Only little more than one week left until I have to hand in my dissertation proposal. It’s quite a significant step, and when this second of the four dissertation modules started I still was unsure whether I’d be able to propose an actual structure, let alone content. Of course, the topic of the project has always been clear; the problem is to fill the boundaries it sets with substance. Now, however, I did some reading and in the course got a clear idea of the events I’ll have to study in order to analyze the ‘International Relations of the Falklands/Malvinas War’.
This idea developed rather naturally. When I don’t know what to write in an essay, I just read random stuff, loosely, or even not at all, connected to the topic. Always something comes up! It’s quite profane, but it works.
The structure I’m going to propose runs along the ‘Pacific War of 1979’, ‘Operation Condor’, and ‘The Beagle Channel Crisis’. These are all defining events of inter-American relations. They determine until this day how the countries involved – Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina – relate to each other, to their neighbors and the great powers. Especially relevant, the USA, UK, and the former Soviet Union.
At the beginning of this line was the Spanish version of a book called ‘Battling for Hearts and Minds’by Prof. Steve J. Stern. This is a book about the memory of Pinochet’s Chile, and how this period is interpreted by contemporary Chilean society. Scanning a few pages I concluded that this guy surely knows something, so I searched his E-mail and dropped him a few lines, outlining what I’m up to.
In his response he suggested I’d start with The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability by Peter Kornbluh. Initially, I couldn’t see what this actually would have to do with my project. Sure, my main focus is Chile, but I was rather looking for military doctrines and government papers on the Malvinas issue. Yet, in the course of reading I got a pretty good sense of how Chilean society and government decision-making functioned during the dictatorship. So, it was really good advise!
Also the book puts forward a detailed description, backed with original declassified government/CIA reports, about ‘Operation Condor’, a state-sanctioned international terrorist network initiated by Chile and Argentina, later to be joined by others such as Brazil, Uruguay etc., to assassinate what these governments designated terrorists. In so many respects ‘Operation Condor’ looks like a blueprint for the ‘War on Terror’.
This operation is relevant because Chile and Argentina were the closest collaborators, which somehow surprised me, given their historical antagonism, and their later enmity during the ‘Beagle Channel Crisis’ and, of course, the Falklands War.
In order to understand this relationship closer I think it pertinent to first investigate the ‘Pacific War’. Reference to this war is also made in ‘The Pinochet File’, when, for example, Pinochet is trying to pull the US on his side to invade Peru and Bolivia. (The former supported Argentina clandestinely during the Guerra de las Malvinas).
This war started in 1879 when Peru and Bolivia invaded the north of Chile in order to snatch territory. Yet Chile had a highly trained army, constructed with the help of Prussian Generals, and a world class navy, formed by British personnel. Chile thus not only pushed the advances back, it managed to occupy Lima and La Paz for a rather brief period. In the meantime, however, it’s southern flank was exposed to Argentine troops. This weakness was exploited by the latter one and Chile was blackmailed to hand over substantial parts of Patagonia or face Argentine invasion, with the potential of Santiago being occupied. This humiliation shapes attitudes to this day, during the Falklands War, and was reinforced with the ‘Beagle Channel Crisis’ in 1976.
The latter incident almost led to war between Chile and Argentina if it weren’t for the pope’s mediation efforts. Argentina claimed sovereignty over Chilean territory, namely the ‘Beagle Channel’ which was traversed by the famous expedition Charles Darwin was a member of. As this attempt didn’t go so well the Argentine Junta shifted attention to the Malvinas. The Falklands War is thus also a consequence of the Beagle Channel Crisis.
At the moment, however, I’m still engaged with the Volume II of Sir Lawrence Freedman’s ‘Official History of the Falklands Campaign’. It’s massive and I’m afraid I won’t be able to finish it before the next optional module starts in September. But anyway, it’s an essential read for anyone who wants to write about the Malvinas.
There’s still lots to do. I love theory and one of the most important things IR scholars have to do is to connect theory with practice, and explain why theory is important. Yet, as for now I still haven’t got a clue where to go with that thing. It’s something that’ll come up by itself when the moment is right – I’m sure.