by Séamus Martin, Political Editor
Libertarians believe in small government with a few minimal core responsibilities. One of those few legitimate areas for government to be active is defence - safeguarding the national territory and the life, limb and liberty of its citizens. Today the UK state meddles in its citizens’ lives and finances in all sorts of ways and indulges in numerous wars of choice yet fails to do its basic duty to safeguard parts of its national territory, namely the Falkland Islands.
The Falklands are an open goal for the next ten years due to David Cameron’s skewed foreign policy and defence priorities and savage cuts to Britain’s armed forces. We should therefore fully expect Argentina to invade at some stage during that period. Certainly current Argentinian President, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, is already sabre-rattling. Next time Argentina invades, unless urgent action is taken immediately, unlike in 1982 they will succeed. That will finish David Cameron.
Frankly, if Argentina is ever to enforce its claims to the Falklands, it would be mad not to invade during this window of opportunity while Britain has no carriers with fixed wing aircraft. And apparently the four (yes, only four) RAF jets based in the Falklands have no anti-ship missiles. Argentina meanwhile has a marine brigade, a parachute brigade and some good special forces according to Major General Julian Thompson, who commanded the brigade of Royal Marines during the 1982 Argentinian occupation.
The Falklands are a disaster waiting to happen - again! Why is Britain faffing about in Afghanistan and Mali where it has no vital national interests yet leaving the oil-and-gas-rich Falklands, the gateway to mineral rich British Antarctica, virtually undefended? This beggars belief!
What can and should Britain do if it is serious about holding on the the Falklands?
Firstly the constitutionally semi-detached Falklands and associated territories need to be made into in integral part of the UK (specifically England, in case Scotland goes independent) in exactly the same way that France has overseas departments (not colonies) such as French Guyana, Martinique and Tahiti. Even in the hugely unlikely event that the Falkland Islanders were to express a desire to become part of Argentina, Britain must never permit it because of all the oil and gas likely to be found in the region in the near-to-medium future. Also without the Falklands, British Antarctica with all its likely massive mineral resources is indefensible and sure to be lost.
Secondly, after the defence of the Britain itself, which faces no likelihood of invasion whatsoever in the foreseeable future, the Falklands must be Britain’s primary and overriding defence concern. I would even use the word “obsession”. Britain’s armed forces must be overwhelmingly reconfigured and boosted accordingly, with airfields, naval facilities and supply depots built or massively strengthened in the Falklands themselves and along the route, e.g. Ascension Island, virtual client-state Sierra Leone and possibly Gibraltar. (And, of course, no more utterly stupid escapades like Iraq, Afghanistan and now Mali and potentially Syria which do nothing to advance Britain’s national interests and only serve to sully Britain’s reputation and create unnecessary enemies.)
In the current absence of aircraft carriers with fixed-wing aircraft until at least 2023, several squadrons of RAF jets equipped with anti-ship missiles need to be deployed there. All Britain’s hunter killer submarines should be based in the Falklands capital, Port Stanley - there is absolutely nothing for them to do anywhere else in the world. And cruise missile-bearing submarines should be stationed off the coast of Argentina at all times. Land-based cruise missiles should also be installed on the Falklands themselves.
And despite Britain’s considerable military commitment to the American-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, all military planning should be based on the premise of American betrayal. The Obama administration is calling on Britain to negotiate with Argentina over what Hilary Clinton, who has just stepped down as US Secretary of State, pointedly refers to as the “Malvinas”. So when war comes again, Britain will undoubtedly have to fight it alone. Unlike under Ronald Reagan, there will be no covert US assistance in future.
Are there any potential allies out there for Britain? I suggest that, thirdly, Britain do its utmost to cultivate Chile as a diplomatic and military ally. In 1879 Chile bit a chunk out of both Peru and Bolivia (leaving the latter landlocked). With much of its armed forces committed to the north, Chile in turn handed over some of its eastern territory to Argentina in order to dissuade the latter from attacking its flank.
Chile should now be encouraged to annex at least Tierro del Fuego and, ideally, a larger swathe of southern Argentina, resulting in making Argentina’s claim to the Falklands geographically and militarily much less tenable. If Chile were to reactivate its 19th century claim to historical Patagonia - the current Argentinian provinces of Santa Cruz, Chubut, Neuquen, Rio Negro plus Buenos Aires province south of the Rio Colorado - and actually annex that territory, that would be an absolute game changer. It would safeguard the Falklands in perpetuity and enable Britain to eventually begin reducing its military expenditure (and lowering the tax burden on British citizens) as the continental south American shore opposite would be friendly territory, with the nearest piece of Argentinian coastline now being hundreds of miles further away to the north.
Similarly Britain and Chile should also agree a mutual defence pact and resolve their respective, partially overlapping Antarctic claims as the expense of Argentina’s.
The Falklands - for Libertarians a Just War
These ideas may for some people constitute rather out-of-the-box thinking! Maybe so. But to such people I ask: “What’s your plan?” Are you serious about keeping the Falklands at all? The current British government insists it is. Indeed, it is refusing to negotiate at all over the future of the Falklands. Yet it is utterly failing to take the necessary military precautions to ensure that any future Argentinian invasion plans are stillborn. Argentina needs to know that it cannot possibly succeed.
Yet the opposite is happening. By turning its back on negotiations and simultaneously leaving the Falklands virtually undefended, Britain is giving Argentina little option but to pursue the military option. And next time when Argentina takes it, Britain risks being utterly humiliated. Those in power who wilfully and negligently allow this to happen will have their political careers ruined and their historical reputations forever damned.
Britain at present utterly lacks the military capability to re-take the Falklands if Argentina successfully invades, but still has sufficient resources to defend the islands from invasion in the first instance if the political will and focus exists and present resources are redeployed. There is still just about enough time to act. But will David Cameron do what needs to be done? I very much doubt it. He seems more interested in prolonging the agony in peripheral Afghanistan and grandstanding over irrelevant Libya, Syria and Mali rather than defending his country’s actual vital national interests.
Defending the Falklands, South Georgia and British Antarctica is an entirely defensive military stance against aggression and thus when the next South Atlantic war comes, it will be from a Libertarian perspective a just war.