Hillary and the Falklands, Part 2

by Alex Massie

Justin Keating thinks I'm probably reading too much into Hillary's remarks about the Falkland Islands today. A good number of readers think so too. And it's true that this is an issue that's guaranteed to annoy Britons. Perhaps we are, as one reader put it, "hypersensitive".

But the point is this: whether Hillary Clinton thought she was humoring her Argentine hosts or simply being polite, she actually ended up doing rather more than that. A reminder of what she said:

[W]e 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.

That may seem innocuous or a simple piece of diplomatic boilerplate. But it isn't. Hillary could, perhaps at the risk of disappointing her hosts, have said that this is an issue upon which the United States has no view. But she didn't. "Needs", for instance, is a pretty strong word.

The British position, right or not, is that there really isn't very much to talk about at all. Consequently, any American endorsement of talks is an endorsement of the Argentine position and not, however innocuous it might seem, a neutral view.

It's also possible that it might make "sense" for sovereignty to be transferred to Buenos Aires and the islands then leased back to Britain for the next, I don't know 99 years. (With an option to renew!) But that isn't going to happen either since the British view, in light of the islanders' own preferences, is that sovereignty is non-negotiable. And since that's what Argentina wants to talk about, endorsing the idea of talks can only be seen as supporting, in principle at least, Argentina's claims.

Is the British public mildly irrational about the Falklands? Perhaps. But the war wasn't that long ago and helps explain why Britain doesn't consider there to even be an issue over the islands' status. If the Islanders wanted to be Argentinian then things would be different. But they don't so they aren't.

Granted, as I pointed out here and here, the State Department's position has not changed much since 1982 but, Monroe Doctrine or not, this is a subject upon which the United Kingdom would very much prefer it if the State Department said nothing at all, far less give the impression that it agrees with Buenos Aires.

Daniel Larison has more to say on this too.