Monday, February 13, 2012

The Falklands are British

. Monday, February 13, 2012

Howler of the day: "the world today is not going to tolerate any ludicrous and archaic commitment to colonialist ideology."

-- Sean Penn on the Falkland Islands

I am not surprised that Sean Penn backs Argentina over the Falkland Islands, but such a statement is the stuff of Hollywood idiots. I hesitate to speak badly of the man given his seemingly good volunteer work in Haiti, and I realize he was meeting with the President of Argentina as a "Haitian Representative" (really?), but could there be a more ludicrous assessment of the situation. No doubt President Obama agrees with Mr. Penn (Obama has many Hollywood millionaire pals, especially of the environmentalist strain), for why else would he be calling for a negotiated settlement, rather than the traditionally expected full-throated backing of the United Kingdom?

Memo to Sean Penn: Ninety percent of the inhabitants of the Falkland Islands are British, and wish to live under the sovereignty of the British Crown. If sovereignty was transferred to Argentina without any say from these people, then it would be Argentina that would be the occupiers, and only then could it be called colonialist. People put far too much weight and emphasis on distance and geography in an interconnected world (by far the biggest reason why Britain is in the EU, after all), but if continental proximity is really the most powerful indicator of a nation's right to extend its borders, when pray will the United States finally give Alaska to Canada. I am waiting for your answer President Obama. I expect nothing less than an immediate negotiated settlement through the United Nations. We will no longer tolerate this ludicrous and archaic infringement of Canadian sovereignty.


Anonymous said...

Interesting how the UK came freshly out of her Falklands War victory still managed to lose negotiation regarding Hong Kong a few months after in 1982.

Did the UK pull a local sovereignty referendum on Hong Kong like it did with Gibraltar? No.

P said...

Dear Beaverbrook,

the attention paid to certain "Hollywood" celebrities is puzzling at best.

Of course, the Falkland Islands have always been "colonial" in nature, as has every civilised part of the Americas. This is true of Argentina as much as Canada and the USA.

Part of the issue here is that Britain has in fact been a very disinterested colonist of the Falkland Islands. They occupy a strategic position, yes, but the development of these islands can at best be described as laissez-faire. There is no grand plan for these islands in the way that, for example, France pursues the integration of her overseas DOM-TOM sovereign possessions. The size of the islands is just over half "the size of Wales" (a common empiric measure) but with less than 0.1% of the population.

This matters because a perceived view is that the islands population is so insignificant that there would be little pain in overriding their interests.

Most regrettably, Britain actually has done a similar deal before in deporting the population of the Chagos Islands, but my understanding is that this is now going through the courts. The example is not really comparable because in that case there was no cessation of sovereignty and civilian populations within the UK have in the past been relocated due to military considerations.

Britain clearly has a record of colonisation, but also has a subsequent record of decolonisation that is second to none in the world, in line with international treaty commitments.

I think that the issue is rather clear. The islanders are free to make their own choice about their own future. This is a typical post-imperial reality for any former British Territory. They may not declare independence unilaterally, but by agreement they can have their independence if it is the will of the territory. This applies as much to Quebec in Canada as it does to Scotland and Northern Ireland in the UK. Each region of every commonwealth realm is effectively independent already, since the people in every territory are aware that if regional independence becomes a serious issue there is a straightforward route to it and it will not be objected to if the correct procedure is followed.

Given this reality, the astonishing fact of this case is that Argentina could have already secured a "British" departure from the islands many years ago if their military dictatorship had not invaded the islands. An independent Falkland Islands would clearly do much trade and cultural exchange with Argentina. Today though, given the contempt shown recently for the Falkland Islanders it is unlikely that they would be very trusting of Argentina's intentions.

Best wishes,


P said...

Dear Anonymous (first comment),

Hong Kong was a very special issue. It was a manifestly "colonial" possession but one that couldn't in any meaningful way be granted independence in the "first round" of decolonisation. Its only neighbour was Communist China, which in the 1960s was very ideologically driven and in awful economic shape. In the 1960s it would have been too risky for the Chinese to invade and handing over the territory would have entailed extreme hardship for the territory's citizens. There were riots in the 1960s, but British rule at the time provided economic growth and relative political “safety” and prosperity. It is widely recognised that integration with 1960s China would have destroyed the economy and inflicted misery on the people. Of course, in the event of an invasion, China would have “won” eventually. Instead, though, there was a detente and the place became a kind of Berlin: a city clearly under siege in some respect and yet a haven for espionage and exchange between Communist China and “The West”. Importantly, British rule was always considered as temporary (technically this was over the New Territories) and as such the sovereignty arrangements were ambiguous.

The eventual negotiations for independence arrived at quite a civilised agreement whereby upon the termination of the "lease" of 99 years on the New Territories, the whole territory would be transferred honourably.

I doubt that there were any serious plans for the British to have another 99 year lease arranged at the negotiations. What was negotiated (and so far honoured) was the retention of a special economic status for Hong Kong. The mainland Chinese have used Hong Kong as an example and have developed their economy along the same lines, to their advantage and also to the capitalist West.

I cannot see the comparison to the Falkland Islands. Why would the Falkland Islanders need to be handed over to anyone but themselves? Hong Kong was always Chinese, the people there were always Chinese and there was a long term “lease” on the territories which expired. The Chinese did not invade Hong Kong and make life a misery for the inhabitants. Instead they negotiated a civilised transfer back to their sovereignty.

There’s a lesson in there. Argentina could have wooed the Islanders a long time ago, but they have chosen to treat them as “foreigners” with no rights to their own culture and identity.

All the best,


Beaverbrook said...

Spoken like someone who worked in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I agree with your comments, P, thanks for your insights.

Anonymous said...

HK was leased for a period of time which ended....

Kevin McCrea said...

Ah, Hollywood. Full of "Good Will Ambassadors," "Charitable Representatives," et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. All self-appointed, of course. Self-important, mind-numbing sanctimony is something that Hollywood does with exceptional dexterity. Well, that and six-month marriages, dysfunctional relationships, drug binges, rehab, and dressing poodles like babies to push them to the latest events in prams. I think Ian O'Doherty summed it up nicely this week in the Irish Independent, referring to the new YouTube video of celebrities appealing for the arrest of a Ugandan warlord:

"Now, as much as I dislike the woman (Angelina Jolie) and her self-righteous posturing, we can't just go around arresting every celebrity who reads a press release and then becomes a liberal activist on issues they know nothing about.

Actually, hang on a second, that idea sounds more attractive by the second . . ."

Anonymous said...

The United States has made it very clear that whether Britain wants to hold on to the Malvinas/Falklands or wants to invade India, her Imperial Christian Britannic Majesty will have to do it on her own.

Britain was Americas enemy in 1776, the British burned down the White house in 1812 and assisted the Confederates in 1862. In return for these favors, America already bailed out Britain in two world wars. Also, the current poodle status conferred by America on Britain has enhanced the comfortable illusion of superpowerdom for the British people (and allowed her imperial Majesty to hold on to her funny hat).

Is it still too little, dear Britain? Is it too much to ask that you maintain/expand your empire on your own muscle and leave America out of this?

Kevin McCrea said...

So the US will charge across the globe from San Juan Hill, to Manilla, to Kabul to Baghdad to defend a democracy that we're not even sure those folks want, but when it comes to one little set of islands where 90% of people prefer to retain their British citizenship, they side with Argentina? That's an odd concept of democracy.

Anonymous said...

If Sean Penn is really interested in remants of colonialism why bother going to Argentina when a tour of the continental United States would be more convenient - perhaps starting with the Cherokee Nation and then stopping at a number of what used to be called Indian Reservations
As for the Argentinians - what right have they to - Argentina. Most Argentinians are either the descendants of the European settler imperialists who cleared the land of its original and rightful owners or descendants of later European immigrants who make no apology for living in a stolen land.
Argentina in two respects is similar to the United States - founded as it is on mass immigration and genocide.

Keir said...

Argentina is following Hitler's Sudetenland playbook from the 1930s- make outrageous demands on a democratic state over an area it never controlled in its history and in complete disregard for the people who actually live there. That the US does not show support for its staunchest ally and for the most basic principles it once stood and fought for is a betrayal.

Michael said...

Is the call for a negotiated settlement a sign of disguised sympathy for Argentina or an attempt to keep a second Falklands war from breaking out?

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The King's Own Calgary Regiment: Cpl. Nathan Hornburg is laid to rest
The Royal Gurkha Rifles: Prince William grieves the death of Major Roberts
Queensland Mounted Rifles: Trooper David Pearce, 41, killed in Afghanistan
The Order of Canada: 100 investitures later, Canada's highest honour turns 40
Prince Edward on Prince Edward Island: Troop's link to monarchy important
HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN: Unveils the UK Armed Forces Memorial
Great Britain: "A rotten borough with a banana monarchy" - by Europhile
Peers of the Realm: The decline and fall of the House of Lords - Charles A. Coulombe
Remembering 'Smithy': An obituary tour de force by Andrew Cusack here, here and here.
NOT AMUSED: Her Majesty The Queen in Right of Quebec not invited to Quebec's tercentenary