionately andfervently believe is rightfully theirs.The regime engineered a dispute over scrap metal and sent in the troops. The very next day, General Galtieri appeared on the balcony of the presidential palace, before a huge and jubilant crowd,declaring that "whatever the cost, we will never give up Las Malvinas".Patriotic feeling We lost a lot more than the "At first I was shocked," said war veteran Daniel Alfonso. war... we lost our culture of"I thought What is this, what madness are they doing?. respect for the authorities, and"But then, like all Argentines, I felt proud that we had reclaimed what is ours, and that we were defending thats something that you cant get back easilyour fatherland. It was natural." Daniel Alfonso He was a 25-year-old, just beginning a career as a hydraulics engineer and already past his military service. Argentine war veteran But when police knocked on his door at one oclock in the morning a few days later to deliver his call-uppapers, he had no choice but to dust off his uniform and report to barracks. Most of us, myself included, thought the"I never really thought we would ever actually have to fight," he now confesses. Americans would step in and"We were so convinced of the justice of our cause that it wasnt something we seriously considered." mediate to avoid a warSenator Antonio Cafiero agrees.He was not in government at the time, but as an active member of the Peronist Party he was close to the Senator Antonio Cafieroinner workings of the military junta."Only a few people inside the government thought the British would come," he said."But most of us, myself included, thought the Americans would step in and mediate to avoid a war."You have to understand that our soldiers, the commanders, were not prepared to shoot a single British soldier, not to have a singlecasualty because they thought an agreement was just around the corner and that in a few weeks we would all be home with theArgentine flag flying over the governors residence." Bad planningGeneral Galtieri calculated that the then British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, who was struggling with We didnt knowunion strife, plunging popularity and a faltering economy, would not risk a military adventure for the sake of anything about the terrain,a remote pocket of territory that most British had never heard of. nobody knew what weaponsIt now seems to have been a spectacularly naïve misjudgement, and it was to have tragic consequences. the British might have withDaniel Alfonso said nobody had properly thought through the islands defence: them - anything about what we might be up against"When we arrived, we were never prepared for the cold."Nobody expected the freezing and wet conditions, and we didnt have the clothing or the shelter to cope. Daniel AlfonsoWe didnt have enough food, and we never had anywhere near enough ammunition. Argentine war veteran"The worst failure was the intelligence service. We didnt know anything about the terrain, nobody knewwhat weapons the British might have with them - anything about what we might be up against. I cant forgive them for that."But he and other veterans like Arturo Vallejos from the Argentine War Veterans Association remain convinced of the justice of theircause.Mr Vallejos insists the war was not a mistake. He also blames the military rulers of the day for mishandling the situation and the seniorofficers for abandoning their front-line fighters in the field when the British counter-attack finally came.But he also insists he would return again if need be."Of course if it was necessary Id fight again for my country, whether it was for the Malvinas or for any other part of the territory that wasoccupied by an invader," he said.That is not likely to happen within the foreseeable future though.Argentines not only lost the war but, according to Mr Alfonso, they lost a good deal more."Its not just about territory. We didnt lose the islands. Theyre still there and theyll always be there, and Im convinced that one daytheyll be ours again somehow."But we lost a lot more than the war. We lost our self-respect. We lost our culture of respect for the authorities, and thats somethingthat you cant get back easily."Nobody has any faith in the military any more and I dont think theyll ever do it again." Page 4 of 4