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  • Throwing the Falklands Under the Bus

    Posted by James R. Rummel on February 26th, 2010 (All posts by )

    Anyone else see this? The Obama administration declared neutrality on the issue of the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands!

    Go ahead and click on that last link. The author of the op-ed, James Corum, seems to think that the Obama administration is lacking a coherent foreign policy. Adding to the chaos is a clueless President, and a Sec. of State that does not have the intellectual resources necessary to do the job.

    I think Mr. Corum is wrong on all counts, but I can certainly see why he would form such opinions.

    This essay by Walter Russell Mead makes the case that Obama is pursuing a Jeffersonian foreign policy. This is where the US would limit alliances and foreign entanglements, and dismantle our military as much as possible.

    It is in this light that the actions of the Obama administration makes perfect sense. Refusing to support Great Britain’s claims to the Falklands weakens our greatest commitment we have to a foreign government, while at the same time reduces the chance that our Navy will actually be called upon for action.

    In fact, all of the President’s actions concerning foreign policy in the past year suddenly becomes absolutely crystal.

    Kowtowing, bowing, and apologizing to every tinpot despot and king provides a basis for the claim that Obama’s charm and diplomatic skills have won over governments that have proven troublesome in the past. Why continue to pay for the ability to project military force around the world when the chance that relations will turn hostile is reduced?

    At the same time, it also convinces our allies that reliance on America is a fool’s wager. Better reduce their commitments, as the US won’t commit to help them when needed.

    One of Obama’s earliest diplomatic gaffes, where he gifted UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown with 25 cheap DVD’s that cannot be viewed on standard British equipment, could be seen as a deliberate snub. I disagree, as it seems that Obama is so interested in making a good impression that he wouldn’t have made such a blunder if he had given it any thought.

    But the fact that he didn’t bother to give it any thought, and no one working in the White House thought to check on such an obvious and simple detail, does prove that the current administration is supremely disinterested in our most important alliance. They might not be going out of their way to cheese off the Brits, but they don’t give a fig if that is how it turns out.

    (Cheese and figs? Yech!)

     

    15 Responses to “Throwing the Falklands Under the Bus”

    1. John F Says:

      What Obama should do is support the UN Charter (the bit on self-determination), and ask the Islanders. I’ve read all the history over this conflict and the historic argument a bit weak on both sides and the same argument could be used to claim 100s of territories around the world.

      The UK doesn’t actually claim the islanders but they respect the Islanders wish to self-determination, its now the 21st century and the question should be ‘What do the Falkland islanders want?’.

      Our country not supporting the Falklanders / the Brits and saying that there should be dialog between the two counties rather than supporting the actual inhabitants is wrong, especially when they have supported the USA by many US airbases, GPS signal towers, and many needed US assets residing on British Overseas Territories.

    2. Joseph Somsel Says:

      I remember the Reagan Administration not being completely gung ho for the Brits during the first Falklands War. We eventually gave modest public support to the UK and offered satellite data that was militarily useful.

      Maybe there is more history than than memory offers.

      The best outcome is that the Brits use their remaining naval power to get the Argentinians to stand down then throw out Labor which has dangerously weakened their country.

    3. Tdaxp Says:

      IIRC, we supplied satellite photos to the British, while quickly going ahead with previously scheduled Naval cooperation with the Argentines. We have a special relationship with the British, but the Monroe Doctrine has permanently tilted us against the interests of the Europeans in this hemisphere.

      Further, at the time both the UK and Argentina were reliably anti-Communist.

    4. Anonymous Says:

      At the minimum, the left is mobilizing the substantial network of Castro-Chavez sympathizers in the administration and in particular in the more left-wing congressional staffs, where they’ve ben burrowing in since the 60s. Planned or not, the Obama administration has consistently acted to burn our bridges with Britain, which will insure that the next time we need troops somewhere, the Brits will be in no mood to help.

      Haig and Kirkpatrick leaned toward Argentina initially in the first Falklands war. This was partly because the Argentine military was serving as a conduit for assistance to the Nicaraguan contras and they expected that the US would stay neutral as a quid pro quo. Cap Weinberger, who understood far better than Haig how much real help the UK gave the US, was strongly for Britain, and ordered US forces to give the British forces any supplies they asked for, even drawing down current US supplies.

      The key practical issue than and now is the base on Ascension Island, which is the nearest British base to the Falklands. It is a British island and base used almost entirely by the US. However, the terms of the lease include letting the British use its facilities when they are needed. The US basically could not turn down the British request without violating the treaty, which would have put US use of the base, and for that matter the more important base on Diego Garcia, at risk. That will also be the case now if the Argentines try a military move again.

      The British forces are smaller in number these days, but what they have is more modern, and they have some capabilities they did not have in 1984. For example, they have good submarine-launched cruise missiles capable of precision strike. Also, with commercial satellite imagery generally available, they are not as dependent on US imagery.

      for the US to stay neutral at this time, considering the British contributions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places over the past decade, would be genuinely shameful.

    5. Joseph Somsel Says:

      One of the accomplishments from both sides of the first Falklands War was the restraint in not targeting civilian targets.

      Of course, the Argentinians were not wonderful houseguests to the islanders but they could have been worst. The Brits avoided targeting air force and naval bases on the continent with the attendent risk of civilian causalities.

      This go around, a weaker UK may find they need to escalate to missile or aircraft attacks against the mainland.

    6. Michael Kennedy Says:

      I don’t think “shameful” registers in Obama’s world. He is disinterested in foreign policy, much as Clinton was although Clinton had more experience abroad. He would not have referred to people speaking “Austrian.”

      Clinton had run against Bush on foreign policy issues, though, much as Obama ran against Iraq except that Bush was the “realist” and Clinton was the interventionist. Once elected, though, Clinton dropped his interest and when finally pushed to do something about Bosnia, he insisted that it was all done from 20,000 feet. The result was a missile into the Chinese embassy and the humiliating discovery that all the Serb tanks that were bombed were decoys.

      Obama’s familiarity with the military is illustrated by his pronunciation of corpsman.

    7. Shannon Love Says:

      I think Obama’s foreign policy can best be explained by assuming he simply does not care about. I think all his interest are those of big city mayor. He sees America as big unruly city that needs to managed ala the Daley’s. For him, foreign policy is as uninteresting and as irrelevant as it is for a mayor. It’s something that someone else handles.

      We can see this from the fact that he put his greatest political challenger, Hillary Clinton, in charge of the state department and, after years of rallying against Bush’s defense policy, he keeps Bush’s appointee for Defense Secretary. His national security advisor is someone he’d never met previously. If Obama considered foreign policy and defense important to his mission as President and his legacy he wouldn’t staff the two most important foreign policy positions with outsiders. He’d put someone from his inner circle in at least one of the positions.

      I think Obama’s foreign policy can be predicted on the basis of what he sees as the quickest way to make foreign policy issues go away. He simply does not care and possibly cannot conceive of the long term consequences of a weak and erratic foreign policy. He just does not want to be bothered.

      Therefore, he sees no value in our traditional alliance with Britain or any other country. He will give away any advantage, territory etc to buy a few months of quite.

      It’s too bad Obama never was a mayor in an old school big city. He could have learned more about hardball international politics in the bitter ward battles than he ever did at Harvard.

    8. dearieme Says:

      It seemed to me that the principal lesson of “no one working in the White House thought to check on such an obvious and simple detail” was that the White House staff must be unsuitably parochial. That things might differ in different parts of the world obviously never crossed their minds. And they were meant to be sophisticates compared to W’s crew?

    9. Helen Says:

      We know what the Falklanders want. They have made it very clear over and over again. They do not want to be Argentinians as they see themselves as British and Falklanders at the same time. That is what they say and that is what they want. The idea that anybody can have any doubts about it is a little strange to put it mildly but I don’t suppose those islands have registered much in American political thinking. Why should they?

    10. Robert Schwartz Says:

      The good news is that Argentina is one of the most bankrupt countries in the world. They probably can’t buy a full tank of gas for their air force, let alone afford an invasion of the Falklands. The noise in Argentina is all for internal consumption in a desperate, and probably failing, attempt by the Kirchners to distract the Argentinian people from their mis-rule.

    11. Robert Schwartz Says:

      Helen, our friends just returned from a cruise to the southern ocean. They stopped at Falklands. They described the Falklanders as more British than the British.

    12. Helen Says:

      Thank you Robert.

      The other good news is, by the way, that there is now a possibility of landing aircrafts on the Falklands, which there was not last time. So there is no real need for that armada. Just as well, methinks.

    13. Jonathan Says:

      There won’t be a war. Nobody wants one or can afford one. But from the POV of the Argentine govt there is little to lose by claiming the oil. Worst case, nothing changes. Best case, the Brits do something stupid, like negotiate an unnecessary deal that gives Argentina something it didn’t have before, or the USA stupidly gets involved and tries to pressure Britain to do something stupid. Who said Honduras meant nothing?

    14. Helen Says:

      Honduras seems to have held out and got what it wanted. Whether Britain will remains to be seen. We have heard absolutely nothing from the Conservative leadership on the matter. The man who would be prime minister does not seem to think that this is important. Given their bad showing in opinion polls I should have thought support for the Falklands and two fingers to the Argies (as we call them in our delightful all-inclusive fashion) would swing quite a lot of don’t knows and can’t quite work him outs their way. Instead they witter on about whether Gordon Brown is a bully or not and sexualization of children. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t like to see little girls dressed like mini-Lolitas but that is not something a government can do much about and it is not a matter for the election manifesto.

    15. Steven Den Bestte Says:

      In the run-up to the Falklands war, the US was in a tricky position because on paper we were allied to both the UK and Argentina. The US tried to mediate the conflict, but when that failed we informed the Argentine junta that our alliance with the UK was more important to us, and we would be supporting the British.

      During hostilities, no American unit was involved in the shooting. We did, as others above have noted, provide the Brits with intellligence of various kinds. And when the Brits ran low on Sidewinder missiles, we resupplied them.