Above, during the Falklands war, HMS Antelope was under attack from Argentinean fighters but the ship fended them off. After the attack, an attempt to remove unexploded bombs from the hull of the ship was blotched and the ship’s magazines exploded and she sank. The above photo taken in this moment of her magazines exploding was one of the most memorable of the original Falklands conflict. The Ministry of Defense’s tight control over the press photos backfired as the above photo was splashed on the front pages by the world press which was starved of any genuine war images.
I have written a lot about the Falklands already (here, here). War clouds are gathering over the Falkland Islands again. From the viewpoint of the Civil Service, these are policy actions Mr. Brown can take:
Doing Nothing: Although it is predicted that the Falklands sit over 3.5 billion barrels of oil, the odds of finding oil in the Falklands are slim. The terrain there is similar to the North Sea, but the independent studies put the chances of finding oil there at 17%.
Take it to the polls: The islanders don’t want Argentinean rule. Britain should stage a referendum there and the results will be the same as they were in Gibraltar, which shut the mouths of the Spanish.
Ignore Americans: Barack Obama doesn’t really believe in the special relationship with Britain. It is not important, but what is important that Gordon Brown wants to believe in such a relationship. Instead of wobbling, Mr. Brown should convey to Washington that if the US does not support the British claims in the Falklands, he can also say goodbye to the British troops in Afghanistan.
Diplomacy: Britain needs its EU business partners (Royal Dutch Shell, Total of France) to lobby for its claims internationally. With Russian gas always unpredictable, a simple British pledge to make Europe its primary buyer (if oil is ever found in the Falklands) would immediately unite the 27-member EU behind it. The EU is Argentina’s second-largest trading partner (after Brazil, with which Argentina runs a deficit) and Argentina will easily yield to pressure with its current debt problem.
Gunboat Diplomacy: Britain still has four nuclear submarines sitting idle at the naval base in Clyde. The Ministry of Defense should mobilize at least two of them to the South Atlantic. Assembling an expeditionary force will send a strong signal while simultaneously deterring a war.
Electioneering War: Mr. Brown is a lameduck premier. This Falklands crisis is god-send to him. Tories will unite behind him if he choose a drastic course, and a war can lead to an election victory in still jingoistic Britain. It is imperative that the civil service should convey this information to its representatives in the United Nations. The international community must be convinced not to push the British government so far as to force Mr. Brown to send a naval task force.