Falkands: memories of another war

Already 40 years ago…

As the war in Ukraine drags on, I’m reminded of another war: the Falklands War, between Argentina and the UK for the control of the Falkland/Malvinas islands. It started almost exactly 40 years ago, in April 1982, when I was 8 years old. I was born in Argentina, even if I haven’t lived there for decades now. But if had been 18 then, just ten years older, I might have been drafted and sent to fight. Military service was mandatory at the time, and there was conscription.

I don’t remember much of the war, except occasional flashes from the television news, and children making jokes or commenting about it at school. I remember that my parents were against the war; and in retrospect it seemed like a reckless adventure, perhaps the last attempt by the current military junta to remain in power. In fact, less than a year after the war was fought — and lost — the government fell and democracy returned to Argentina.

Many people in Argentina are still bitter about it, and the islands are occasionally used to rekindle nationalistic sentiment. Even recently there was a protest.

Me? I never really cared.

Jorge Luis Borges said memorably at the time that the war reminded him of “two bald men fighting for a comb”. Is there anything of value in the Malvinas? Well, perhaps it is a strategic location, and I suppose that’s why the British wouldn’t let go of them. But, other than that, it doesn’t have much in terms of natural resources, except for a few sheep, and lots of penguins.

Besides, the few people who live there seem to be of British origin and have consistently voted to remain under British rule — and, in a way, who can blame them, given the disasters that most Argentine governments, including the current one, have been?

I know it is unpopular to say it, but there is an easy way for the current war in the Ukraine to end — the Ukrainian government just needs to surrender the Donbass region, the area that declared independence and that is pro-Russian. Why don’t they do it?


I suppose that, besides the obvious nationalistic pride, the Donbass is a mining region which appears to be rich in all kinds minerals, and so it’s of interest for the Ukrainian government to keep it. Unfortunately, a minority of Russian-speaking people live there, and that explains why their independence was not granted and why they were bombed for several years. For those who think that the war started yesterday for no reason, here is the French documentary “Donbass: Eight years of war”, made in 2016 by French journalist Anne-Laure Bonnel.

Basically, there was a civil war going on in Ukraine since 2014, and more recently Russia entered on one of the sides. Unfortunately, that turned a local conflict into a much bigger thing. But, even if Russia hadn’t entered the fray, it’s unlikely that the violence would have completely stopped, at least in the disputed region.

The Ukraine is very divided. Given that people in the pro-EU West and in the pro-Russian East appear to hate each other, separation seems a sensible course, at least to me. But then again, I also didn’t care very much about who owned the Malvinas- Falklands.

The Falklands War started on April 2, 1982, and lasted for 74 days (Argentina surrendered on June 14). The current war in Ukraine has already lasted 55 days. Let us hope it doesn’t last much longer.