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“The Battle for the Falklands” by Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins Critical Essay

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Updated: Dec 23rd, 2019

Introduction

“The Battle for the Falklands” is one of the books authored by Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins. The text focuses on the war the British fought with Argentina over the Falklands.

The battle, also known as the Falklands affair, has been reviewed by several authors over the years. Hastings and Jenkins are some of the experts who are interested in this encounter. The scholars who have reviewed the engagement in the past have focused on varying themes.

The following study is a review of the book mentioned above. “The Battle for the Falklands” is reviewed from the context of the conflict and what is known to members of the public and the scholars. The book provides the reader with an overview of the historical background in relation to the battle. It also highlights some of the major issues leading to the war.

The themes of the roles played by the Argentine, British, and American governments are explored in the book. Other themes included are disputes over sovereignty, failure in peacekeeping, and the nature of the islands. The predisposition of the inhabitants of these islands is also addressed by the two authors.

Thesis Statement

The current book review revolves around one major thesis statement. The statement involves the direction of the review and the integration of ideas from other authors into the discussions provided by Jenkins and Hastings. The statement is as indicated below:

In the book “The Battle for the Falklands”, Jenkins and Hastings produce a carefully researched, thoughtful, and balanced account of the Falklands affair.

The review begins with a brief summary of the book. Here, the main ideas addressed by Jenkins and Hastings are highlighted. The summary is followed by a critical analysis of the book. In this section, a number of issues are addressed. Some of them include the authors of the book, source of information, professionalism in the book, and readability of the materials presented by the authors.

The opinions of other scholars in this field are also reviewed in relation to the themes presented in the book. The book review ends with a conclusion. In this section, the strengths and weaknesses of the book, as well as its contributions to the history field, are analyzed.

“The Battle for the Falklands”: A Brief Summary of the Book

The authors explore the conflict over the Falklands islands from two major dimensions. The first dimension analyzes the politics, diplomatic, as well as the decision-making elements that led to the conflict. It is noted that a number of political decisions were made before, during, and after the battle. The second dimension narrates the clashes that occurred between the two nations’ military forces.

The battle took place in the mountainous and foggy seas of Southern Atlantic. Consequently, questions with regards to approaches to war and peace in the modern era are raised in the book.

Apart from narrating the politics, diplomacy, and tactics involved in the war between the British and the Argentines, the Jenkins and Hastings provide their opinions on what they believe failed the two main parties to the war. The strengths and weaknesses of the British democracy, as well as those of international diplomacy, are explored in the text.

Hastings and Jenkins argue that the war could have been avoided. They argue that this could have been done if the international community seized the opportunity to address the conflict on time. Each of the two conflicting nations was assuming that the other could not resort to force in resolving the mater. However, as the outcome indicates, both were very wrong.

The various confrontations between the armies of the two nations are described. The diplomatic measures that could have ended or mitigated the conflict are also described. In addition, the international diplomatic policies are reviewed, together with how they could have been used to effectively end the conflict.

Review of “The Battle for the Falklands”

“The Battle for the Falklands” is an account of factors that led to the war over the Falklands islands. The major strength of the book lies in the experience of the authors. Hastings worked as a journalist, covering the war for the London Standard. He was closely involved with the military and civilian during the battle.1 In addition, he interviewed the returnees from the war. As such, he provides firsthand accounts of the incidents in the battle.

On his part, Jenkins worked as a political editor for The Economist.2 His contributions in the book are, as a result, in relation to the political intrigues surrounding the incident. His work also focused on the various diplomatic rows that influenced the conflict. The analysis by the two authors, as a result, proves to be a very strong combination. Various accounts regarding the Falklands conflict have been written.

However, the approach adopted by Hastings and Jenkins tops the list. Another major strength of the text is the analysis provided in relation to the various aspects of the war. For instance, the book begins by describing the conflict as a “little war”.3

At this point, the reader is wondering why the authors regard the incident as small. Later on in the text, however, it becomes apparent that the authors did not consider the battle as lightly as it may seem.

Pierre and Despard commend the masterly manner adopted by the authors in weaving together the historical background, the fighting, and the politics around the battle.4 According to Pierre and Despard, the war for the Falklands should not have occurred in the first place. Alternatives, such as the lease-back agreement, existed. It is possible that the residents of the Island may have accepted these options.

Jenkins and Hastings are very elaborate in highlighting the background to the conflict, as well as to why and how it could have been avoided. For instance, they describe the battle as the “Seventeen Years’ war”.5 What Hastings and Jenkins were postulating here is that the conflict had taken long to develop.

Claims over the highlands had been going on for over 130 years. However, Jenkins and Hastings regard the submission of Malvinas case by Argentina to the UN in 1965 as the actual start of the conflict.

According Jenkins and Hastings, the Falklands conflict is portrayed as having involved numerous players in the international relations arena.6 It involved Argentina and the Great Britain as the key powers.

The role of the US is portrayed as first being that of a mediator, and then as an ally to the UK. The UN is portrayed as the global intergovernmental organization in the conflict. The Organization of American States (OAS) also features in the battle, although with little influence.

Steck postulates that Jenkins and Hastings carefully analyzed the diplomatic hassles surrounding the conflict before launching into the actual details of the combat.7 For instance, the two authors illustrate how Britain mobilized its international diplomatic ties after the invasion by Argentina became inevitable.

Britain managed to secure the support of the UN, the Commonwealth, the European Economic Community (EEC), and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) within a short time. On the other hand, Argentina failed to secure even the support of the Organization of American States.

Jenkins and Hastings attribute the Falklands incident to the failure of the international structure in deterring violence in the region. Lack of awareness and commitment, in addition to inability to enforce favorable decisions by the international community, failed the region. 8

A comprehensive explanation of the human decisions and actions in line with the apparent opportunities to end the conflict in the past are provided. By exploring this perspective, Jenkins and Hastings provide a framework for evaluating or deterring similar incidents in the future.

To enhance the balance of the accounts, the two scholars explore the political intrigues and decisions made during the battle. 9 For instance, they accuse Margaret Thatcher, the then Prime Minister, for her failure to issue an ultimatum when the invasion seemed inevitable. However, the book attributes the success of Britain in the battle to the determination and single-mindedness of the Prime Minister.

In relation to the tactics and fighting aspects associated with the conflict, Hastings and Jenkins provide a detailed account of what actually ensued in the battlefield.10

For instance, the authors analyze the logistics of the British military, as well as the cause of their success in the operation. At the same time, they appreciate the strength of Argentina in the battle. However, Jenkins and Hastings are quick to point out that in several instances, Britain was favored by chance.

By exploring the factors facilitating the success of Britain and loss of Argentina, the book provides a non-partisan approach to the battle. Consequently, the reliability of the text is enhanced. It can be regarded as a balanced and fair account of the battle. If the authors focused solely on the strengths of the British, the book would be overly biased.

Some of the tactical aspects explored by the authors include the manpower and war machinery employed by the conflicting parties. In addition, the events on the ground are described concisely. For instance, the authors attribute the shortcomings of the British ships to design. Hastings and Jenkins associate most of the inadequacies of the ships with the way their vital functions were concentrated on a single area.11

The two scholars also explore some of the shortcomings of the Argentine air force. For instance, it is apparent that the forces dreaded missile defenses. In addition, Jenkins and Hastings point out how bombs dropped by Argentine fighter planes failed to explode given that they were set poorly.12

Consequently, most of the British targets remained unarmed. The authors are also quick to point out that the success of Britain in the operation was a close call, especially since the battle had been mounted hastily. In addition, Britain had underestimated the power of Argentina.

In addition to the balanced account of the events in the war, Hastings and Jenkins provide their narration in a manner that captures the attention of the reader. The narrative also enhances the understanding of the audience. The following excerpt highlights how events in the book are presented:

“The big helicopter seemed to see the enemy first; it shed its load and ducked hastily below the horizon. Small-arms fired from the ground hit a Gazelle a few minutes later. It crashed into the sea just off Port San Carlos Jetty. The second Gazelle lifted rapidly forward, apparently in pursuit of the Argentineans. It too was hit within seconds and crashed into the sea”13

Conclusion

Hastings and Jenkins highlight the Falklands conflict between the British and the Argentines in a very balanced and detailed manner. The perspectives of the authors indicate a well researched, carefully written, and clearly presented book.

The manner in which the conflict is presented also favors the various kinds of readers who may be interested in the history of the war. The language, structure, and approach adopted in the text do not favor any side of the conflict. Readers from both sides of the divide may find the text very balanced.

The careers of the authors also strengthen the validity, authenticity, and reliability of the account. Both were in a position to provide firsthand information regarding the conflict.

Through their vast experience in relation to matters of war, the authors were able to provide a masterpiece detailing the events that took place. Consequently, the book is an interesting and balanced analysis of the Falklands battle. It is suitable to all readers. It can also be regarded as a modern classic in war reporting.

Bibliography

Hastings, Max, and Simon Jenkins. The Battle for the Falklands. London: W.W. Norton & Company, 1984.

Laucirica, Jorge. “Lessons from Failure: The Falklands/Malvinas Conflict.” Seton Hall Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations 1, no. 2 (2000): 79-95.

Pierre, Andrew, and Lucy Despard. “The Battle for the Falklands.” Foreign Affairs, 62, no. 1 (1983): 214-15.

Steck, Henry. “The Battle for the Falklands (Book).” Library Journal 108, no. 11 (1984): 1124-25.

Walter, Little. “The Falklands Affair: A Review of the Literature.” Political Studies 32, no. 2 (1984): 296-310.

Footnotes

1. Andrew, Pierre and Despard Lucy. “The Battle for the Falklands.” Foreign Affairs, 62, no. 1 (1983): 214.

2. Ibid.

3 Max Hastings and Jenkins Simon. The Battle for the Falklands. (London: W.W. Norton & Company, 1984), 1- 424.

4. Pierre and Despard, “The Battle for the Falklands,” 214.

5. Hastings and Jenkins, The Battle for the Falklands, 82.

6. Hastings and Jenkins, The Battle for the Falklands, 32.

7. Henry, Steck. “The Battle for the Falklands (Book).” Library Journal, 108, no.11 (1984): 1124.

8. Jorge, Laucirica. “Lessons from Failure: The Falklands/Malvinas Conflict.” Seton Hall Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations 1, no.2 (2000):80.

9. Steck, “The Battle for the Falklands (Book),” 1124.

10. Laucirica, “Lessons from Failure: The Falklands/Malvinas Conflict.,” 80.

11. Hastings and Jenkins, The Battle for the Falklands, 253.

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid., 254.

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