Strategic imperatives, British defence policy, and the case of the Falklands War 1982
This analysis proposes the thesis that in the formulation of post-war British defence policy, wider strategic developments taking place in the international environment are as important as, if not more than, domestic economic considerations, and examines the motivations that lay behind the British government's decision to recapture the Falkland Islands after their seizure by Argentine forces in April 1982. It is a first and comprehensive attempt to explore these two themes. It presents a challenge to the dominant view that British defence policy has, over the past two decades, been influenced by purely economic factors. Throughout the post-war era, defence analysts have come to accept the orthodox paradigm of British defence policy which attributes the reduction in the size of Britain's defence dispositions entirely to financial and economic pressures. While not negating the role of economic factors, this work rejects the gravamen of the orthodox paradigm and attempts to bring balance to the intellectual debate confronting British defence policy. Using the Falklands War as a case-study, this analysis demonstrates the salience of strategic imperatives and underscores the view that economic constraints can be pushed aside for what decision-makers perceive to be higher national and politico-strategic interests. It argues that while several factors may appear to have influenced the British decision to retake the Islands, only two interlocking sets are truly credible. These relate to national honour considerations and the fight for principles. Moreover, it argues that the credibility of the latter flows from the primacy of pride and prestige, thus making national honour considerations the dominant motif or explanation. The analysis begins with a review of the literature and shows the gaps which this work attempts to fill. Chapter Two examines the strategic and economic trends and developments in British defence policy prior to the Falklands War. Chapter Three presents a comprehensive picture and explanation of the Falkland Islands as an issue of long-standing dispute between Argentina and Britain. In Chapter Four, the factors that prompted the Junta to launch its attack are examined and the British response discussed. Chapters Five and Six utilize the Falklands War as a formidable case to support the major theme of this work. Chapter Seven provides a summary, and concludes with a short examination of four basic issues relating to the analysis.