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Location: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Saturday, April 21, 2012

You Say Malvinas, I Say Maldives! Another Obama Gaffe

Timothy Birdnow

Recently Barack Obama gave a speech in Cartagena, Columbia in which he made, as the London Telegraph refers to it, an "uncharacteristic gaffe" (???!!!). In his speech Mr. Obama refered to "the Maldives" when it was apparent he was refering to the Malvinas, the Argentinian name for the British Falkland Islands.

Now, Mr. Obama was once a british subject, and the Maldives are a British colonial possession in the Indian Ocean. Mr. Obama has also spent time along the Indian Ocean rim, having lived in Indonesia for a while in his youth. He should know the difference between the Maldives and the Malvinas, another British colonial possession in the sub-Antarctic, an island chain off the coast of Patagonia that acts as base for traffic through the Magellanic Strait.

This is an interesting gaffe, and an interesting term to use in general.

According to the Telegraph:

"In his address, Mr Obama maintained the USA's stance of neutrality over the Falklands, saying he wanted to ensure good relations with both Argentina and Britain.

"This is something in which we would not typically intervene," he said, adding that there should be dialogue between the UK and Argentina even though the Coalition refuses to negotiate sovereignty of the Falklands with Mrs Kirchner's government."

End excerpt.

Now, the United States policy was never one of neutrality in regards to the Falkland Islands; we have been active champions of British rule, because the inhabitants of these islands (all 2500 of them on an archipelago the size of Connecticut) have repeatedly voted in referenum after referendum to remain part of the Empire. They have had the choice of joining Argentina voluntarily, or of independence, yet the overwhelming majority of Falklanders have voted to remain British (it is said that if you want to see the Britain of yore you should visit the Falklands; it's a Scottish moore with Scotsmen.)  The U.S. gave3 a great deal of technical aid and support to the British government during the 1982 war between Argenina and Britain over the islands, for example. We have never maintained neutrality.

But Mr. Obama has never met a Brit he didn't hate, and the idea of thumbing them in the eye one more time is irresistable to him.

The argument over sovereignty is a nonsequiter; Argentinian claims stem from the fact that Argentina holds the old Spanish territories, granted to them by Spain upon independence. Spain had tried to annex the Falklands (which they called the Malvinas) and had planted a colony on the site of an old failed French settlement called Port St. Louis, which they renamed Puerto Soledad. The British had planted their own settlement at Port Egmont, but abandoned this settlement shortly thereafter. The Royal Navy, eager to maintain the British claim to the islands, swept the Spanish away from their settlement, and eventually the British were able to establish permanent colonies on the island, settling military pensioners - particularly Scotsmen - to validate the British claim. These settlers were generally employees of the Falkland Island Development Corporation, which pretty much owned all the land, but they had considerable freedom to run sheep stations and farms and the like. The only real city on the islands is the capital, Port Stanley. There are numerous settlements on West Falkland, and a few dotting the southern part of the western island (Lafonia) and East Falkland and the man smaller islands. These are all decended from Briths settlers.

The Spanish were kicked off the islands in 1811.

This makes the Argentinian claims mighty meager; Argentina declared her independence in 1816, and never had possession of the islands, much less planted any settlements. Their claim is entirely based on Spanish claims prior.

But the fact that they have not been able to kick the British out has been a thorn in their sides, because they see the islands as a "natural" part of their territory, and they cannot imagine how an island off the coast of Europe could keep them from annexing some poor, sparsely inhabited land at the end of the Earth. It's a matter of militarism and pride.

So, what did Mr. Obama do?  By using the Argentinian name he signalled that he (and by extension the U.S.) agrees that Argentina's claim is valid. These islands have never been known as the Malvinas except to Argentina, and using that name is sending a message. Claiming neutrality is sending an even greater message; we aren't going to oppose a plan by the Argentinian government to take the islands.

It is a serious political statement that the President made.

During the 1982 war the British found it difficult to move into position to prosecute the war, because the Royal Navy had become more of a Royal fishing flotilla. They had few ships, and the ability to project power stemmed primarily from their air base on Ascension Island, some 3,800 miles away. The British flagship had actually been sold to a scrap dealer before being sent on her final mission.

Today the British do not even have a fishing flotilla. There is no longer a Royal Navy, and should Argentina seize the islands Britain could do little to stop them.

But Obama's gaffe is interesting because he screwed up the name Malvinas, saying Maldives instead. What did that say? Was he trying to signal to the British that he was blowing smoke for the Argentinians? Was it a conscious mistake?  I wonder.

It certainly leaves Mr. Obama's options open. Should Argentina act he can condemn their actions, and they could point to his speech, but he can point out that he was talking about the Maldives, a half a world away.  Had the Argentinians acted against the Maldives they would have met no U.S. opposition, but now...

It's an interesting form of cowardly diplomacy, if you ask me.

If not, it illustrates how little this occupant of Pennsylvania Ave. really knows - and how pathetic his speechwriters and aides really are.  It doesn't speak well of anybody, in my opiniion.

But it's classic Obama; never take a stand, await the development of events, then cover your tail.

The President is supposed to lead. This man is incapable of leadership.

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