We knew it was only a matter of time until people started talking about the contested Falkland Islands in the wake of Britain's decision last month to retire its Harrier jump jets, a move that will leave the United Kingdom with no carrier-borne strike fighters for roughly a decade.
Now a group of former British admirals have written an open letter to U.K. defense officials, published in The Times newspaper, urging them to reverse their move to retire the Harriers.
For the next 10 years at least, Argentina is practically invited to attempt to inflict on us a national humiliation on the scale of the loss of Singapore [to the Japanese in World War II], one from which British prestige ... might never recover.Well, ok, it wouldn't be alright for Argentina to go and re-invade the Falklands. But playing the British prestige card? Hasn't the sun already set on the British Empire? The Japanese took Singapore when the realm was at its peak in terms of land mass and people living under the crown. The redoubt city was considered a linchpin of British military and economic might in the region and its defeat signified to the world that Britain's imperial power wasn't what it seemed. Some say it gave steam to independence movements in British colonies in Asia after the war.
But the Falklands, hmm, they've got sheep (ok, in all fairness, there might be oil nearby). And the British Empire, well, it's got the Falklands, not much else. Who knows, if the archipelago falls to Argentina, what's next? Gibraltar returning to Spain? Bermuda declaring independence? Tristan da Cunha throwing off the imperial shackles to become the next India and transforming itself into economic powerhouse? Yeah, no.
But wait, the missive gets better, as an AFP article points out:
The letter also warned that the last "10-year rule" in the 1930s assuming that Britain has warning time to rebuild its forces to face a threat "nearly cost us our freedom, faced with Hitler."While the Hitler reference may be a little extreme, at least this section focused on the possibility of an actual military threat to a group of U.K. nationals, not the loss of "British prestige." After all, some reports claim that the Britain's desire to withdraw naval forces from the region factored into Argentina's choice to invade in 1982.
"We believe that these decisions should be rescinded in the over-riding national interest, before it is too late," the letter concluded.
For now, let's hope that RAF's detachment of modern Eurofighter Typhoons at is enough to keep Argentina's military, armed with jets of 1950s, 60s and 70s vintage, from retaking the islands, or at least hold out 'till reinforcements arrive.
-- John Reed