Re-reading A Close Run Thing on its being republished by Endeavour Media, I am struck by what a different world 1982 was. It seemed perfectly natural that, when the Argentines occupied the British Falkland Islands, Britain would respond. Despite the 1956 Suez fiasco, Britain still saw herself as a significant player on the world stage. By the end of that 100 day war, reality proved sobering, as Rear Admiral John Woodward noted when he described the operation as ‘a lot closer run than many would care to believe’.
In going to war against the Argentines at a distance of 8000 miles, Britain was taking a staggering risk, for two reasons. First, her fleet was so run-down and filled with so much out-of-date technology, that few ships were front-line ready. Second, since the Suez crisis, successive governments had quietly abandoned Britain’s delusions of still being a world power, and had integrated her forces into NATO. As I say in my book, neither the Army nor the Navy had been prepared for the large-scale independent fighting needed at the Falklands. Britain’s victory was no sign of her strength, but a last gasp of a once dominating world power struggling to come to terms with her diminished status.
And how much truer that is today. The Brexit debate has highlighted the difficulty that many Britons have in facing the reality of Britain in 2019. In population, Britain now ranks 21st and will rank lower by the year as younger nations in Asia, Africa and South America continue to grow. Her share of world trade was 17 per cent in 1910; it is under 3 per cent today and is going down every year.
Britain was lucky that the Falklands War did not tip her (as is so nearly did) into a humiliating defeat. The Falklands War simply reminds us of our need to find a role based on cooperation with other nations rather than dominating them.
Read more about the Fauklands War in Richard Freeman’s A Close Run Thing, available HERE!