Hillary Clinton & the Falklands

2 March 2010

Bagehot of the Economist is beginning to have some doubts about the Obama administration:

I have hesitated to read drastic slights into the sometimes awkward diplomacy between Barack Obama and Gordon Brown. But this stance on the Falklands cannot be seen any other way. It really is no way for the Americans to treat their most important military ally—as some in America doubtless appreciate.

What stance? Well Hillary Clinton has been visiting Argentina and was asked about the status of the Falklands. Here’s what she had to say:

And we agree [with Argentina]. 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.


[W]e want very much to encourage both countries to sit down. Now, we cannot make either one do so, but we think it is 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.

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Until now, like Bagehot, I’ve resisted being anything other than mildly irritated by the American stance and, yes, you can argue that Clinton was merely humouring her hosts and saying the bare minimum that they wanted to hear. On the other hand, this is, as Bagehot puts it, an unwelcome "intervention" and a public declaration of the American position, not an off-the-record "we take no position" briefing from a desk officer in the State Department or at the UN.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be a great surprise. Foggy Bottom has never been too keen on taking the British side on this issue, seeing, I suspect, the Falklands as an anachronistic relic of Empire. Be that as it may, the principle of self-determination has generally been something Washington has recognised and it’s blindingly obvious that absent that recognition there really isn’t very much to talk about when it comes to the Falklands.

So one hopes that Clinton was merely being polite, but her words carry weight and will increase a sense of expectation in Argentina (and more broadly across Latin America) that cannot possibly be met and that is guaranteed to infuriate the British. At best this is clumsy; at worst it’s rather worse than that.



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Show comments
  • rndtechnologies786

    Good blog.

  • Ronnie

    Oil, oil, oil, oil, oil!

    Our presence on the Falklands and our expertise in exploring and extracting oil from the North Sea are direct threats to substantial US investments in oil production off the east coast of south America.

    We have started to exploit the reserves there as a result of Obama’s investments in the Brazilian national oil company. We are in direct competition with the US and other interests (China) in the region because of the presence of oil.

  • Yam Yam

    To set a good example of ‘peaceful productiveness, no doubt the United States will want to likewise wind up it’s own “anachronisms of empire” in Guam, Samoa, Puerto Rico and (dare I say it) Guantanamo Bay.

  • A. MacAulay

    The British think that being dependable will win them points but fail to understand that they are not dependable, as seen from Washington, but subservient. This means that the US can say or do almost anything, as deemed expedient, with the UK.

  • Andre

    The issue, Bruce, is between the Munro Doctrine and Right of Self Determination – both US tenets of faith. The Munro Doc stipulates no foreign involvement in the Americas – that is basically no ex-imperialists muscling in on south America. The British and the French are still in the Caribbean and French Guyana. The right of self determination was promulgated at the Versailles conference after the first world war and allowed former states of the Austro-Hungarian empire to declare independence. It has been the cornerstone of US foreign policy ever since: vide Tawan, eastern Europe etc. In the Falklands we have a state that wants to remain British rather than being occupied by Argentina The British like the American are historic defenders of individual liberty and free statehood. It is essential for the US to be involved and to get it right.

  • David Preiser

    Not in my name! Sorry, don’t blame me. I didn’t vote for Him, even though Matt Frei and Justin Webb kept telling me to.

  • KB

    Humour me, Alex. Do you think you’d be discussing this if it had been George and Condi instead of Barack and Hillary?

  • Hamish

    I know we have been in the debt of the USA since 1917 but have we not paid this by now?

    US policy since the begining of the last century was to end pax britannica and replace it with pax americana , but unfortunately they no longer have the economic power to do so .

    The Falklands Islands conpany would be advised to market their shares on the Shanghai stock exchange.

  • Frugal Dougal

    Can’t we just tear up the Antarctica agreement and build a base for ships there?

  • paulg

    Its obvious to me that threats of war have been made against the U.K and sovereign British territory could face possible attack.
    It would be an act of gross negligence if the british did not start pulling our troops out of Afghanistan to meet that threat.
    As much as NATO mission is important it is secondary to defending our own territory We need to wish the Americans well but, a threat of invasion must come first.
    The americans will understand, we are with them in spirit, united in their goals, but needs must.

  • Bruce

    Can’t there be anything in the world — anywhere — that is not our business? I’m a reasonably well educated and informed American. I don’t know anything about the controversy between the United Kingdom and Argentina over who gets to rule the Falklands; I don’t particularly want to know anything about it; it has no discernible effect on my well-being; I just don’t care. And I don’t think any of my fellow-citizens care either. Argentina and the UK are civilized countries. If they have differences over this they can try to resolve them, I hope with as little strife and bloodshed as possible. Why must we be taxed to enable our government to meddle in this?

  • ajs

    One must assume Mrs Clinton as a servant of the President, is saying what she has been told to say, although her record inclines one to the possibility that she is not a mere parrot.
    If that is the case, we should take her, and him, at face value. And act accordingly. That is, leave them to their foreign politico-military adventures and use our resources on our own needs, interests, and above all fellow British citizens. There, you can hear it: all those Labour Foreign and Defence Secretaries wetting their knickers, soon to be joined by the EU lot.

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