I recently read a short article in my university’s student paper regarding the Falkland Islands (in particular, it was criticising Sean Penn’s comments). Whilst some comments required no knowledge for me to criticise, over all I felt that I should make my self aware of what the situation was so I could form an informed opinion. What follows is description of that opinion, stated with the caveat that I writing it down largely in order to receive criticism – I feel I know little more than the rudiments of the situation, and so in no way do I claim that my comment is of particular import.
The history seems to be the most discussed part of this topic, and I have to admit that I am not great at memorising a load of random dates. However, I certainly have gathered that at various times Britain, Spain, France and Argentina have (or have tried) to set up camp on (at least one of) the Islands. The French gave their possession to Spain, who in turn seem to have not done anything about it. This leaves the British and Argentinean claims to consider, both of which seem to have two main thrusts.
The first part of the British claim is that they were the first there, they owned it from that point, and at no point did they choose to cede this ownership. Whether or not a plaque is enough to keep ownership of a whole island might be debatable, this certainly seems a tenable position from, judging by the Wikipedia history I have read. The main Argentinean counter to this would perhaps be that they did colonise the country whilst Britain was not there from the late 1770’s to 1833, and then were forcibly removed. My personal opinion is that the history should be secondary to the affects on people now, and it personally is not very exciting for me, so I will leave it at that brief summary.
The second part of the British claim is that of self-determination, which certainly seems very reasonable. The inhabitants of the Falkland Islands certainly do want to be a part of the UK, and I don’t think this has been meaningfully questioned by anyone. In response to this it appears that Argentina would claim that geographical location gives them ownership rights. This includes the fact that they may feel threatened by the military that is based there (and clearly won’t be going after ’82). Personally, I think that it is unreasonable for us to have taken them. By comparison, if Argentina had just discovered the Isle of Man and we hadn’t I hope they would inform us and let us have it. Obviously at the time this was certainly not the attitude, and it would have been very surprising if we had of done that. Also, Argentina was not a country in it’s own right, so we would have effectively just given the islands to Spain. However, just because it was not the done thing at the time does not make it right. Regardless of this though, there are people that now live there, and whilst it would be preferable that the islands had not been colonised at all, now they have I feel it would be unfair to make the inhabitants choose between moving or being ruled by a country to which they do not feel they belong without a pressing reason. I have not seen anything that Argentina claims they need the island for, other than the satisfaction of owning it (I personally do not give much credence to the military threat, not that I am a fan of us having our forces there).
The most pressing issue right now though seems to be the surrounding resources, such as oil. On this point I do not see how the UK has any claim in any way to these resources. Owning land does not imply one owns the water around it. It can only have an absolutely minimal affect on the people of the Falkland Islands as to who is getting the profit from the oil, so I don’t see on what grounds the UK can claim anything. If they were to give the rights to oil to Argentina, from what I have seen a large portion of the recent issues with regards to Falklands would be put to rest.
As I said at the start I looked in to this to try and educate myself, and I am sure that in spending only a couple of days looking at this I have missed hundreds of arguments at the very least, so please do inform me if you disagree – these are in no way concrete views.