A game of "truco": USA-UK partnership in Malvinas

Nestor Miguel Gorojovsky nestor at SPAMsisurb.filo.uba.ar
Sun Oct 10 06:43:02 MDT 1999

El  9 Oct 99 a las 22:07, Jose G. Perez nos dice(n):

>     I am not at all in the slightest an expert on the
>     Malvinas War, but my
> impression of it has always been that it was
> British-initiated and led, not a "joint venture," or if a
> joint venture, one in which one partner acted had way more
> at stake and acted on behalf of all.

There are good reasons for the conflict to be a joint
venture, which in fact it is.

1.  The dimensions of the game

The conflict over the South Atlantic is in fact, a conflict
over the passage between the Atlantic and the Pacific, plus
a conflict over access to Antarctica and, to a certain
extent, a conflict over control of the great tankers route
around the Cape of Good Hope.  It is also a conflict over a
convenient surveillance station just in case some Southern
Cone country went wild. It is also a conflict over oil
(though estimates were greatly exaggerated, and extraction
is not easy, there seems to be a good deal of oil down
there under the sea) and over fisheries (we are facing the
abrupt depletion of our hake stocks, for example, and the
species runs serious danger of disappearing commercially).

2. The history of the invasion

But it all began as an act of piracy by an American
captain, who stormed the Argentinian colony led by Luis
Vernet in the early 1830s, because these absurd South
Americans wanted to cash some money from rights to hunt sea
lions on the islands and in waters around them.  A couple
of years later, an English captain, James Onslow, occupied
the islands with no right at all, etc.

So that Americans are enmeshed with Britain in the Malvinas
from the very beginning, and they have always been. During
the 1982 conflict, the British -who had been raising the
bets for a decade- were desperately interested in a
showdown (particularly, M. Thatcher was). The Americans did
not publicly foster this, but through the good offices of
the American friends of the Argentinian Junta word was
passed to the military here that it would be easy to reach
a settlement.

3. The need to get rid of the murderers

If you want my own opinion, backed somehow by
the immediate understanding of the situation that Lionel
Jospin had in France at the same time (please see my recent
posting to this list on this issue), the imperialists had
decided that my country had been taken down enough for
them to do away with the military at last.

The move had begun before Galtieri, when it was almost public
that his predecessor General Viola had "received orders" to pass
the power on to civilians. In fact, some of the members of
the Viola Cabinet entered the civilian cabinets after 1983.
Galtieri seems to have been some kind of reaction on the
side of the military,some among  who began to realize that
they would be the scapegoat.

This line of action failed (the usual one in Argentina, by
the way), another one was to be found. Of course, a war
over the islands was too risky, I agree before you tell me
that. But the case is Britain (by those times, Great
Britain again, in words of M. Thatcher) had an ongoing
conflict, and they were decided to bring things to war.
They knew they could rely on their Argentinian sepoys, as
it happened.

The American mediator in the conflict (Alexander Haigh) was
consistently working in order to support the British
against the Argentinians. When he saw that the takeover of
the islands of April 2nd. had unleashed a massive wave of
support to the government which AT THE SAME TIME denounced
them as criminals, he is reported to have said "This is Iran"
and to have finally made up his mind.

4. Some evidence

The British troops would not have been able to invade the
islands without massive American support. There was
satellite surveillance, special satellites were launched,
equipment was massively given to England (including the
Sidewinder missiles) and the media coverage worked as it
usually does when these occasions come. The blunders by the
Argentinian High Command are a different matter. But the
partnership between the USA and the UK on the Malvinas
seems hard to debate.

5. A kind of conclusion

Britain made some unexpected moves, perhaps, but these were
soon understood by the partner. There is an Argentinian and
Uruguayan cards game, the "truco" (trick is the
translation), where you play in couples and among others
you have to manage to have your partner know what cards are
you holding, while you try to see what cards does the
opponent couple hold. There is a complex set of signals
that you must pass without the other two noticing it, and
it is allowed to bluff.

The Malvinas war was a dedly game of truco where USA and
Britain played superbly against a foolish Argentinian Military
High Command who was duped into believing they were just
having an afternoon tea party with some mah-jong. Duped by
BOTH partners.


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