Daniel Hannan rewrites Falklands’ history

Hannan Speaks

MEP and internet superstar, Daniel Hannan is up in arms at what he sees Barack Obama sucking up to ‘Peronist Argentina’ on the Falklands.

“When matters last came to a head,” he writes, “Ronald Reagan had no difficulty backing Margaret Thatcher: the Gipper knew who America’s friends were.”

Of course, it wasn’t nearly as simple as that, as I am sure Hannan (a huge Thatcher fan) knows well. Michael Moynihan (no foe of Hannan’s, by the way)  sets the record straight:

Before the British took military action in 1982, the Reagan administration was, to the consternation of the British foreign office, very much on the fence and, initially, wedded to the neutrality position… In a letter to Thatcher, Reagan said that his government would take a neutral position on the matter—again, causing great anger—but would come out in favor of its ally if the Argentinians decide to start shooting…

It was only a communications error that prevented the United States from abstaining, rather than vetoing, a United Nation Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire—which Britain strenuously opposed.

Hannan’s fudging gives me a chance to plug James Rentschler’s superb Falklands diary. Rentschler was the Reagan official who ended up responsible for US policy on the islands after Argentina invaded. He was nonplussed by the task:

Never heard of [the Falklands], right? Me neither at least not until last evening when Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sent an urgent message through the Cabinet Line requesting the President to intercede with the Argies. 1800 British-origin sheepherders, pursuing a peaceful life on some wind-blown specks of rock in the South Atlantic, now targeted by Argentine amphibious assault units – who, in turn, may soon be attacked by the largest naval armada ever to steam out of British ports since Suez? Yes indeed, the thing certainly does sound like Gilbert and Sullivan as told to Anthony Trollope by Alistair Cooke. But what started out as comic opera now looks to become not only quite serious, but exceptionally nasty. The Argentines have clearly misjudged the British temper, and this guy Galtieri, speaking first in broken mafioso-type English before the State Department interpreter tactfully intervenes, sounds like a thug. Continue reading

On the web: skirmish in the Falklands, NATO futures, State Dept’s media relations, and “cloud computing”…

– As the diplomatic temperature continues to rise in the South Atlantic, Simon Jenkins suggests that the Falklands are “the Elgin marbles of diplomacy” and a “post-imperial anachronism” that should lead Britain to the negotiating table. Hugo Rifkind, meanwhile, explains why he won’t be shedding tears for Argentina’s President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, while The Economist highlights her failure to see the current crisis as an economic rather than a political opportunity.

– Rob de Wijk explores (pdf) the future options for NATO as it come to terms with changing geopolitics. Andrew J. Bacevich, meanwhile, cites a failure to sufficiently “reignite Europe’s martial spirit” and carve a global role for NATO in the 21st Century as cause for the US to draw back engagement in the alliance. Let it return to its origins and “devolve into a European organization, directed by Europeans to serve European needs”, he argues.

– Elsewhere, the London Review of Books blog offers reaction to plans for the new US Embassy in London. Associated Press, meanwhile, has news of an internal State Department report criticising its media operations.

– Finally, VoxEU explores the emergence of “cloud computing” and its potential impact on our lifestyles, business innovation, and economic growth. Charles Leadbeater assesses the associated rise of “cloud culture” and the importance of guarding this new space from the overbearing influence of government and big business. Elsewhere, over at Brookings Mark Muro wonders if the rise of Amazon’s Kindle could be a “symbol of American decline”.