Feature

Britain: Is Prince William a conqueror?

Last week, Prince William, aka Flight Lt. Wales, was deployed with his unit to the Falkland Islands. 

Tensions are growing between Britain and Argentina as the 30th anniversary of the Falklands war approaches, said Deborah Haynes in the London Times. The islands, off the coast of Argentina, have been British since 1833. Argentina invaded and captured them briefly in 1982, but Margaret Thatcher responded with force and retook them in a matter of months. Still, the Argentines haven’t given up dreams of winning back the islands they call the Malvinas—and since “potentially vast reserves of oil” were discovered offshore, they’ve been positively drooling. In recent months, Argentina has threatened to close its airspace to Falklands-bound flights and persuaded its neighbors to block Falklands ships from using their ports. Prime Minister David Cameron responded to these actions by accusing Argentina of “colonialism,” saying Falkland Islanders “want to remain British.” Then he sent a warship to the area. And last week, Prince William, aka Flight Lt. Wales, deployed there with his unit. Argentina’s Foreign Ministry is complaining, saying William is wearing “the uniform of a conqueror.” It sees the royal deployment “as a deliberate act of provocation.”

Argentina should tone down the “shrill” rhetoric, said the London Mirror in an editorial. The prince is “not some member of an invasion force.” His squadron is a search-and-rescue team; they are not even armed. Those they are most likely to rescue, in fact, are Argentine fishermen. Certainly, Argentina is “entitled to persist with its territorial claim,” and we may someday end up making a shared sovereignty deal for the islands. “Warfare, however, is unthinkable.”

Is it? asked Tim Rayment in the London Times. The truth is, if the Falklands war were repeated today, Britain would lose. Imagine if Argentina sent a contingent of troops to Britain’s airfield there, in a plane disguised to look like a passenger jet so we wouldn’t shoot it down. The islands “could fall in hours.” And unlike in 1982, when Thatcher retook the islands after Argentina’s invasion, Cameron has no aircraft carriers or jump jets at his disposal—they were scrapped in the recent defense cuts. Does it sound far-fetched? Listen to the rhetoric of Argentina’s “forceful” President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who leads a nationalist government. “She wants a foreign policy legacy.” The loss of the Falklands is “a real possibility.”

The saber rattling is all on the British side, said Martín Granovsky in the Buenos Aires Página/12. It’s a useful distraction from their social and economic woes. Thatcher, remember, exploited the Falklands conflict “partly for domestic reasons,” to boost her approval rating after her unpopular union busting. Cameron may be following the same playbook. “No serious authority in London” believes that Argentina will use force to take back the Malvinas, because we frankly have no need to. Diplomacy is with us, as all our neighbors support our claim. Someday, “the British occupation” will end.

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