NYT's Sanger Pathetically Compares Cameron's UK War Support Failure to Reagan-Thatcher Falklands Disagreement

August 30th, 2013 4:30 PM

Well, if you can't say anything good about how your guy's foreign policy is going, you can at least try to trash one of his predecessors so your guy doesn't look so bad.

That would appear to be the idea behind David E. Sanger's attempt at the New York Times today to falsely inform readers that the two towering leaders of the 1980s, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, angrily disagreed over the UK's choice to retake the Falkland Islands after Argentina had seized them. Sanger linked back to a previous Times story which clearly pointed to the real disagreement, but never described anything resembling anger. Additionally, a cable from Secretary of State Alexander Haig during that era directly refutes Sanger's contention.

First, here is what Sanger wrote today about UK Prime Minister's David Cameron's failure to get Parliament to go along with the idea of military intervention in Syria, up to where Sanger cites the Reagan-Thatcher Falklands matter. Note the public blame-gaming by people who should know better (bolds are mine throughout this post):

... So when Prime Minister David Cameron was unable to muster the votes in Parliament for support for a strike in Syria — even one limited to stopping the future use of chemical weapons — shock could be heard in the voices of senior White House officials who never saw the British rejection coming.

“Bungled by Cameron,” said one.

“Embarrassing,” said another. “For Cameron, and for us.”

Now Mr. Obama is left to cope with miscalculations on both sides of the Atlantic. If he goes ahead with the strike — which seems all but inevitable, based on the statements of senior administration officials who say the president is determined to restore “international norms” against the use of chemical weapons — he will look more isolated than any president in recent memory entering a conflict.

True, Britain stayed out of Vietnam — it was dealing with issues in the Malay Peninsula and Indonesia at the time — and there was no need for Britain in small actions in Panama and Grenada. Ronald Reagan angered his close partner Margaret Thatcher by providing minimal assistance in the Falklands War. But the Middle East, site of Britain’s former empire, is a different matter — territory in which Britain and the United States have long history and deep interests.

Sanger linked to a December 28, 2012 Times story by John F. Burns. Here's as close to angry at Reagan and Thatcher got:

... the Thatcher-Reagan embrace had its thorny passages — perhaps never more so than during the 1982 Falklands war in the South Atlantic.

Just how thorny was revealed on Friday by the publication of British government papers covering the period, under a rule that mandates the release of hitherto secret documents after 30 years. The papers, including records of the Thatcher cabinet and her occasional prickliness toward Reagan, have added spice to what was previously known about rocky patches in their relationship.

A memo written by one Thatcher aide chronicled a midnight telephone call Reagan made to Mrs. Thatcher on May 31, 1982, when British troops were closing in on Port Stanley, capital of the British-ruled Falkland Islands, off the coast of Argentina, and the site of the last undefeated Argentine garrison.

Reagan, yielding to advisers who regarded Britain’s insistence on retaining sovereignty over the sparsely populated islands as a colonial anachronism, urged the prime minister to show magnanimity rather than force the invading Argentine troops to surrender, and to reach a cease-fire deal providing for a shared Argentine-British role in the islands’ future and a joint American-Brazilian peacekeeping force.

“The best chance for peace was before complete Argentine humiliation,” the memo recorded Reagan as saying. “As the U.K. now had the upper hand, it should strike a deal now,” rather than act in a way that further hardened Argentine feelings.

But the memo said Mrs. Thatcher rejected the president’s appeal for talks three times, becoming more emphatic each time. “Britain had not lost precious lives in battle and sent an enormous task force to hand over the queen’s islands to a contact group,” Mrs. Thatcher told him, adding a brusque reminder that Britain had been forced to “act alone, with no outside help,” in recovering the islands, an oblique reference to the American refusal to be drawn directly into the conflict on the British side.

Speaking before the final toll had been tallied — 255 British and 649 Argentine military personnel dead — the prime minister “asked the president to put himself in her position,” the memo said. “She was sure the president would act in the same way if Alaska had similarly been threatened.”

Really, David, this is all you have to support the idea that Thatcher was "angered"?

From from it, sir, as a private cable from Haig to Reagan sent in the midst of U.S. attempts to initiate negotiations indicates (posted at the web site of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation):

... 7. The Prime Minister is convinced she will fall if she concedes on any of three basic points, to which she is committed to Parliament:
A. Immediate withdrawal of Argentine forces;
B. Restoration of British administration on the islands;
C. Preservation of their position that the islanders must be able to exercise self-determination.

8. We focussed on three elements of a solution, which I argued would meet her needs:
A. Withdrawal of Argentine forces; [fo 2]
B. An interim arrangement involving an international presence (e.g., U.S., Canada, and two Latin American countries) to provide an umbrella for the restoration of British administration.
C. Swift resumption of negotiations.

9. The main problems were with point B. She wants nothing that would impinge on British authority, she wants the British Governor back, and she bridled at the thought of any Argentine non-military presence even under an international umbrella. She does not insist that British sovereignty be accepted – she is finessing this by saying that British sovereignty is simply a fact that has not been affected by aggression – but she rules out anything that would be inconsistent with self-determination.

... 13. Throughout what was a difficult discussion, there was no trace of anything but gratitude for the role we are playing and for your personal concern and commitment to the Prime Minister. She said, in conclusion, that the candor of the discussion reflected the strength of our relationship.

Take that, David. Anger, schmanger.

Barack Obama's current efforts in Syria are going to have to stand on their own merits or demerits.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.