Obama Undermines British Claims in Falklands

The United States’ support for Argentina in the Falklands dispute makes no sense.

A Royal Marine statue commemorating the Falklands War in Portsmouth, England, February 25, 2007
A Royal Marine statue commemorating the Falklands War in Portsmouth, England, February 25, 2007 (Des Morris)

President Barack Obama claims to be a staunch proponent of his country’s “special relationship” with the United Kingdom but when it comes to the sensitive Falklands issue, his administration insists on stabbing a longtime ally in the back.

Last week, the United States supported a “draft declaration on the question of the Malvinas Islands” adopted by the Organization of American States by unanimous consent. Referring to the islands by their Argentine name, the resolution calls upon Argentina and Britain to enter into negotiations over the sovereignty of the Falklands.

The resolution comes in the wake of mounting pressure from the Argentinians over the issue, including threats to blockade British shipping in the South Atlantic. In endorsing the resolution, the United States sided not only with Argentina but blatantly anti-American regimes in the region, including Hugo Chávez’ Venezuela and Daniel Ortega’s Nicaragua, as well.

Washington backed a similar resolution last year. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made clear in a joint press conference with President Cristina Kirchner in Buenos Aires in March 2010 that the Obama Administration supported Argentina’s call for negotiations over the islands.

The British have claimed the Falklands since the eighteenth century and asserted their control over the archipelago in 1833 and 1982 when it was challenged by the Argentinians. The latter conflict is remembered as the Falklands War when Margaret Thatcher’s conservative government successfully regained the islands after an Argentine invasion. The United States under Ronald Reagan clearly and explicitly supported the British war effort at the time.

No matter Argentine pretensions, the Falklanders have no desire to be part of their eastern neighbor and remain steadfast in their willingness to remain subjects of the British Crown. Yet the Obama Administration insists that Britain “negotiate” over the fate of the 3,000 islanders, some 20 percent of whom are British, as though there’s any legitimacy to Argentina’s claim after it failed to take the islands by force.

As Prime Minister Thatcher reminded the world in an address to the House of Commons after the Argentine invasion in April 1982, the Falklands are, and always will be, British.

The people of the Falkland Islands, like the people of the United Kingdom, are an island race. Their way of life is British; their allegiance is to the Crown. They are few in number, but they have the right to live in peace, to choose their own way of life and to determine their own allegiance. It is the wish of the British people and the duty of Her Majesty’s Government to do everything that we can to uphold that right.

During his recent visit to the United Kingdom, President Obama agreed that the Anglo-American relationship remains “essential” and he praised both nations as “indispensable in this moment in history” as the values shared by Americans and Britons are resonating powerfully across the world. One such value is the right of self-determination which the Falklanders deserve as much as the protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square whom the president so professed to admire. Another is loyalty among allies.