The Obama administration continued its “smart power” efforts with America’s closest ally by demanding that the UK negotiate with Argentina over the Falkland Islands. Hillary Clinton appeared with Argentina’s President Kristina Kirchner yesterday for a press conference in which she pushed for talks to settle the status of the islands — which the British already consider completely settled now. Nile Gardiner calls Hillary’s comments a “slap in the face” to the UK.
First, the transcript of the presser:
QUESTION: (In Spanish)
And for the Secretary, it’s about the Falklands. The – President Fernandez talked about possible friendly mediation. Would the U.S. be considered – would the U.S. (inaudible) consider some kind of mediation role between the UK and Argentina over the Falklands? Thank you.
PRESIDENT DE KIRCHNER: (Via interpreter) (Inaudible) what we have (inaudible) by both countries as a friendly country of both Argentina and the UK, so as to get both countries to sit down at the table and address these negotiations within the framework of the UN resolutions strictly. We do not want to move away from that in any letter whatsoever, any comma, of what has been stated by dozens of UN resolutions and resolutions by its decolonization committee. That’s the only thing we’ve asked for, just to have them sit down at the table and negotiate. I don’t think that’s too much, really, in a very conflicted and controversial world, complex in terms.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And we agree. We would like to see Argentina and the United Kingdom sit down and resolve the issues between them across the table in a peaceful, productive way.
QUESTION: (In Spanish)
Interpreter: The journalist was just asking how the U.S. intends to negotiate to get the United Kingdom to sit at the table and address the Malvinas issue.
SECRETARY CLINTON: As to the first point, we want very much to encourage both countries to sit down. Now, we cannot make either one do so, but we think it is the right way to proceed. So we will be saying this publicly, as I have been, and we will continue to encourage exactly the kind of discussion across the table that needs to take place.
Except, of course, that Britain doesn’t believe there is any need to talk about it at all. Until a few decades ago, no one seriously challenged British sovereignty on the island. Argentina started a war over them in the 1980s, which Margaret Thatcher ended decisively. As far as London is concerned, that ended the discussion rather neatly, especially since the residents of the Falklands apparently prefer the status quo.
Gardiner wonders what Hillary was thinking:
Clinton has demonstrated, not the first time, strikingly poor judgment as Secretary of State. While currying favour with a third rate kleptocracy in Latin America, she is alienating America’s most loyal and valuable friend at a critically important time. She also underestimates the resolve of the British people, who will never negotiate the future of the Falkland Islands. If the Argentines want the Falklands they will have to fight for them, and if they choose to do so they will be emphatically defeated, just as they were in 1982. Hillary Clinton can cry for Argentina if she wants to, but the Falklands will be forever British.
Maybe this White House hasn’t recalled this yet, but the British are fighting alongside of us in Afghanistan, where we desperately need them to stay. If Britain suddenly discovers a need to deploy to the Falklands, especially because of American meddling, I’m quite certain London would need little encouragement to redeploy from their NATO commitment to do so.
When Obama ran for office, he claimed he wanted to restore our standing with our allies. Who knew he was such a history buff? It seems that Obama wants to restore our standing with the British to its status … in 1812.
Update: Reader Sajid A corrects me on a point originally in this post, which is that the British were not the first to occupy the Falklands:
“France established a colony at Port St. Louis, on East Falkland‘s Berkeley Sound coast in 1764. The French name Îles Malouines was given to the islands – malouin being the adjective for the Bretonport of Saint-Malo. The Spanish name Islas Malvinas is a translation of the French name.”
I’ve removed that passage. Thanks to Sajid for the correction.