Book Review: The Battle For The Falklands

The Battle For The Falklands, by Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins

If this book is the most thorough book I have ever read on the Falklands war and on the lack of decisiveness regarding how it was fought and how it failed to resolve the longstanding sovereignty issues that have made the Falklands a particularly isolated island with a resolutely British provincial character in the remote regions of the South Atlantic without the sort of good relations with Argentina that might help it to have an easier time. This book exists squarely within the intensely self-critical tradition of British military historiography, in which it discusses something that every other nation would be happy to have had as a glorious victory in the face of massive logistical challenges and does so with a relentlessly critical eye towards the failures in planning as well as intelligence on the part of the British effort. This is the sort of effort that is pointed enough that it may be considered a piece of Monday Morning Quarterbacking, although it must be said that the authors do a good job in being favorable to the common soldier, be they British or Argentine, and seek to tone down what may be a sense of irritation at the intransigence of the Falkland Islanders themselves at any move on the part of the generally clueless establishment of the British foreign ministry to sacrifice some aspect of their wishes to remain part of the United Kingdom for diplomatic advantage with Argentina.

This book is between 350 and 400 pages and it is divided into seventeen chapters as well as some supplementary material. The author begins with a foreword, then a discussion of the obscurity of the Falkland islands (1), as well as the lengthy cold war between the Argentine and British government in diplomatic efforts (2) that failed to reach an acceptable position to all the parties involved. There is then a look at the gamble made by Galtieri (3), as well as the success of the initial Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands (4). This leads to the British plan to create a task force to retake the islands (5), a tragicomic effort on the part of Haig to broker a peace (6), and the initial move from Ascension to recover South Georgia (7). After this comes a discussion of the failure of diplomatic efforts to make peace (8), and the war at sea that led to losses on both sides (9). After that comes a discussion of the white paper (10) that justified the British position as well as an early successful commando operation (11). Then comes the landing at San Carlos (12), the conquest of Goose Green (13), the politics of the land war that beckoned (14), and the balanced picture of triumph and tragedy as the British advanced (15). This is followed by the successful British effort to take the mountains on the way to Darwin (16) and the aftermath of the Argentine surrender (17). The book is then rounded out by a chronology of military and political events, a glossary, appendices on the Falklands Island task force (i), Honours list (ii), the Franks report (iii), and an index.

In looking at the Falklands War, there is a sense of drama that exists and then an abruptness about its end, a decisive military end even if the diplomacy is still muddled almost 40 years after the war ended. This book seeks to provide the maximum context to what goes on, which means that we have a lot of information about ineffective shuttle diplomacy and a lot of cases where the governments involved are simply not on the same page–and unlikely to get on the same page at any point unfortunately. Indeed, what this book discusses over and over again is the failure of the political systems of the UK, Argentina, and US to get their act together and act with one voice, a demonstration of the rivalry between different government agencies and different branches of the military. There are a lot of failures here for the authors to talk about, including the failures of the British to be able to deal with the missiles used by the Argentinians because they had been so focused on preparing a war against the Soviets. The author also manages plenty of criticism for the jingoistic mood of both the Argentine and British people stirred up by the press that made it impossible for anyone to climb down from the war that was developing against the will of most of the parties involved.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, History, International Relations, Military History and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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