The Falklands dispute has become increasingly heated in recent weeks as the 30th anniversary of the 1982 war arrived with Argentina renewing their claims to the Islands. While some may argue the Islands are all that remains of British colonialism and the UK should hand them back, the reality is that the UK is on the right side of this debate.
Those that claim Britain’s control of the Islands is a desperate effort to hold on to what remains of the Empire should take a look at the situation. Britain is the country that has looked after the Falklands since 1833, yet Argentina is behaving in a colonial manner by trying to gain control over the territory and another population.
The Falklands may be close to the Argentinian coast and over 8,000 miles away from the UK, but there is a fundamental reason why Britain should hold on to the Islands. This is because the 3,000 people living on the Islands want to stay British. It would be a massive failure by the UK if it let these people down by losing control of the Falklands. The Islanders are as British as everyone living in the rest of the UK.
Britain would condemn foreign occupations of other territories, so should do all it takes to protect its own people when they are under attack, however far away they may be. The Islanders’ opinion alone is enough of a reason to defend the Falklands compared to the proximity argument Argentina has propounded.
Furthermore, the Argentinian desire to claim Las Malvinas, as the country calls them, is largely based on the political capital this would win the government, and the distraction it would provide from the country’s domestic situation. The territory gained would be of little benefit to Argentina. In economic terms they believe they have a claim to oil around the Islands. While their frustration can be understood at being in such close proximity to untouchable valuable resources, the amount of oil discovered is relatively small and is hardly going to turn the Argentine economy round. Other than oil there are little economic benefits for Argentina as the Islands are largely self-sufficient, surviving through industries like tourism and farming.
Britain should also defend the Islands because Argentina have argued those currently living on the Falklands are not descended from the original settlers and therefore should be ignored, which raises the question: how would these people be treated if Argentina were to take control? Given Argentina’s recent hostility towards the Falklands, the answer is that they would probably be treated with contempt and their livelihoods could be put at risk.
There are arguments that the Islands are too costly to defend but in terms of overall military expenditure the costs are low. The current defences on the Islands, which have been increased recently, are more than enough to hold back an Argentinian threat until help arrives. Even if Argentina invaded, Britain would still be able to reclaim the Islands with relative haste, despite the defence cuts.
In the 1982 war 255 British military personnel and three Falkland Islanders died during the conflict. There are some commentators who think that by handing over the Islands Britain would be taking the ‘moral high ground’. But this would be a betrayal of those who fought and died in the conflict, and put the Islanders’ freedom and way of life unforgivably at risk. They must be defended.