Obama Administration Equivocates on Pro-British Falklands Referendum
The president is playing the "anti-imperialist" game.
March 19, 2013 - 12:04 am
However, statements made by top officials in the Obama administration, and by Obama himself, suggest that under his presidency the U.S. position has tilted in favor of Argentina. Hillary Clinton set the tone in March 2010, at a press conference with Kirchner during a visit to Buenos Aires. Asked about the Falklands, she said: “We would like to see Argentina and the United Kingdom sit down and resolve the issues between them across the table in a peaceful, productive way.” John Kerry has taken much the same line. During his visit to Britain last month, Kerry said Washington would continue to urge “a peaceful resolution of this critical issue.”
Obama took a similar position at last year’s Summit of the Americas, when he said he looked forward to Britain and Argentina continuing to “dialogue” on the issue. This was the speech in which he referred to the Falklands as the Maldives, when he intended to call them by their Argentine name, Las Malvinas. The gaffe may have been harmless, but was illustrative of Obama’s lack of interest in the subject, beyond indulging the anti-imperialist sentiments of the numerous left-wing leaders present. And if Obama watchers such as Dinesh D’Souza are to be believed, Obama has issues with Britain’s colonialist history, stemming from his father’s and grandfather’s experiences under British rule in Kenya, that would incline him towards siding with Argentina.
From Britain’s point of view, however, there are no “issues” that need to be resolved, and no need for it to “dialogue” with Argentina. The Falklands are British, and that’s the end of it, until and unless Argentina should decide to move against the islands. But Obama, Clinton, and now Kerry have all effectively said that Argentina has a legitimate grievance that Britain should acknowledge and address, and intimated that the current arrangement is not necessarily permanent and could be altered.
All things considered, it’s not hard to imagine, at some point in the future, the Obama administration backing a “resolution” to the Falklands dispute that would be more to Argentina’s liking than Britain’s — perhaps shared sovereignty or some form of joint administration. In terms of foreign policy accomplishments, it wouldn’t exactly be solving the Israel-Palestine dispute, but it would be a feather in Obama’s and Kerry’s caps, and it would play well with the restive neighbors down south, as well as with Latino voters back home.
The administration’s reaction to the Falklands referendum result was predictably equivocal. A State Department spokeswoman said that, while the U.S. noted the outcome, “we obviously recognize that there are competing claims,” and called on “all sides” to focus their efforts on a resolution.
The Falkland islanders’ resounding declaration of their desire to remain British is something of an embarrassment for Obama and Kerry, given their championing of self-determination for the peoples of Libya, Syria, Egypt, and elsewhere. The proper U.S response would have been a statement to the effect that the people of the Falklands have made their wishes clear, and that Argentina should respect their decision and cease its efforts to intimidate the islanders and hamper the Falklands economy.
Instead, Obama and Kerry, like Clinton before him, would rather curry favor with the failing, corrupt, and bullying socialist regime in Buenos Aires, and with the rest of the region’s left-wing basket cases, than show solidarity with a country that has long been one of America’s closest allies.
In the long term, Argentina’s obsession with the Falklands will hopefully abate when its people decide to start electing responsible leaders who are more interested in tackling real problems than trying to distract them with nationalistic sideshows. In the short term, the situation remains volatile, and by accepting that Argentina has a case, and encouraging them to pursue it, the Obama administration is helping to keep the incompetent and unstable Kirchner in power. It’s bad news for her country, and quite possibly for the Falklands — because if Kirchner feels that the U.S. won’t stand with Britain as it did when her country invaded in 1982, she might just be emboldened into doing something very stupid.