Uri Friedman: 2012 ... The Darkest Falklands Anniversary Yet?

Uri Friedman is an associate editor at Foreign Policy.

My, how the times have changed.

In 1992, ten years after Britain beat back an Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands and two years after the two sides resumed diplomatic relations, Argentine President Carlos Menem delivered a speech on the anniversary of the bloody conflict. "Sooner or later, maybe before the year 2000, we will recover the Malvinas Islands without shedding a drop of blood," he pledged, using his country's term for the South Atlantic islands off Argentina's eastern coast, which Britain has controlled since 1833. The Los Angeles Times observed at the time that both Britain and Argentina seemed eager to "negotiate patiently" on everything from trade to petroleum exploration to the conservation of fisheries around the Falklands.

Fast forward to 2012, the 30th anniversary of the war. Prince William, a Royal Air Force helicopter pilot, is flying to the Falklands tonight to begin a six-week mission as Britain prepares to dispatch an advanced warship to the islands, prompting Argentina's Foreign Ministry to declare that Britain is "militariz[ing]" the conflict and sending Queen Elizabeth II's grandson "in the uniform of a conquistador."

The row comes after Argentina persuaded a South American trading bloc to prevent ships flying the Falklands flag from docking in their ports, threatened to cut the only air link between the islands and South America, and started a "squid war" by instructing Argentine fishermen to catch the creatures (which, along with sheep, are critical to the archipelago's economy) before they reached the Falklands. British Prime Minister David Cameron responded to these actions by accusing Argentina of "colonialism" since Falkland Islanders "want to remain British."

So what explains this bellicose, nationalistic behavior by both sides regarding a territory with a mere 3,000 inhabitants?..

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