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The Falklands and Entangling Alliances

March 20, 2013 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

The U.S. government collects military alliances like some people collect Facebook friends: the more the better. Yet as Washington’s allies increasingly find themselves embroiled in potentially violent territorial disputes around the world, America may find collecting allies to be more expensive than collecting art.

Alliances should be a means rather than an end. Countries should join together to attain important common objectives. The most obvious purpose of a military coupling is security.

More than 30 years ago, Argentina and Britain battled over control of the lightly populated Falkland Islands (called Malvinas by Buenos Aires). Washington tilted toward Britain — it was during the Cold War, President Ronald Reagan had bonded with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and Argentina was ruled by a brutal military junta.

Today those factors have passed into history, as Argentina vigorously presses its claim to the islands. In fact, the territory’s convoluted history gives Buenos Aires a good case for sovereignty, yet Falklands residents just voted 1513 to 3 to stick with Britain. London is pressing the Obama administration for diplomatic if not military backing. So far Washington has pled neutrality, causing British writer Robert Taylor to complain about President Barack Obama’s failure to show “loyalty to his ally” which had “fought side by side with the U.S. for the last decade in Iraq and Afghanistan.” British officials made much the same argument three years ago when the issue first reemerged.

America may find collecting allies to be more expensive than collecting art.”

However, there is no justification for Washington to offer unqualified support for Britain’s contested territorial claims. Washington and London no longer are united in a dangerous global battle. The status of the Falklands doesn’t even matter geopolitically to Britain. Only recently have the islands, located about 8,000 miles from the British Isles, turned into even a potential economic benefit, with possible undersea resources nearby. At the same time, the United States has much at stake in its relationship with Latin America. Washington’s principal interest is that the resolution of the controversy be peaceful, not that the resolution leave the islands in British hands.

At least the United States is not likely to find itself at war. Buenos Aires isn’t likely to reignite the conflict and even if it did London isn’t likely to expect Washington to dispatch a carrier group or two to reduce Argentina’s major cities to rubble.

Path Dependence

Since America’s alliances stopped …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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