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Old 2008-03-31, 14:58   Link #1
WanderingKnight
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The Falkland Wars, 26 years later

Okay, as many of you probably already know, I'm Argentine. What I'm not sure of is if any of you know about the Falkland Wars, a small-scale war between my country and England which began in April 2, 1982, and ended sometime during June of that same year, and took place in a group of islands in the South Atlantic. My purpose in this thread is basically to hear what the English people have to say about the issue, and how it was viewed there at the time, after explaining my personal take on what happened

Over here, things were a bit complicated. The war began when the Argentine military dictatorship decided to retake the Falkland Islands, which geographically belong to our country, by force, in an attempt to push forward the nationalistic fervor provoked by having an "enemy" to fight against and regain the public's favor, which was already fading as the atrocities committed by the military junta were starting to become quite apparent, and the severe economic crisis caused by the neoliberal policies taken during the 70s began to take its toll. Democracy was clearly going to return in the coming years, so their intention was basically to regain the public's approval with a war, and then have a free way to back down on their own terms (which was what actually happened in plenty of other Latin American military dictatorships, since there was no war catastrophe to make the people realize a little better what rotten pile of human excrement those people represented).

So, this decision to start the war was taken, and thousands of Argentine youths were rallied into the military. Virtually everyone who participated in the invasion was a conscript, with zero military experience at all. My dad (who was 18 at the time) got lucky and didn't get rallied, or I probably would not be writing this right now. And, of course, all of them got massacred by the British forces, a strong group of regulars with several generations of better military equipment available. Nevermind morally-reproachable events like the sinking of the General Belgrano battleship when it was outside of the exclusion zone, it was pretty obvious from the very beginning that England would win the war easily. These sad events, at the very least, helped to make the people realize what the military dictatorship really represented, and to make our country one of the only ones in the world to have tried and prosecuted its dictators for crimes against humanity.

So, that's my view over the issue... there's also a couple of elements I haven't mentioned, like the loss of US support to the military dictatorship when the war began (some people think they started the war because they thought they would have the US support on the issue, but apparently (duh) the US thought that maintaining a good relationship with the UK was more important). Now, my main interest when posting this thread, as I already stated, is to see what's the British view over the matter, which really interests me. There's this whole Margaret Tatcher business I can't quite grasp, so if someone from over there would comment on that, I'd be really glad
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Old 2008-03-31, 19:45   Link #2
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Nevermind morally-reproachable events like the sinking of the General Belgrano battleship when it was outside of the exclusion zone, it was pretty obvious from the very beginning that England would win the war easily.
It was a warship. If you're at war with another country all of their military assets are valid targets. That it wasn't in the exclusion zone doesn't matter. That's for the benefit of commercial shipping, not the enemy navy. As long as it was in international waters it enjoyed no special status.

Think about it. If you could only attack targets in an area you need to predesignate, the opposing navy could just sit outside and take position until they're ready to attack. Warships are a legitimate target in a war regardless of where they are.

Was it necessary it sink it? Perhaps not. However, it was a completely legitimate target. Beside Argentina sank a british destroyer and a couple frigates too. It's not like there was no threat to British navel forces.
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Old 2008-03-31, 19:49   Link #3
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The controversy arises from the fact that it was retreating. I'm not questioning the legality of the act itself in terms of a war... only the moral implications of such an action.
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Old 2008-03-31, 19:50   Link #4
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I was young at the time, but remember seeing it on the news. It was the war where the Harrier (jump jet) proved itself after it had been considered a joke by most of the world. I don't really remember anything more about it other than the gist of what you said; dictatorship trying to provoke public support etc. ^^;

I only remember paying attention since I'm half English and events involving the UK used to interest me. I'm sure most people didn't even pay that much attention to it... in terms of wars it was pretty small scale and not many people care about the little ones.
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Old 2008-03-31, 19:58   Link #5
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The controversy arises from the fact that it was retreating. I'm not questioning the legality of the act itself in terms of a war... only the moral implications of such an action.
Now, if morals were considered in war at all, wouldn't there be less killing for the most part?

And this Falklands war (Brits called it Falklands Crisis, no?) wasn't a declared war. Neither side said "War on Britain/War on Argentina for the Falkland Islands!", but obviously Argentina did suffer heavy losses. Dictatorship just ends up using people as pawns. Not that other forms of government or power are so much better, but dictatorship happens to be one of the bottom when it comes down to it.

What do I think...

As they said before, "The sun never sets on the British Empire". Their navy and their ambitions have not decreased in any way. Imperialism and Militarism of the Brits is...

Well, I wouldn't have minded sparing a few island territory for a country who should have had it from the start anyway... But people get greedy sometimes
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Old 2008-03-31, 20:11   Link #6
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Actually, it was pretty much given that if the dictatorship hadn't touched the Falklands, most of the kelpers would've been gone in a few years, since England didn't really care too much about the islands and its population didn't get too much support from the mainland. After the events, though, England's interest in the islands was renewed, and they went as far as to discover some pretty big oil reserves in the vicinity. There's another conflict right now, though, as those oil reserves could very well be considered within Argentina's Exclusive Economic Zone. Nowadays, the kelpers are pretty well off, and business is thriving over there. If it wasn't for the invasion, those islands would've probably returned to our country in a natural manner... oh well.
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Old 2008-03-31, 20:29   Link #7
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The controversy arises from the fact that it was retreating. I'm not questioning the legality of the act itself in terms of a war... only the moral implications of such an action.
That's the thing, it wasn't retreating. It was pulling back only because the other part of the attack was called off. There was every intention of turning around and heading back. In fact the captain of the ship said as much.

Really it doesn't matter what they were doing. It's a warship in international waters near a combat zone. Even if they were sailing along minding their own business they are still a valid target. You don't get to call a time out when you have to call off an attack because your timetable was thrown off due to weather. It was no more or less moral than any other attack on a warship during a war. In a war you're under no obligation to "play fair" and let your enemy regroup for another attack.
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Old 2008-03-31, 21:07   Link #8
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That's the thing, it wasn't retreating. It was pulling back only because the other part of the attack was called off. There was every intention of turning around and heading back. In fact the captain of the ship said as much.

Really it doesn't matter what they were doing. It's a warship in international waters near a combat zone. Even if they were sailing along minding their own business they are still a valid target. You don't get to call a time out when you have to call off an attack because your timetable was thrown off due to weather. It was no more or less moral than any other attack on a warship during a war. In a war you're under no obligation to "play fair" and let your enemy regroup for another attack.
Gotta agree. It was a valid target, retreating or not. I mean, many of the major ships sank by the Royal navy were sunk in retreat.

Think about all the big German ships that were hunted down. Most were sunk in retreat.

Bismarck, Admiral Graf Spee (Not exactly sunk by the British, but chased into Uruguay waters and scuttled), etc.
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Old 2008-03-31, 21:33   Link #9
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As they said before, "The sun never sets on the British Empire". Their navy and their ambitions have not decreased in any way. Imperialism and Militarism of the Brits is...
Portions of the Falklands War were much closer than you might think. The UK had decrease their long-range naval projection capability for quite a while, and the Royal Navy had inadequate support as a consequence. This was especially apparent in face of their poor anti-air defenses. The shoestring nature of the UK force manifested itself most pointedly in the loss of MV Atlantic Conveyor - with it gone, the British lost most of their helicopter support, and the infantry had to yomp all over the islands rather than be air-transported.

If the Argentines had one of longer-range aircraft, superior bombs, or more Exocet missiles, the British losses would have been much higher; and it's entirely conceivable that they might have been forced to give up. On the ground, the British troops performed much better, and their superior skill proved to be decisive. Ironically, if it weren't for the permanent British garrison in the Falklands, the UK might well not perform any better if a war were to occur today.
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Old 2008-03-31, 22:35   Link #10
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One of the things i remember about this war, was the sinking of the ships.
That was the most terrible images, smoke coming from the civilian luxury cruise liners, with no defensive armour or weapons.


A thousand miles from home, it was not a question of geographic principles.

Our imperialistic attitude was long gone, if the people on the island wanted to be with Argentine, that would of been the will of the people, and we would accepted peacefully.

But FORCING the people to make a choice was something unforgivable, the sheer distance meant we could only send a small force, thus we sent our BEST.

i'm sorry for the casualties, on both sides, it was certainly a one sided affair.

But for us to lose to a dictatorship of such a size (Argentina is like facing China)

we feared you would send wave after wave, so it was necessary to try and end it as soon as possible.

If it was not for the skill of our UK diplomats the US and other U.N. countries would not of looked the other way.

In today's era this would be looked upon in a different light, the public is too use to peace, the strain on our military due to the war of terror might make us think twice.

but i think we will still do the same thing if anyone tries to force the people on the Falklands to make that decision again.
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Old 2008-04-01, 22:07   Link #11
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On the ground, the British troops performed much better, and their superior skill proved to be decisive. Ironically, if it weren't for the permanent British garrison in the Falklands, the UK might well not perform any better if a war were to occur today.
Ever seen those Brits in a war? If they behave irrationally, it strays from a "Gentleman's War". I'm using this terminology to refer to their ground troops in position. In war, they march "like Gentlemen". The only reason that I see fit to say Britain will ever win in any situation, including the Falklands War, would be due to the overwhelming number count. That's about it. Gentlemen in war but leashed like dogs under superiors.
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Old 2008-04-01, 22:25   Link #12
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Ever seen those Brits in a war? If they behave irrationally, it strays from a "Gentleman's War". I'm using this terminology to refer to their ground troops in position. In war, they march "like Gentlemen". The only reason that I see fit to say Britain will ever win in any situation, including the Falklands War, would be due to the overwhelming number count. That's about it. Gentlemen in war but leashed like dogs under superiors.
The UK ground troops tended to be heavily outnumbered by the Argentine defenders, and they had little in the way of vehicle or heavy weapon support at that. Still, they fought hard, and managed to win decisive victories on the basis of their superior morale and skill.

I'm not sure where you're getting the impression that the British fight "like Gentlemen", and are therefore not very effective in combat. In reality, the UK military is one of the very best in the world man-for-man.
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Old 2008-04-01, 22:52   Link #13
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The UK ground troops tended to be heavily outnumbered by the Argentine defenders, and they had little in the way of vehicle or heavy weapon support at that. Still, they fought hard, and managed to win decisive victories on the basis of their superior morale and skill.

I'm not sure where you're getting the impression that the British fight "like Gentlemen", and are therefore not very effective in combat. In reality, the UK military is one of the very best in the world man-for-man.
Were they really heavily outnumbered? I think it was a matter of time before tables turned, but you're probably right. With that in mind, were these Argentine defenders under dictatorship well trained and equipped as well? Perhaps they were, but even if you say the Brits were low on weaponary or vehicles or any other necessary war supplies, they still managed well and had enough to win without much effort. Of course, you have to take into account that these Argentine defence militia are not nearly as conditioned as the Brits in war...

The Brits always have this "Gentlemen" touch to the things they do. It may have been outdated, but ever since they fought in wars, at times they marched in this formation which allowed enemies to pick at them like they were practice targets. Britain is also a militaristic country. Much more so than Argentina. Otherwise, they wouldn't have been able to build an Empire consisting of over 25% of the world at one time. It's not hard to believe that their man-to-man combat skills are formidable. But I think they still do march in wars like gentlemen (this goes back in time), and it's probably related to some honour and values and all that stuff.. Point being, they should drop the whole Gentlemen March in the middle of a warfield act. Then they can have a bigger impact than they do normally.

You can finish us off, before Britain becomes the topic and ultimately ends up off topic.
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Old 2008-04-01, 22:56   Link #14
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The thing *I* remember most about the Falkland Wars was that it was the first modern example of why having "Huge Singular Capital Assets" was a stupid idea in modern times.
Small high speed low altitude "cheap" missiles sinking billions of dollars of floating targets.

The politics and everything else just gave me a "19th Century Stupid" feeling.
(the US's never-ending stupidity in supporting "strong man" governments)
(the Brit's last hurrah at colonial power projection)
(the Argentine strong men looking for reasons to divert the attention of the people from all the looting and brutality)
(the fight over who got to manage some dirt, rock, island, etc)

At least, the Argentinian *people* got some uplift after it was over with their well-aimed boots to certain dictator butts.
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Old 2008-04-01, 23:06   Link #15
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At least, the Argentinian *people* got some uplift after it was over with their well-aimed boots to certain dictator butts.
It's sad, however, that very little was learned from those events. At least, I still see the same mindless crowd behavior all over the place here. It's nice that, at least, our country took the military dictatorships to trial, but so very little has changed in the general mindset of the population...
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Old 2008-04-02, 09:45   Link #16
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Perhaps they were, but even if you say the Brits were low on weaponary or vehicles or any other necessary war supplies, they still managed well and had enough to win without much effort.
I don't know about that one. The colonel commanding 2 Para was killed, along with his adjutant, while leading his headquarters staff in an assault on a machine-gun position at Goose Green; that's not the sort of thing battalion commanders generally do when they're already winning without much effort.

The British fleet also suffered serious losses - of eight destroyers two were sunk and three damaged, and of fifteen frigates two were sunk and eight damaged. Two landing craft was sunk (one, Sir Tristram, was later salvaged after the war and so doesn't appear on loss lists - but contemporary accounts make it clear that she was considered a loss at the time), and the container ship Atlantic Conveyor was sunk with a sizable fraction of the expeditionary force's helicopters on board.

In the end the UK forces won decisively, but I don't think you could by any stretch call it an effortless victory.

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But I think they still do march in wars like gentlemen (this goes back in time), and it's probably related to some honour and values and all that stuff.. Point being, they should drop the whole Gentlemen March in the middle of a warfield act. Then they can have a bigger impact than they do normally.
Funny you should mention that. I've got Hanrahan and Fox's I Counted Them All Out And I Counted Them All Back - The Battle for the Falklands in front of me. It's a collection of contemporary interviews and reports by British journalists embedded with the expeditionary force, and on p.126 it says (emphasis added), "Despite the fact that they thought the British predilection for fighting at night unfair and ungentlemanly, the Argentines appear to have had more night sights and binoculars than the British forces."

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The thing *I* remember most about the Falkland Wars was that it was the first modern example of why having "Huge Singular Capital Assets" was a stupid idea in modern times.
Small high speed low altitude "cheap" missiles sinking billions of dollars of floating targets.
I don't think that's quite right. The Exocets got a lot of publicity, but they were responsible for only two sinkings out of seven (Sheffield and Atlantic Conveyor - the latter being a lucky hit after the missile had already missed its intended target, Ambuscade, due to chaff), plus one out of eleven damaged ships (Glamorgan). The others were due to old-fashioned bombs, delivered with great courage by the Argentinian air force who took devastating losses in the process.

Besides, I don't really see what the issue about "huge singular capital assets" is about. Without those major fleet assets available, the UK would not have been able to project sufficient power far enough to retake the Falklands, period. Having lots of small ships works fine for a defensive navy operating in the littorals, but blue-water navies need the bigger, more capable hulls to operate effectively.

I'm actually inclined to think that the Falklands would have gone better for the Royal Navy if they had been able to afford even bigger capital ships - the British really needed better AEW and area AAW capabilities, and a US-style CVBG would have provided both in spades.
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Old 2008-04-02, 11:33   Link #17
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Funny you should mention that. I've got Hanrahan and Fox's I Counted Them All Out And I Counted Them All Back - The Battle for the Falklands in front of me. It's a collection of contemporary interviews and reports by British journalists embedded with the expeditionary force, and on p.126 it says (emphasis added), "Despite the fact that they thought the British predilection for fighting at night unfair and ungentlemanly, the Argentines appear to have had more night sights and binoculars than the British forces."
To be honest, I can't think of any time that the British have ever fought in a particularly gentlemanly manner. There were certainly no indications of such in the Falklands War.

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I don't think that's quite right. The Exocets got a lot of publicity, but they were responsible for only two sinkings out of seven (Sheffield and Atlantic Conveyor - the latter being a lucky hit after the missile had already missed its intended target, Ambuscade, due to chaff), plus one out of eleven damaged ships (Glamorgan). The others were due to old-fashioned bombs, delivered with great courage by the Argentinian air force who took devastating losses in the process.
If I recall correctly, the Argentines only had a half-dozen or so air-launched Exocets in their inventory at the time, so their actual effect was quite spectacular based on their number. Alternatively, if the Argentine air force had better aircraft, their iron bombs would have detonated properly and inflicted much more damage.

A popular line of thought at the time was that this effect made large vessels redundant while I think that the very opposite conclusion should have been drawn: any long range force projection would require plenty of large vessels with sufficient anti-air capabilities in order to perform its tasks. There haven't been many major naval battles since, so the jury's out on which is the actual case.


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Besides, I don't really see what the issue about "huge singular capital assets" is about. Without those major fleet assets available, the UK would not have been able to project sufficient power far enough to retake the Falklands, period. Having lots of small ships works fine for a defensive navy operating in the littorals, but blue-water navies need the bigger, more capable hulls to operate effectively.
I absolutely agree. The Royal Navy fought their portion of the war at the very limit of what it could accomplish, and they paid a fairly heavy price for doing so. If the Argentines hadn't been also operating at the limit of their capability, that price would have been much higher. Moreover, what you're talking about was precisely the argument that was floating in the UK at the time: whether to forgo the power-projection capability of a large-ship navy and concentrate on more smaller vessels dedicated to ASW roles. The opinion of the time was to do just that, but the shortcomings exposed in the Falklands War reversed that thinking.
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Old 2008-04-02, 19:45   Link #18
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"Despite the fact that they thought the British predilection for fighting at night unfair and ungentlemanly, the Argentines appear to have had more night sights and binoculars than the British forces."
Hmm? I don't know about those books, but to be sure, there weren't night vision goggles among the Argentine forces, or at least not many. A great part of the equipment given to the soldiers wasn't even working properly, or at least as they themselves stated in several interviews, over the years and in the very battlefield, though the latter were censored and didn't appear in the media at the time.

Or at least, that's how it's widely known here. Night vision goggles, in particular, are a detail most people would remember when talking about the disadvantages of the Argentine vs the British forces.
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Old 2008-04-02, 23:59   Link #19
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Hmm? I don't know about those books, but to be sure, there weren't night vision goggles among the Argentine forces, or at least not many.
Firstly, it's worth clarifying that night sights and NVGs are not the same thing, although they both fall into the category of night vision devices. NVGs on the British side at the time seem to have been very new in service, and issued only to helicopter pilots (where there still weren't enough to go around). Even SBS insertion teams didn't appear to be equipped with NVGs; they seem to have carried thermal imaging and image intensifying devices. The thermal imaging device seems to have been a bulky affair, considering that it could also be mounted on a helicopter.

On the other hand, the US Marine Corps' "Introduction to Night Vision Devices" manual states, under the heading "Common errors":

"Using the IR illuminator: In the 1982 Falklands War, British patrols could clearly observe Argentinean leaders moving at night with their NVG IR illuminators turned on."

The British official histories also note the presence of highly effective snipers with "high grade night sights" at Mount Longdon on the night of 11-12 June, and again at Tumbledown Mountain on the night of 13-14 June.
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