Giles Whittell and James Bone in the Times:
Washington refused to endorse British claims to sovereignty over the Falkland Islands yesterday as the diplomatic row over oil drilling in the South Atlantic intensified in London, Buenos Aires and at the UN.
Despite Britain’s close alliance with the US, the Obama Administration is determined not to be drawn into the issue. It has also declined to back Britain’s claim that oil exploration near the islands is sanctioned by international law, saying that the dispute is strictly a bilateral issue.
Argentina appealed to the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon, last night to intervene in the dispute, a move Britain adamantly opposes.
“The Secretary-General knows about the issue. He is not happy to learn that the situation is worsening,” Jorge Taiana, the Argentine Foreign Minister, said after meeting Mr Ban in New York.
“We have asked the Secretary-General, within the framework of his good offices, to stress to Britain the need to abstain from further unilateral acts.”
A top UN aide acknowledged, however, that Mr Ban would not be able to mediate because of Britain’s opposition.
Sir Mark Lyall Grant, Britain’s Ambassador to the UN, said: “As British ministers have made clear, the UK has no doubt about its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands . . . We are also clear that the Falkland Islands Government is entitled to develop a hydrocarbons industry within its waters, and we support this legitimate business in Falklands’ territory.”
Andrew Stuttaford at The Corner:
Obama to Britain: Drop Dead
Well, I’ll say this for Obama: He’s consistent. Whether it’s the Poles, the Czechs, or the Brits, the message is clear. On his watch (too kind a word) longstanding American allies can be expected to be taken for granted, insulted and, if convenient, dumped. Now, every country (including, of course, the U.S.) must do what it needs do in the pursuit of its national interests, and those alone. In foreign policy nothing else should count. But a clear view of what those interests are is indispensable, and that must include a full understanding of what the consequence of particular actions might be. If Obama is again showing that, with him at the helm, the U.S. is not a reliable ally to its friends, then he must learn to expect less from those friends.
Nile Gardiner at Heritage:
Even by the relentlessly poor standards of the Obama administration, whose doctrine unfailingly appears to be “kiss your enemies and kick your allies”, this is a new low. The White House’s neutrality in a major dispute between America’s closest friend and the likes of Venezuelan tyrant Hugo Chavez, Argentina’s biggest backer, represents the appalling appeasement of an alliance of anti-Western Latin American regimes, stretching from Caracas to Havana – combined with a callous indifference towards the Anglo-American alliance.
Over the course of the last year, we’ve seen a staggering array of foreign policy follies by this administration, from the throwing under the bus of the Poles and the Czechs over missile defence to siding with Marxists in Honduras. But this latest pronouncement surely takes the biscuit as the most brazen betrayal so far of a US ally.
As the Obama government is amply aware, the tensions between London and Buenos Aires are escalating dramatically, with British military contingency planning already under way. In effect, Washington declared today that it would remain neutral in the event of another war in the South Atlantic, a stunning declaration to make.
Thousands of British soldiers are laying their lives on the line alongside their American allies on the battlefields of Afghanistan. Yet the president of the United States is either unwilling or too timid to offer a single word of support for the British people, who face a mounting confrontation with a corrupt, populist Argentine government that is threatening a blockade of British territory.
To put it bluntly, the Obama administration is killing the Special Relationship, and the prospects of a recovery look extremely bleak as long as Barack Obama remains in the White House.
Toby Young at The Telegraph:
For this alliance to survive, both countries must recognise their obligations and, from time to time, that involves one of us setting aside more localised concerns for the sake of the cause. Tony Blair would have preferred it if President Bush had been prepared to wait for a second UN resolution before launching the invasion of Iraq, but he decided that Britain should follow America into battle nevertheless. He recognised that the preservation of the Atlantic alliance had to be prioritised above all else, both for our sake and the sake of the world.
In return, we naturally expect America to side with us when it comes to our own territorial disputes — and this element of quid pro quo was recognised by Ronald Reagan when he backed Margaret Thatcher in the Falklands War. It wasn’t in America’s regional interests to side with us, but Reagan knew the terms of the deal: It was your country, right or wrong. You don’t abandon your closest ally in her hour of need.
So it is truly shocking that Barack Obama has decided to disregard our shared history and insist that we have to fight this battle on our own. Does Britain’s friendship really mean so little to him? Do the sacrifices Britain has made in defence of the Atlantic alliance count for nought? Who does he think will replace us as America’s steadfast ally when she finds herself embroiled in a territorial dispute of her own — possibly with the very same motley crew of Latin American rabble rousers? Spain? Italy? France? Good luck with that, Mr President.
You’d think that having made his bones in Chicago, Obama would know the Chicago Code of Honour: When someone picks a fight with a friend of yours, they pick a fight with you.
It is at times like this that I remember the words of Harry Hopkins, Roosevelt’s unofficial emissary to Britain during the Second World War. In our darkest hour, when we stood virtually alone against Hitler, Hopkins was dispatched to Britain to assess our situation. Did we have the will to remain in the fight? Was this a country that America should risk its national interest to defend?
Before Hopkins returned to deliver his verdict to Roosevelt, Lord Beaverbrook gave a small dinner party for him and it was there that he rose to give a toast. “I suppose you wish to know what I am going to say to President Roosevelt on my return,” he said. “Well I am going to quote to you one verse from the Book of Books: ‘Whither thou goest, I will go and where thou lodgest I will lodge, thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.’”
Dan Spencer at Redstate:
Do not let Obama get away with this latest outrage. Call the White House. Call your Senators. Call your Representative. Tell them the American people, if not their current president, back our most dependable and important ally. So should the federal government.
The Times overstates the extent of US support during the Falklands War. That is, while said support was eventually forthcoming and, indeed, extremely useful it was far from immediate. Indeed, initially the State Department sympathised with the Argentine position while Jean Kirkpatrick, then Ambassador to the United Nations, openly sided with the Galtieri regime. Better to support a nasty little junta as a bulwark against lefty influence in Latin America you see? And to hell with the interests of your friends. Interests trump alliances, or so the argument went.
And something of that spirit still exists in Washington. There’s no desire to take a public stand on this issue that would irritate other Latin American countries who have no need to be reminded of what they deem US interference in Latin America. Equally, there is a certain view in Washington that the Falklands are a mildly absurd remnant of a long-gone British imperial era and, since the death of that age was a US objective post-WW2 it’s not a great surprise that Foggy Bottom remains unimpressed by the last embers of that once glorious fire.
If push does eventually come to shove then the Americans will, I suspect hope, back Britain. But they’d rather not have to take a decision of any sort. If that means annoying the UK then so be it. And of course, the UK can be annoyed because Washington calculates, not unreasonably, that in the end, Britain won’t do much to frustrate US objectives elsewhere whereas the Latin Americans will in areas of policy in which Britain has next to no interest or stake.
Is the ownership of the Falkland Islands the business of the United States? I have no idea how it could be. This is a matter to be resolved by the British and Argentinian governments. Complaints about U.S. neutrality are misguided. It is probable that the only side that could benefit from U.S. involvement is the side rejecting British sovereignty and exploitation rights.
As a comparison, consider the dispute over Kashmir. A long-time U.S. ally, Pakistan, has pressed Washington for yeas to try to internationalize the Kashmir dispute. As the de facto government controlling Kashmir, India wants to keep the issue between the two neighbors. One of Obama’s early missteps was to suggest publicly that he was open to U.S. mediation of what the Simla accord had determined should be treated as a purely bilateral issue. Since then New Delhi has prevailed on the administration to abandon that idea, and the result is the confirmation of the status quo. As a general rule, leaving bilateral territorial disputes to the two parties involved is the correct thing to do. This is what the administration has done in the case of the Falklands, and unless we want our government to become even more interventionist in its foreign policy and even more meddlesome in other conflicts around the world we should applaud Washington’s refusal to weigh in on either side of the dispute.
UPDATE: Daniel Larison
John Hinderaker at Powerline