Causes of the Falklands War


The year 1982 is remembered in the history of both Argentina and Britain. The year saw the occurrence of one of the strangest wars due to the desire by the two sides to own and control the Falkland Islands. Many lives from the two sides were lost. It was a war of political interests from the two sides, though it was initiated by Argentina trough the use of the scrap metal salvagers. This essay discusses the causes of the Falkland war, with particular interest in the political standpoint that led to its occurrence. The war was caused by political desires of both governments to possess and control the Falkland Islands, each government under different claims. The essay concentrates on the political causes of the war from the two sides, but lays much emphasis on Argentina as the instigator.

Causes of the Falklands War from a Political Standpoint


The Falkland Islands are located in the south Atlantic and is comprised of a group of islands. There are two main islands, the east Falkland and the west Falkland, found 480 kilometers to the east of the Argentinean coast. Apart from the two main islands, there are 200 other smaller islands (Luscombe, 1996).

The Falklands was the largest ever war fought between Britain and the Argentina. Since 1820, Argentina had been claiming ownership of the Falkland Islands that were under the control of the British government. Since Britain had been the administrator of the islands, the claims were consistently rejected. These continuous disputes over ownership of the islands eventually led to conflicts (Smith, 1999).

The Falkland War

The sovereignty dispute that had persisted for more than 150 years between Argentina and Britain was culminated in April 1982 when Argentina invaded the Falklands Islands and claimed control over them. This led to a war between the Argentina and British troops, leading to the death of more than 650 troops of the Argentine side, and more than 230 soldiers from the British side (Luscombe, 1996). During the war, the British government captured more than 10,000 prisoners of war from the Argentine side, but they were released after the war ended. The war that was fought for more than four weeks saw the defeat of Argentina. This led to the discrediting of their military dictatorship and the restoring of the democracy in civilian rule in the country in 1983 (Smith, 1999).

There were several causes of the Falklands war. The war was guided by political desire by the Argentinean government to possess the islands from the British colony and gain control over them; Britain aims to retain possession of the islands (Kinney, 1989). The Argentinean government claimed the islands under the political grounds that they were discovered by the Spaniards who dominated the region back in the 15th and 16th centuries. The British government, on the other hand, claimed the islands under the grounds that they were discovered by John Davis who led the British ship back in 1592 (Smith, 1999).

Though there were intense diplomatic negotiations that had lasted for 14 years aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the matter between the two countries, Argentina broke the peaceful resolutions and the diplomatic efforts and resorted to the use of military action. This came as a surprise to the British colony since the democratic talks were still underway. It is believed that the political negotiations that were taking place in the United Kingdom had collapsed and the peace plan that was being negotiated was rejected by the two parties involved (Kinney, 1989).

The two parties resorted to military action, fighting for the control and ownership of the islands. Argentina resolved to invade the islands since there was a domestic threat to their military junta under the leadership of General Leopoldo Galtieri, and the internal instability in the country was a threat to his dictatorial leadership (Reginald & Elliot, 1983). The invasion and the war that ensued in the islands were seen as political cunningness that Galtieri used since he seeked a uniting diversion from the people of Argentina. He raided the Falkland Islands and went into war with the British as a way of attempting to save the political dictatorship that he had subjected to the Argentineans. This is because the conflict in the Falkland Islands, which were outside Argentina, would distract the Argentinean citizens, control the threat, and eventually help Galtieri maintain his control over the country (Smith, 1999).

The political conflict started after Argentine scrap metal workers tore down the old whaling station. The scrap metal salvagers who landed on the South Georgia Island had raised the Argentinean flag, an act that showed that the Argentina sought the ownership of the islands (Reginald & Elliot, 1983).This was as a political way if initiating the conflict. The raising of the flag in the British-owned protectorate was a political mockery to the British government and a great violation of the international law. This led to the conflict as the British government sought to deport the scrap metal salvagers back to Argentina. The conflict arose when Argentine troops descended on the British troops as a way of defending the salvagers. General Galtieri stood to his ground that he was not ready to remove the men from the islands (Luscombe, 1996).

The Argentine government stood to the ground that the desire of the British government to control the Falkland Islands was a sort of invasion of another country's land. It was seen as Britain's way of using military power to possess land that was not theirs, and Argentina was not willing to relent to the military might of Britain and give away what they thought was theirs (Luscombe, 1996). Therefore it can be argued that the Falkland wars occurred due to the desire of each side to show that they had the political and the military might to fight for what belonged to their country. The Argentines argued that they were not ready to suffer from Britain's imperialist past and lose their islands (Reginald & Elliot, 1983).

The Falklands war can also be explained to have been caused by political blunders that were performed by imperialism in the British government. The British government, under the leadership of Thatcher, had no serious political will for defending the islands (Reginald & Elliot, 1983). During the time of the war, Britain had witnessed massive economic crisis characterized by unemployment that had eventually reached 3 million in the year 1981. This had caused riots in the country and the war thus was an avenue for diverting the attention of the Britons. Thatcher decided to enter into the war to divert the focus from domestic issues that were affecting the country to foreign matters. The Falkland crisis and the consequent success in the war was a political idea that saw the success of Thatcher's leadership. Her fame was restored, together with the confidence of the Britons for her, even when the domestic economic issues were yet to be resolved (Smith, 1999).

They depended on the democratic negotiations that had ensued despite the continuous demands and claims by the Argentine government regarding the Falkland Islands. Political patriotism in the side of Thatcher is thought to have accelerated the emergence of the raids. She had withdrawn the British naval warship from the south Atlantic as a way of defending the prestigious British imperialism and as a way of saving her political interests (Kinney, 1989; Smith, 1999). This is thus thought to have given an avenue to the Argentine salvagers and troops to invade the Falkland Islands. The decision of Thatcher to send a task force to the south Atlantic was also as a way of mobilizing a war and was also a political move to win the support of the British parliament and the public (Luscombe, 1996).

The entry of the Argentinean junta into the war also had a political agenda. In Argentina, a military regime would regain pride only after conducting an invasion. The desire for political pride on the side of the argentine junta saw their entry into the war (Smith, 1999).


The Falkland war saw the loss of many lives. The war symbolizes the utmost political desires that most of the world's leaders and army systems possess. It can thus be concluded that the Falkland war occurred due to political desires and miscalculations in wars. The political desires to control certain portions of land even when they belong to another nation are evident in the Falkland war. It is evident that the two sides never sought the control of the islands through diplomatic courses since they were under the guidance of political malice. It is also true that the leaders of both governments had not much interest in the islands but were forced to enter into the war to deter the attention of the citizens from the domestic problems that had hit their leaderships.

It can thus be concluded that the Falkland war was a war that had no justification for its occurrence. Neither Britain nor Argentina had a precise reason for entering into the war since their claims of the possession of the islands were based on historical grounds. It is only through political ambitions that the war occurred. Both sides should have sought conflict resolution through continued democratic talks but not through military conflicts.


Kinney, D. (1989). National interest/ national honor: The diplomacy of the Falklands crisis. New York: Praeger publishers. pp 37-73.

Luscombe, S. (1996). The Falklands war 1982. The British Empire.

Reginald, R. & Elliot, J.M. (1983). Tempest in a teapot: The Falkland Islands war. San Bernardino, California, USA: The Borgo Press.

Smith, R. (1999). The Falklands war: A moral balance sheet. WaiMilHist, Issue 4, Volume 1.