Friday, 17 February 2012

If the Falklands were any other country, the 'Left' would be rallying to its side

I have long been fascinated by the Falkland Islands. As a zoologist their isolation, wildness and spectacular wildlife is the primary draw, but I admit to interest in the idea of a distant community of British people living so far from home, particularly since I spent time on Ascension Island, one of its fellow South Atlantic islands (although very far away!), where I met some of its citizens and got an insight into life in these remote enclaves.

Unfortunately the Falklands are now back in the news for all the wrong reasons. The Argentine government is attempting to isolate them and their people, and to accuse the UK government of militarizing them (although I can't help but think it might have been the invasion that militarized them!!).

What really bugs me about the Falklands issue is the attitude of so many on the left who basically assume that because the UK is involved, it must be in the wrong, and that the Falklands must naturally be 'returned', or that defending the islands is gun-boat diplomacy.

Now, I am an environmental campaigner, generally of the left, mildly anti-capitalist and no stranger to blockading a power station or being smacked by police. What really frustrates me is that I can't help but feel that if any two other countries were involved, the Falklands would be a left wing cause celebre. If Argentina was America or China, and Britain was Peru, students would be hanging the Falklands' sheep-based flags out their windows.

The only claim that Argentina has is that a) its predecessor the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata inherited the Falklands for a few years between its independence from Spain and losing them, and b) it is the nearest country. Yes maybe at the time it was wrong for the tiny Argentine colony to be driven out, but they themselves were part of the colonial game, and by that logic Ireland belongs to the UK, the UK belongs to France, Europe belongs to the Mongols and Argentina should hand back all its land to the descendants of the Amerindians.

On the other hand, there was no indigenous population in the Falklands, and the people who live there are perfectly clear where their allegiances lie. They have been under British jurisdiction for nearly 200 years, and have their own unique identity. They have been given the right of self-determination, and could join up with Argentina if they wished. But they don't.

I think one of the problems for the 'Left' is that they forever associate the Falklands with the rebirth of Margaret Thatcher's fortunes, and can never forgive them for that. The trouble is that whether the war was botched, or whether it should have been prevented, the point is that after the invasion it was the only thing to do. Anything less would have been the shameless abandonment of those people. Just because you hate Thatcher, doesn't mean you should take it out on the Falklanders.

There are others who claim to be upset because they see it as a big waste of money. I can only assume that they mean the military presence on the Islands, because the people pay their own way in every other respect. Well yes, it is expensive and that is sad, but so are lots of things, and we have no right to abandon the people just because it might be convenient. And in any case, if Argentina stopped threatening the islands, the military could leave. Then maybe the people would get to mix and become friends after all.

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