The Falkland-Malvinas Conflict

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The Falkland-Malvinas Conflict (March-June 1982) President Reagan once referred to the Falklands/Malvinas as “That little ice-cold bunch of land down there”1. Indeed, the Falklands/Malvinas islands is an archipelago of approximately 200 islands located 480 km northeast of the southern tip of South America. In March 1982, the archipelago accounted to a population of 1,800 settlers, 658,000 sheep and several million penguins. By all accounts, it is difficult to see how the Falklands/Malvinas islands are worth fighting for. And still, on April 1982 Argentine invaded the Falklands/Malvinas islands, thus touching off a conflict that seemed strangely out of place in the modern world and that would result in 700 Argentine fatalities, 250 British deaths and the eventual overthrow of the military Junta in Buenos Aires. Because of the apparent unimportance of the Malvinas Islands, many scholars have analysed the war within the scope of “diversionary war” theory, arguing that Argentinean and British actions were an effort to divert public attention away from domestic troubles. The purpose of this paper is to challenge this orthodox interpretation by analysing the conflict from a realist and “two level” perspective. The first part of the essay provides a conceptual set outlining the theoretical framework of realist and two-level theories. The second part will address the issue of what ignited the crisis over the islands 2; and the final section, centred on V. Gamba-Stonehouse’s discussion of the interaction between states, will answer why this crisis escalated into open warfare. I/ Theoretical support The core of the realist theory of international relations is based on the notion that the defining characteristic of international relations is anarchy3; in other words, there is no institution in the international system that possess a monopoly of force able to coerce

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