Saturday, February 06, 2010

The Next Phase of the Malvinas/Falklands War - Battle in the Courts?

Certainly, tensions between Argentina and England (especially on the former's account) are never low when talking about the Malvinas/Falklands Islands. Still, this past week, the already-tense language has ratcheted up a few notches. England had decided to begin oil exploration in the sea around the islands, leading to a rush of British companies getting in line to work on the exploratory drilling. Argentina has responded by threatening legal action (perhaps concerned that England would drink Argentina's milkshake?), while Falklanders themselves defended the drilling by saying it will help their economy. Neither the English nor the Argentines seem like they're willing to back down or negotiate on this, so tensions are already running high.

If this were a typical case, it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect that the two countries involved would come to some sort of agreement, but Argentine-English relations are far from typical, especially when it comes to the islands. Certainly, the islands are in England's control, and it should have sovereignty, but Argentina makes a strong case with regards to the U.N.'s ruling on the "sovereignty dispute." War still seems unlikely, but editorials in England are already reminding readers (perhaps in a pre-emptive cautionary jingoism?) that Argentina's original attack on the islands in 1982 also started off somewhat innocuously, and as the article points out, Great Britain's armed forces are rather thinly spread right now, perhaps making this the best time since the 1980s to attack the islands.

And the fact that Gordon Brown is already trying to "save his skin" and could perhaps use military maneuvers to his advantage a la Margaret Thatcher in 1982 is only half the story. If Gordon Brown thinks he's the only unpopular leader involved, he'd better think again. Her battle with the Argentine Central Bank, questions over her husband's (and ex-president's) financial actions, and unpopular struggles with striking farmers have all led to Cristina Kirchner being unpopular and embattled throughout her administration. An attack on the islands could divert the Argentine citizenry's focus on her policies towards its own nationalism means a war could benefit more than just Gordon Brown (though given the effects of the loss on the Argentine dictatorship in 1983, it is certainly a much riskier move for Kirchner). That's not to say either Kirchner nor Brown wants another war, but both would probably benefit (at least in the short-term) in the face of flagging popularity.

Again, I really don't think this will come to a war. I suspect this will remain a diplomatic war-of-words, perhaps involving courts (though I don't know how that would function), the U.N., or other international arbitration matters. Still, relations between the two countries haven't been this volatile in awhile, and it will be worth seeing what the outcome is in the coming weeks.