Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Decolonization, Malvinas/Falklands and Gibraltar edition

While Germany's Angela Merkel is trying to reduce most of Europe to colonial status via her corrupted and increasingly authoritarian EU, there still are actual colonies in the world, recognized as non-self-governing territories (NSGT) by the United Nations. There are 16 of them, of which 10 are controlled by Britain (Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands (Malvinas), Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn, St. Helena, and the Turks and Caicos Islands). Of the remaining six three are controlled by the United States (American Samoa, Guam and the US Virgin Islands), and the others by France (New Caledonia), New Zealand (Tokelau) and Spain (Western Sahara, still in a formal process of transition to independence).

Argentina and Spain are both making significant diplomatic pushes at the moment over the Malvinas (called Falklands by Britain) and Gibraltar, respectively.

Argentina has built an impressive coalition of diplomatic support demanding that Britain negotiate the return of the Malvinas to Argentina sovereignty, which Britain refuses to do. The conservative, Angiebot austerity government in Spain is making a similar demand over Gibraltar. Britain is responding by smugly insisting that the decision is up to the residents of those islands.

Britain knows that this is not how national sovereignty works: colonize someplace, fill it with colonists supportive of the colonial country, then pretend to be honoring the self-determination of the people of the colony. In the case of the Malvinas, the residents there enjoyed only limited rights under British rule until after the Argentine military junta's failed attempt to take the islands by force in 1982.

Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron has seen fit to do a lot of huffing and puffing and threatening over the Malvinas, sending a warship and a nuclear submarine to the area. Britain's sad excuse for an opposition party is interested only in out-posturing the Conservatives in defense of their colony: Simon Hoggart, Labour sabres still rattle loudest for the Falklands, 30 years on Guardian 02/20/2012. Here's the sad sample Hoggart gives:

And as 30 years ago, when the old peacemonger Michael Foot cheered the task force on its way, it was Labour MPs whose sabres rattled loudest.

Sir Gerald Kaufman, one of the few MPs left from those distant days, insisted that "if there is any sign from this crew ..." (he pronounced the word "crew" as if it was something he had just scraped off his shoe) "in Buenos Aires that they are going to try it on again, they must be stopped!"

Mr [Defence Secretary Philip] Hammond, as befits a modern day defence secretary, sounded as if he might have a fit of the vapours at all this spear-shaking and shield-bashing. "The 'crew' in Buenos Aires are quite a different crew from 1982," he said. "We are dealing now with a democratic Argentina that has publicly eschewed the use of force." ...

Gisela Stuart pointed out that already the Falklands supply lines were severely impeded. Would they be able to obtain fresh food, or should they lay in emergency stockpiles of mint sauce for the long, lamb-munching months to come? (She didn't actually put it like that, but that is what she meant.)

Denis MacShane, another Labour MP, banged the drums again. Various military chiefs, including admirals Woodward and West, plus General Sir Mike Jackson, had pointed out that there wasn't much the government could do if Argentina did invade, since we had no naval aircraft carrier on the high seas. "We are in the worst position in five centuries of naval history!"
The United States officially supports Argentina's position that Britain should formally negotiate with Argentina over the Malvinas. But the Pentagon, which is generally concerned to preserve all conveniences in global force projection, may have it's doubts because Britain's control of the islands puts them and their territorial waters under the control of a NATO ally. And, in Britain's case, one whose main foreign policy priority seems to be to kowtow to whatever the United States wants.

The Malvinas have only about 3000 inhabitants, "kelpers" as they are known. There are valuable fishing rights at stake. But also oil. Which always raises the stakes considerably.

The great wave of decolonization that followed the Second World War had a huge effect on international politics in the 1950s and 1960s. The Soviet Union and China competed to see which of them could lead anti-imperialist national-liberation movements, hoping to weaken the relative global position of the United States and win more international allies.

It would be hard to say whether meddling in such struggles in the developing world did more harm to the US or the Soviet Union. But whatever conflicts of a similar type continue to occur, the remaining areas that are formal colonies/NSGTs in the way that India and Southeast Asia once were are unlikely to produce anything like the same level of conflicts.

But that's not to say they aren't important. For one thing, a good argument can be made that Tibet should be considered a colony of China, and a conflict over Tibet could become significant. The CIA ran some black ops in Tibet in the 1950s to encourage revolts against China, operations that illustrate more the foolishness and arrogance of the US at the time than anything about the (more than dubious) talents of the CIA in promoting "regime change".

See:

Unidos por la soberanía de Malvinas Página 12 18.02.2012

Cameron ante Rajoy: 'Los gibraltareños son los que tienen que decidir su futuro' EFE/El Mundo 21.02.2012

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