The sense of betrayal throughout Britain is palpable. With the dispute over oil drilling rights in the South Atlantic heating up, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton handed Argentina a major diplomatic victory this week by encouraging Britain to discuss the future of The Falkland Islands. Britain has long maintained that there should be no negotiations on The Falklands unless the islands’ three thousand inhabitants ask for them – which they haven’t. The islanders wish to remain British. I for one could not be more outraged by Washington’s indulgence of Argentina’s sabre rattling. For me, the 1982 Falklands War feels like it happened only yesterday. I’m proud to have been part of the task force sent there. I still mourn mates resting at the bottom of the South Atlantic who lost their lives in The Falklands. Today, at the age of 55, I’m well up for putting on a military uniform and going back to fight for my country if that’s what it comes to. I’m sure there are thousands of Brits who feel the same way.
Of course, back in the 1980s, Britain’s armed forces were in a position to react to a crisis thousands of miles away. Today, it’s a different story. Having expended vast amounts of blood and treasure fighting America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan we are poorly positioned to mount a task force to defend British interests. With plans to gut the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force to pay for ongoing operations in Afghanistan, our ability to react to challenges to our sovereignty will be compromised further still.
Having stood ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ with America the very least the US could have done for Britain is remain neutral on The Falklands. By moving off the sidelines and against British interests, the US has laid bare just how one-sided the ‘special relationship’ is between our two countries. For years, the British government has done whatever the Yanks have asked and we’ve paid a high price for our loyalty. Not only have our brave soldiers been killed and wounded and our financial resources depleted; our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan has fueled a wave of homegrown terrorism that will likely plague Britain for decades to come.
I don’t blame the Obama administration for doing what it feels is necessary to protect US interests in South America. The United States is being pragmatic. Britain should heed the example. It’s time the British goverment reassessed the special relationship and stopped acting as if our armed forces exist solely to promote American foreign policy. Because as the latest row over The Falklands has shown, when it comes to defending our sovereign territory, Britain may have to do it alone.
Bob Shepherd is an ex-SAS soldier and bestselling author of The Circuit. To read more posts by him, please visit www.bobshepherdauthor.com.