Margaret Thatcher stated the following after the war with Argentina in 1982:
The spirit of the South Atlantic was the spirit of Britain at her best. It has been said that we surprised the world, that British patriotism was rediscovered in those spring days. It was never really lost. But it would be no bad thing if the feeling that swept the country then were to continue to inspire us. For if there was any doubt about the determination of the British people it was removed by the men and women who, a few months ago, brought a renewed sense of pride and self-respect to our country.
As Naomi Klein conclusively showed in her book ‘The Shock Doctrine‘, Thatcher used the military intervention in the South Atlantic not to save the people in the Falklands from the evil Argentinians (the Falklands were stolen from Argentina by Britain in the 1830s), but to ram through unpopular economic measures at home. Britain was going through harsh economic times in the early 80’s and Thatcher was attempting to ram through austerity measures much to the displeasure of the population.
War is a classic tactic used to distract domestic populations from bad economic times or policies they would otherwise vehemently oppose. Every empire in history has used war to this purpose, and anytime a leader claims some sort of moral vision for military action, it would be a good idea to pay attention to the economic climate at home.
For these reasons, the world should be extremely skeptical about Britain sending one of its newest destroyers, HMS Dauntless, to the South Atlantic, just off the Falklands.
Britain is going through a nasty economic downturn with no real end in site. The government has been pushing through punitive economic measures, gutting welfare, education and social services and ushering in a new era of mass privatization. Needless to say, the public is not happy about the relentless bad news, and the government is desperate for a distraction.
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner accused Britain of “militarizing” the south Atlantic, and is looking for a UN intervention to prevent a war against Argentina. “I want to ask the British prime minister to give peace a chance, give peace a chance, not war,” she said.
Britain, of course, denies aggression with William Hague saying that the excursion was “routine”.
The problem is, given Britain’s history of extreme aggression and colonialism abroad, it’s difficult to take the government at its word. A quick military victory in the South Atlantic would do wonders for David Cameron’s popularity and maybe make the British people forget about the dismal job market and widening inequality – at least in time for the next election.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.