Thursday, June 14, 2012

Falklands Retrospective

I have been engaging in a twitter conversation as a result of a tweet about the Falklands war, which ended thirty years ago.  The tweet was in response to a British retrospective that referred to the war as doing the impossible.  I reacted immediately to this because my memory of events in 1982 did not register expectations back then as impossible.

Well, apparently some folks did think the UK effort to re-take the Falkands/Malavinas was impossible.  That the islands were too close to Argentina for the British carriers to safely operate, that the British jump jets (Harriers) were unproven against fast jets (Harriers are slow), and so on. 

Why did I think then that this was not impossible?  Well, my mother worked for the US Navy at the time, ordering spare parts for planes, including the Harrier.  So, perhaps I had overly high expectations (which were met, they did fine).  I was also reading a lot of books at the time on the US submarine campaign in the Pacific, so I expected (if I am remembering correctly) that the British sub advantage would matter a a great deal.  Indeed, after a British sub sunk one of the biggest Argentine warships (the Belgrano), the Argentine navy became a non-factor.  Perhaps I was a bit stuck in the past/racist to think that the Brits easily handle any third world country because I was, well, 16. 

The real key is that Generals and Admirals are such lousy politicians that it messes up their day job expertise.  This case is the classic exemplar of a diversionary war--that the Argentine junta sought a fait accompli against the Brits to distract their population from their illegitimate government and its poor handling of the economy.  Otherwise, they would have waited a year or two because the British were planning on cutting back on its navy, including several of the ships that played a key role at the time.  And, as a democracy, the Brits made these plans quite public.  As my twitter conversation partner mentioned, winter would have been a better time given the difficulties of operating in bad weather.

Anyhow, I was surprised by the "impossible" word.  Hard, yes.  Impossible, obviously not in retrospect but not even at the time, at least to young me and to Maggie Thatcher.  I didn't agree with her on much, but on this, sure.

No comments: