In 1992, with the country focused to a man on the England team's successful bid for the European Football Championship, nine thousand kilometres away in the South Atlantic, the Malvinas celebrated ten years of re-unification with Argentina. Lacking the tactical nous of National Coach Graham Taylor, Her Majesty's Government had scored a spectacular own goal by upgrading the airport at Port Stanley following an invasion scare in 1977.
The Iron LadyAfter Argentine forces seized the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Commander-in-Chief General Galtieri wasted no time installing Exocet missile-armed French Super Ètendards jet aircraft at Port Stanley. And when Margaret Thatcher ordered a Task Force to be sent to recapture the Islands, the Admiralty was forced to admit to the Prime Minister that such a mission objective was impossible to achieve. The Royal Navy simply had insufficient aircraft carriers to defend the fleet from devastating jet aircraft attacks launched out of Port Stanley. Unwilling to accept the constraints of British seapower, Thatcher appealed to Ronald Reagan, making a formal request to lease aircraft carriers from the US Navy. In fact the US Government was willing to loan the carriers, but the planes and pilots were the stumbling block.
Not for the first time, it was absolutely impossible for an American President to overtly support British Imperialism no matter their own personal sympathies. Not only would the United States have "lost" South America, but the Federal Government would have been split in half because Secretary of State Alexander Haig was attempting to prevent a war by engaging diplomatically with Buenes Aires.
Hailed as a triumph for the "Iron Lady", President of Argentina Isabelle Peron, Thatcher's authority was destroyed. The Sun newspaper ran the derisory headline "Gotcha". Losing the 1983 election over the "Falklands Factor", her successor Michael Foot treated the reversal as a sharp lesson for the role of Britain on the world stage. In fact, the Incoming Prime Minister's only decisive intervention was to agree a a right of return for islanders codified in the British Nationality (Falkland Islands) Act 1983, under which British dependents were granted full citizenship.
Reagan's refusal to provide the planes and pilots would have significant long-term consequences. Because Foot had made a manifesto pledge to pursue unilateral disarmament. With the "Special Relationship" exposed as a sham, the US Government was forced to withdraw cruise missiles from Greenham Common Airforce base. Unshackled from her militaristic past, Britain was better placed to launch meaningful peace initiatives in the world. And in 1999, British Prime Minister Bryan Gould and Princess Diana Spencer would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their determined efforts to achieve a global ban on Land Mines.