The Falklands Islands is an archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean lying on the Patagonia Shelf. The archipelago covering an area of 12,000 square kilometers, comprises its two main islands called East Falkland, West Falkland and almost 800 surrounding smaller islands. Today, the Falklands Islands is a British overseas territory and it has an internal self-governance, which means that the United Kingdom takes responsibility for its defense and foreign affairs. But in the past, the Falklands Islands did not always belong to England and when mentioning this archipelango, “The Falklands War” under Magaret Thatcher’s years between the British and Argentinian always come first in people’s mind. But why did Thatcher government put much effort in entering a war to claim the sovereignty over this remote archipelago? This essay will provide the information about The Falklands War and reasons lying behind The UK’s attempt to win the war in 1982.
2. What’s Falklands War?
2.1 A brief history of Falklands Islands
Long before the Falklands Islands got envolving in the complicated sovereignty dispute situation, its first recorded landing discovery in 1690 was attributed to English captain John Strong, who named the island after the name of Viscount Falkland, admiral of the British Navy at the time. Nevertheless, the islands remained uninhabited until 1764, when French sailor Louis-Antoine de Bougainville established the first settlement of the archipelago, on the island of East Falkland, which was then occupied by Spain in 1767. The British settled in 1765 on the West Falkland but left in 1774 due to struggling with sustaining an economy there. A short time later on, the Spanish in East Falkand also abandoned their land for the same reason.
Argentina came in the big picture when after declaring its independence from Spain in 1816, it proclaimed possession over the Falklands. The Argentines installed a fort to retain their statement, but it was shot down by the American war ship USS Lexington in reprisal for the seizure of U.S’s hunting seal ships in the area.
2.2 The Falklands War
2.2.1 Reasons triggered the war
The profound cause of the war is originated from the conflict between The UK and Argentina disputing dominion eversince Argentinian set foot on the islands.
In 1833, the remaining Argentine officials were evicted by the UK force from the Falklands and England established a governor. And by the 1880s, a British community at about 1,800 people on the islands was able to self-supporting quite well. The Falklands officially became a crown colony (a type of colonial administration of the overseas territories of the British empire) in 1892 and for the almost a century, life on the island remained unchanged, despite the persistent protest from Argentina.
In 1981, Falkland Islanders voted in a referendum whether they would want to remain as British or not, and the result depicted that it seemed unlikely the Falklands would ever be under Argentine control. Thus, in Argentina, due to suffering criticism for dictatorship and ineffectiveness in managing the country’s economy, Leopoldo Galtieri government planned the Falklands invasion using military force as a means of promoting patriotism aimed at seeking support domestically and maintaining its regime.
The direct action that led to the Falklands war was initiated by Argentina on 2 April 1982 when its amphibious force continually came in troops and took over the town of Stanley on East Falkland. Under orders from their leaders, the Argentine force did no casualties to the British, eventhough they suffered from losing their own units. However, England authority considered Argentina’s move as invasion and Thatcher immediately assembled war ships set sailing to Falklands Islands. And the Falklands war began.
2.2.2 Main events and results
The war only lasted for 74 days, but it was not less intense compairing to other wars. Both England and Argentina brought in their well-equiped force and expensive military technological weapons at that time to enter the war.
According to the online Telegraph news, the following events happened during the war.
April 2, 1982: Argentine forces invaded Falkland Islands, entering capital Port Stanley and forcing the UK to surrender.
April 5, 1982: British task force of more than 100 ships sets sail for Falklands, including aircraft carriers HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible.
April 25, 1982: South Georgia is retaken by Royal Marines.
April 30, 1982: Task force arrives in 200-mile exclusion zone surrounding Falklands.
May 1, 1982: Argentine aircraft attack task force while British planes mount first air raids on Port Stanley airfield.
May 2, 1982: Argentine cruiser General Belgrano torpedoed and sunk by British submarine HMS Conqueror, killing more than 320 Argentine sailors – the single biggest loss of life in the war. Margaret Thatcher faces criticism over the sinking because the vessel was outside the 200-mile exclusion zone around the Falklands.
May 4, 1982: Destroyer HMS Sheffield abandoned after being hit by missile, killing 20 crew.
June 8, 1982: More than 50 British soldiers killed in attacks on landing craft RFA Sir Galahad and RFA Sir Tristram off Fitzroy.
June 11-12, 1982: British destroyer HMS Glamorgan badly damaged in missile attack. British forces take Mount Longdon, Two Sisters and Mount Harriet. Three Falkland civilians killed in British naval bombardment.
June 13-14, 1982: British forces take Argentine positions on mountains overlooking Port Stanley.
June 14, 1982: Argentine forces on the Falkland Islands surrendered.
In the end, the UK won the war with less casualties than Argentina. Argentine occupation of Southern Thule ended Argentine military government replaced with democratic government in October 1983
3. Reasons why the UK go to great lengths to win The Falklands War3.1 Economical benefits
It goes without saying that the Falklands archipelago brings some beneficial economy values to the UK. Its wet and cold Antartic-like weather is suitable for livestock industry, mainly sheep to escalate fast. People on the islands has been making use of raising the sheep here by comsuming lamb, harvesting sheep fur and producing wool from them. It has proved to be one of the solid economical points of the Falklands so as to support and continue life on the islands. Moreover, surrounding by the rich sea, the British also draws their attention to commercial fishing.
However, it is not because of the sheep or the fish that made the UK government send their finest navy ship to travel 8000 miles to claim their sovereignty over such small islands. It is true that commercial fishing and farming sheep brings revenue to the islanders, but they only comprise a small proportion in the whole UK economy. The answer is the black gold called oil, hydrocarbons and other minerals. When claiming the Falklands islands, the UK has an EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) that extends 200 nautical miles from the shoreline according to the UN Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Therefore, EEZ grants the country full exploitation over all natural resources. Falklands Islands lies in the South Atlantic Basin which is thought to contain one of the world’s biggest oil reserves.
3.2 Political benefits
The Falklands played a minor role in the two world wars as a military base aiding control of the South Atlantic.
“In the First World War Battle of the Falkland Islands in December 1914, a Royal Navy fleet defeated an Imperial German squadron. In the Second World War, following the December 1939 Battle of the River Plate, the battle-damaged HMS Exeter steamed to the Falklands for repairs. In 1942, a battalion en route to India was redeployed to the Falklands as a garrison amid fears of a Japanese seizure of the archipelago”.
Moreover, having the Falklands as an oversea territory will strengthen the UK’s claim on Antartica where the majority of undiscovered minerals exist there. Prohibition on mining the continent in the Antartic Treaty System will be invalid in 2041, therefore, countries that have previous claim on Antarctica, such as the UK, France, Norway, New Zealand, and Australia, are expected to argue over sovereignty of Antartica. Since the Falklands islands is near the pole, let alone the UK has already had their own territory on the continent known as the Britsh Antarctic Territory British government will have a more solid base to substantiate their rights on the pole.