Dear Abby: My girlfriend is a circus fat lady and she’s hankering after Argentine beef. What’s a skinny boy to do?

As have many Brits these days I’ve been thinking about what a lot reckon is a rather one-sided US-UK relationship in the context of the latest flare-up between Argentina and Britain over the Falklands. Now I think it is worthwhile reminding ourselves of a few things before going on:

  1. I can barely conceive of the Argentines invading and if they do I suspect that the UK forces will have not too great difficulty handing their asses to them on a plate;
  2. the Latin American Alliance Against Britain, or whatever they’re calling it, is not very good for business but they don’t seem to be putting together any sort Falklands bound armada; and so,
  3. there’s  not really much need of an American role from the UK perspective.

And there’s the problem, you see. Britain is the status quo actor here. We see no reason to talk to the Argentines about the sovereignty of the Falklands. The issue is settled. Finished. Nothing to discuss.  Which makes Secretary of State Clinton’s offer to ‘help’ in Buenos Aires extremely uncongenial (to us, that is–the Argentines are thrilled):

We want very much to encourage both countries to sit down. We cannot make either one do so but we think the right way to proceed, so we will be saying this publicly, as I have been, and we will continue to encourage exactly the kind of discussion across the table that needs to take place.

I probably don’t need to point out for most KOW readers that there is nothing inconsistent about what Clinton said. It is entirely in line with US policy over many years. But anyway have another read of President Ronald Reagan’s letter to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher before the invasion in 1982:

I have just talked at length with General Galtieri about the situation in the Falklands. I conveyed to him my personal concern about the possibility of an Argentinian invasion. I told him that initiating military operations against the Falklands Islands would seriously compromise relations between the US and Argentina, and I urged him to refrain from offensive action. I offered our good offices and my readiness to send a personal representative to assist in resolving the issue between Argentina and the UK.

The General heard my message, but gave me no commitment that he would comply with it. Indeed, he spoke in terms of ultimatums and left me with the clear impression that he has embarked on a course of armed conflict. We will continue to cooperate with your government in the effort to resolve the dispute, both in attempting to avert hostilities and to stop them if they should break out. While we have a policy of neutrality on the sovereignty issue, we will not be neutral on the issue involving Argentine use of military force.

And remind yourself of what he was advising Thatcher at the penultimate moment of British victory.

The conversation recorded in Washington took place on May 31, 1982, after paratroops had taken Goose Green and were poised with other troops for the final assault on Port Stanley. The State Department was worried that the British advance looked too much like American-backed “colonial an” [sic] Reagan approached the subject carefully, employing some old-fashioned Hollywood charm. “Your impressive military advance could maybe change the diplomatic options … Incidentally, I want to congratulate you on what you and your young men are doing down there. You’ve taken major risks and you’ve demonstrated to the whole world that unprovoked aggression does not pay.”

“Well, not yet, but we’re halfway to that,” replied Thatcher, then corrected herself. “We’re not yet halfway, but a third of the way.”

“Yes, yes you are,” said Reagan, moving on quickly to outline “… some of our ideas on how we might capitalise on the success you’ve had with a diplomatic initiative … ” Argentina might turn it down, he conceded, but “I think an effort to show we’re all still willing to seek a settlement … would undercut the effort of … the leftists in South America who are actively seeking to exploit the crisis. Now, I’m thinking about this plan … ”

Reagan got no further. Thatcher stopped listening and butted in. “This is democracy and our island, and the very worst thing for democracy would be if we failed now,” she stated.

“Yes … ” said Reagan. But Thatcher cut in again. A verbal broadside from Downing Street followed. His contribution to the debate became piecemeal.

“Margaret, but I thought that part of this proposal … ”

“Margaret, I … ”

“Yes, well … ” Defeated, Reagan resorted to charm again. “Well, Margaret, I know that I’ve intruded and I know how … ”

“You’ve not intruded at all, and I’m glad you telephoned,” replied Thatcher.

And take a gander at this Reagan Letter to Thatcher also from during the war, the salient point of which is:

You know that we have always been neutral on the question of sovereignty. And we have always favored peaceful solution of the issue by negotiation.

Which is kind of but not exactly what Clinton said–the difference being that Reagan was advocating a peaceful resolution by negotiation of an actual conflict whereas Clinton is, it seems to me, actively pushing talks to resolve a conflict which, as I’ve noted above, exists solely in the mind of the Argentine government. I can see the rationale of why she said it. The United States has delicate relations with Latin America (not just now, but always–Reagan and Obama had very similar issues as you can see in his letters) which it has to balance against other relations–namely in this instance with us. That said, from the UK perspective you have to wonder, WTF? Wouldn’t this have been a good opportunity to exercise some diplomatic silence?

Britain’s strategic dilemma is this. Our best girl is the circus fat lady. She takes up a lot of bed and she needs a lot of blanket. Even when the loving’s good it can kind of hurt and it’s more or less always on her terms. And she’s interested in other boys too from time to time. When your 800 pound girlfriend says ‘Honey, you know I have always been neutral on the desirability of [insert fantasy of choice]‘ there isn’t a lot you can do beyond pester and beg. Let’s not go there. The international politics of dignity require that this country possess sufficient guns to protect its own interests where it needs to on its own. I think we’ve enough to do so in this case but surely we can’t afford to whittle them down much further.

*Circus Fat Lady picture is from The Ballyhoo website of artist Carlyn Beccia. Go there and buy her books.

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17 thoughts on “Dear Abby: My girlfriend is a circus fat lady and she’s hankering after Argentine beef. What’s a skinny boy to do?

  1. Ed says:

    I have a feeling the elephant in the room during the Faklands Issue (re UK and US) is the position of the Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. The UK action in the 1960s towards the population was a clear example of colonial rule, even if it was at the behest of the United States. Diego Garcia has become critical for the United States and the lease agreed in the 1960s can be terminated in 2016. Hopefully the UK can use another of its far off islands to exert some gain out of our circus girl.

  2. Eamonn McDonagh says:

    1.
    Argentina won’t do anything militarily. There are a number of reasons for this: the lesson of 1982 has been learned, the Argentine Armed Forces haven’t been bought so much as a new screwdriver since the fall of the dictatorship and the military despise the Kirchners for dragging their old comrades through the courts to answer for what they did during the dictatorship.
    2.
    If Argentina can persuade Brazil, Uruguay and Chile to cooperate , it could greatly increase the costs of exploiting the Falklands oil reserves, if there are any. What legitimate complaint could be made about that if they were to do so? Did you hear you hear Lula’s recent remarks about the islands?
    3.
    At present, and for understandable reasons, The Falklanders want nothing to do with Argentina, I mean even in terms of buying goods and services from it. This has costs. For example, at present patients requiring certain kinds of treatment have to be flown to the UK, or, absurdly, to Montevideo or Santiago de Chile. So the Falklanders would benefit from better relations with Argentina and their right to stay British ought not be confused with “right” to do what they like with respect to Argentina. If the British govt. had done everything the Unionists wanted with regard to relations with Ireland there’d probably have been no settlement (very favorable to the Unionists) in NI.
    5.
    So a dispute exists, you can’t rationally say that it exists only in the mind of the Argentine government. It would be good for all parties if it could be settled in a way that protected British sovereignty – because that’s what the kelpers want – but also allowed some space for the recognition of Argentina’s feelings. A big ask, I know. But the solution can’t consist of just asking Argentina to kindly fuck off.

    • David Betz says:

      Eamonn, I think we pay our diplomats enough to say it more, ahen, diplomatically, but fundamentally I think ‘kindly f*** off’ is the actual and correct response.

  3. Jeff M says:

    The calculation is a very simple one for the US. Leaving other fundamental issues of a ‘special relationship’ to one side, Britain has 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, and Argentina has none. Under such circumstances, the US can very easily warn Argentina quite overtly to kill their rhetoric on this issue. As you say, the chances of Argentina actually attempting an outright military invasion are slim (though hypothetically they could adopt a strategy of harassment), which should have made the issue of supporting Britain a no-brainer for DC. Instead, what has the US done? What it has done is to tell every single country that currently has troops in Afghanistan that the US will not support them should they have disagreements with their neighbors, and that the unspoken assumption on the part of many of these countries that a ‘quid pro quo’ exists has now been effectively exposed as complete nonsense. By contrast, had the US taken a hard line on this issue, it would have bolstered the image that the US presumably does want to convey, which is that it can be trusted to be a reliable ally. Interestingly, this raises a new prospect for the employment of the US armed forces. Rather than Hillary’s weak-kneed response, she could have used this opportunity to announce a ‘Clinton Doctrine’ in relation to Afghanistan. Such a doctrine would state that the US will come to the military aid of any country that has substantial military forces in Afghanistan, if that country or its possessions are being faced by military aggression. Under such circumstances, the US would specifically respond with air and naval forces, which would make the US Air Force and Navy happy, and give them a conventional mission to do while the Army and Marines do the heavy lifting on the ground in Afghanistan. Thus in the case of the Falklands, should Argentina make any overt military moves, the US would respond by dispatching a carrier battle group to the South Atlantic. I suspect such an approach would convince many countries that are sitting on the fence with regards to sending troops to Afghanistan to be a bit more willing to do so, knowing that the US will back them militarily.

    • ‘Britain has 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, and Argentina has none’

      Hear, hear! The debt that Britain owed the US for its support in the Falklands fracas has been repaid many times over in Iraq and the ‘Stan, and it is we who are now the debtors. But you have to understand that, for the first time in its history, the US has a president whose roots are not in the British Isles or northern Europe. Obama is a first-generation Kenyan-American who was reared on Pacific islands. He doesn’t particularly like you guys, no matter how many prizes you give him. Blue skies! — Dan Ford

  4. MBarnes says:

    I don’t agree with Jeff (the US has huge strategic interests South of the border which justify much diplomatic double speak – Af-Pak isn’t everything and Georgia is a counter example) but he raises an interesting point. What do other countries think of the US-UK relationship. If America’s unwillingness to back their ‘closest ally’(TM) was making them nervous we might hear more from the US. But the State Department clarified Sec Clinton’s remarks in the standard way and Britain isn’t making a big deal out of it so no harm done. The Poles etc will not draw conclusions from a fairly strange case.

  5. Ellie Light says:

    American Leftists will sacrifice Americans if it means ruining the USA. Why would Brits think the Left in the USA hold them in higher esteem than they do our own soldiers?

    Obamao hates the West. Better get used to it.

  6. Berserker says:

    “American Leftists will sacrifice Americans if it means ruining the USA.”

    This message brought to you by Freedom Fries™

    • Cincinattus Jr. says:

      Can you translate for those of us who are too obtuse to understand your post?

    • David says:

      I believe Berserker is employing the same ad-absurdum argumentative tactics utilised by some sections of the American right-wing press to rebutt Ellie Light’s comments.

    • Cincinattus Jr. says:

      Thanks but your clarification leaves me even more confuzzled. Unless Ms. Light’s post is wholly tongue-in cheek, I read it as consistent with the position of some on the “right wing” (I abhor such imprecise labeling but use it since you did). As a consequence, I do not see why the “right wing” press would want to rebut her comments.

    • David says:

      I’ll have to dial back the politeness for this explanation.
      Ms. Light appears to dislike left-of-centre politics, and does so with inflammatory remarks.
      Berserker appears to find Ms. Light’s comments so inflammatory as to be comedic.
      By appending “This message brought to you by Freedom Fries.” He’s suggesting that Ms. Light comes from the same school of thought that would rename a snack simply because of the imagined connotations that the word “French” brings to them. He himself is, apparently, not so deeply entrenched in the same politics as Ms. Light and as such has applied his appendation to highlight his distaste of her comments.

  7. Kenneth Payne says:

    Entertainingly, someone arrived at this post with the search term:

    ‘i want my girlfriend fat’

    Do keep us posted with how that goes…

  8. Pingback: Llama versus psychopath | Kings of War

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