Archie Bland: We've nothing to fear from Kirchner's condemnation

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The Independent Online

I find it uncomfortable to take a strong line on the Falklands. I always get anxious if I feel like I'm being especially patriotic, except about football. And in this instance, I also worry that I might be just seizing on the opportunity to disagree with Sean Penn, which is always hard enough to resist that it can distort your perspective.

Even disregarding Sean Penn and one's interest in flag-waving, though, it's easy to dispute the Argentinean stance. The slightly childish debate over which side is the more colonial is a rare instance in which Britain's history is of negligible significance, considering no Argentinian ever lived in the Falklands; and, in the end, it is hard for the non-nationalist to take anyone's opinion on the matter seriously if it doesn't chime with that of the people who live there. It has to be up to them, in the end.

Since that position is so straightforward, and since it would win the support of those along the vast majority of the British political continuum, the 30th anniversary of the conflict this week has unfortunately also provided cover for some daft scaremongering. It's not surprising, perhaps, but there were some pretty silly things written in the tabloids in the aftermath of Argentinean president Cristina Kirchner's description of the situation as an "absurd injustice".

"Contemptible sabre-rattling", The Sun called it; the Mail added that "there are many who doubt our ability to liberate the Falklands if the worst should happen".

What these accounts (and others) fail to factor in is that, for all her bombast, Kirchner was careful to avoid talking about the Falklands in terms of a military conflict.

Assertive though she might be – and cynically exploitative of a nationalist cause to deflect attention from her domestic problems – she also talked about the war as the junta's sorry responsibility, rather than the Argentinean people's.

"Wars only bring pain," she said. "They only bring loss, they only bring hate."

Any remaining fears that we may face an invasion that we would be militarily incapable of responding to should be soothed by the fact that these days, the island's defences are such that the opportunism of 1982 could not be repeated.

Even the ambassadors of those Latin American countries that have lent Kirchner their support were conspicuously absent from Monday's commemorations. Sabre-rattling it might have been, unconvincing the Argentinian position certainly is. But we should all rest easy in the knowledge that the chances that Kirchner will actually draw her sword are slim indeed.