Thirty years ago today General Leopoldo Galtieri's tottering, gold-braided regime started a military adventure in the South Atlantic, hoping a quick victory in Port Stanley would keep the military in charge of the Casa Rosata in Buenos Aires for a few more years.
As we all know, the Falkands War did not turn out like that. It wasn't Margaret Thatcher who tasted gall and humiliation but General Galtieri himself, and while he and his regime soon disappeared into oblivion, Mrs Thatcher, as she then was, had her Armada moment and went on to win an election in 1983 that she would otherwise probably have lost.
Beyond the ranks of a hardy few – those who would rejoice in any blow to the government, no matter where it came from – few Britons regret the decision to muster a task force in 1982 or the victory that followed. The invasion was an act of aggression and of gross political opportunism. The re-conquest of the Falkands, meanwhile, not only restored to the islanders their lost liberty but also did away with an odious and blood-stained junta, a fact that many Argentinians concede, however reluctantly.
For all that, there has been no real closure as a result of this war. Britain is very far away and Argentina, even as a democracy, has continued to pursue its territorial claim, all the more vigorously whenever it has experienced economic or political turbulence. When all else fails, sound the tocsin for Las Malvinas! The fact that the islanders today are enjoying an economic boom and that there is a talk of an oil rush is a mixed blessing from the British Government's point of view, attracting jealousy and attention and fuelling a perception round the world that Britain's only real interest in the islands is economic.
It is all very regrettable, because as the rest of the continent falls into line behind President Cristina Kirchner of Argentina, we face the prospect of our relations steadily deteriorating with most of Latin America. Whether or not Argentina invades the islands again, which looks highly unlikely, our victory 30 years ago has still come at a high price, therefore, and it is one that we will continue to pay for some time.Reuse content