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Thread: Wouldn't It Have Been Smarter If Thatcher Didn't Announce When The British Fleet Would Be Leaving For The Falklands?

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    Krieglord's Avatar Primicerius
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    Default Wouldn't It Have Been Smarter If Thatcher Didn't Announce When The British Fleet Would Be Leaving For The Falklands?

    Good afternoon



    I was recently re-watching 20th Century Battlefields episode on The Falklands War and on top of other documentaries watched over the years had a thought strike me for the first time, would things not have gone better for Britain if they had waited till the fleet arrived near The Falklands before publicly announcing the campaign?



    ​At a certain point it may become impossible to hide as they did have Argentinean military operated 707s shadowing the fleet along the route south who could have picked the fleet up on radar or visually regardless but at the least it would allow for around 20 days where the enemy wasn't preparing as hastily and possibly even allow for some landings before the full fleet and air response.



    ​The Argentinians had SAM missile batteries only days away from being fully active on the island and considering they also had Exocet missiles and nearly half the ships in the quickly assembled British Task Force consisted of vulnerable merchant vessels (including 2 troop carrying cruise liners) you would think they would want to avoid all possible contact with the enemy not alert them weeks beforehand they would be arriving. We know troops were moved quickly to The Falklands/Malvinas and it gave them time to prep the air force on the mainland being just in range of the islands, countering them were 46 British Harrier jets.



    ​In other documentaries I have seen British soldiers lament the fact they were a bit arrogant and while learning Spanish phrases for "surrender" or hands up" they never thought to learn things like "I surrender", could this have been part of the reason for Thatchers declaration? Thinking a 2nd or 3rd rate nation would be a walkover?



    ​Tl;Dr - Churchill would never have gone on radio and announced The Allied Fleet would be leaving for Normandy in a few weeks so when it comes to this case why did Thatcher give an enemy at that point enough information to be able to quickly move troops and equipment around, fortify, etc?



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    Default Re: Wouldn't It Have Been Smarter If Thatcher Didn't Announce When The British Fleet Would Be Leaving For The Falklands?

    I believe (guess) the intention was to give the Argentinians time to come up with a dignified excuse for withdrawing. You have to consider that the Royal Navy used to be the most powerful fleet in the world, and even now (and at the time of the Falklands War) it is easily in the top five. And that's without being allied to the US. I don't think you can compare the situation to WWII, seeing as the threat there was much closer to home, and the Axis powers were a much more dangerous and fanatical enemy than Argentina.

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    Default Re: Wouldn't It Have Been Smarter If Thatcher Didn't Announce When The British Fleet Would Be Leaving For The Falklands?

    The conflict over the Falklands never escalated to full war. The hostilities were limited to a specific area, which is why, for example, the sinking of Admiral Belgrano generated so much controversy (although it turned out that the British did not violate the agreement). Thatcher's announcement served a domestic purpose, making her appear to the electorate as a strong leader, who would never tolerate any aggression against the overseas dominions, and a diplomatic one, as it made the Argentinian military leadership that Britain was determined to defend its rights in the Falklands. London probably hoped that this show of force would convince Buenos Aires to withdraw its forces from the Falklands and the Sandwich Islands, without any risky and costly military operation being necessary. The bet ultimately failed, but, as you mentioned, the strategic losses were not severe. The fleet could hardly succeed in completely taking the Argentinians by surprise and, in any case, common sense dictates that the Argentinian Navy would have been prepared for any possible scenario. On the other hand, the junta proved to be so incompetent, both diplomatically and militarily, that nothing is certain. Anyway, to sum up, Thatcher's announcement did not significantly undermine the chances of the fleet for a rapid and decisive victory, while it also increased her popularity at home and had the potential of achieving a relatively peaceful resolution of the conflict.

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    Default Re: Wouldn't It Have Been Smarter If Thatcher Didn't Announce When The British Fleet Would Be Leaving For The Falklands?

    Thatcher probably thought it would be a walk-over campaign even Argentinian knew the plan, so it would be no big lost to psychologically bully Argentinians.
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    Default Re: Wouldn't It Have Been Smarter If Thatcher Didn't Announce When The British Fleet Would Be Leaving For The Falklands?

    I think part of the calculus too may have been the Maritime Exclusion Zone, which declared any Argentine vessel or aircraft traveling near the Falklands Islands could be attacked without warning. This "no sailing zone" of sorts was eventually upgraded to a Total Exclusion Zone, which declared any vessel or aircraft traveling within 200 miles of the Falklands could be fired upon without warning - regardless of country of origin.



    According to wiki and some quick googling, the Maritime Exclusion Zone was declared on April 12, 1982. The RN Task Force arrived on the 22nd of April, the Exclusion Zone was then upgraded to a Total Exclusion Zone on April 30th. Obviously, there are some serious legal questions when you target civilian vessels and restrict sea access to neutral countries, announcing an ongoing military operation then at least gives you some political cover. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_Exclusion_Zone
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    Default Re: Wouldn't It Have Been Smarter If Thatcher Didn't Announce When The British Fleet Would Be Leaving For The Falklands?

    Quote Originally Posted by Krieglord View Post
    ​Tl;Dr - Churchill would never have gone on radio and announced The Allied Fleet would be leaving for Normandy in a few weeks so when it comes to this case why did Thatcher give an enemy at that point enough information to be able to quickly move troops and equipment around, fortify, etc?
    It's a rather shorter journey from England to Normandy than it is to the Falklands. You can hide an overnight journey of a fleet. You can't hide a multi-month journey of the same. You're not getting any surprise, so what was done opens up various diplomatic and political options, which outweighs the non-existent military options lost.

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    Default Re: Wouldn't It Have Been Smarter If Thatcher Didn't Announce When The British Fleet Would Be Leaving For The Falklands?

    Well, the Japanese kinda managed that with Pearl Harbor.
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    Default Re: Wouldn't It Have Been Smarter If Thatcher Didn't Announce When The British Fleet Would Be Leaving For The Falklands?

    Quote Originally Posted by alhoon View Post
    Well, the Japanese kinda managed that with Pearl Harbor.
    False equation.
    Even putting aside the fact that the Americans had lots of intelligence warning about the attack, which they merely failed to act upon, even ignoring the fact that the technical means at the disposal of the Argentines were much greater than those of the Americans and Japanese in WW2, the fact still remains that the US weren't at war with the Japanese before the attack, whereas Argentina had initiated the confrontation and most certainly anticipated a response, and that a surprise was in no way realistically achievable for the Brits.

    And that's when all the political factors mentioned by others come into play. War doesn't happen in a vacuum but as the continuation of politics through other means, and thus has to act within constraints posed by foreign policy as well as domestic issues. The circumstances of which also had changed very significantly since WWII had ended.

    If you're not the US, you at least want to appear adhering to international laws and trying to settle the disagreement diplomatically, even if you know the military confrontation is unavoidable/the option you want.
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    Default Re: Wouldn't It Have Been Smarter If Thatcher Didn't Announce When The British Fleet Would Be Leaving For The Falklands?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cookiegod View Post
    False equation.
    Even putting aside the fact that the Americans had lots of intelligence warning about the attack, which they merely failed to act upon, even ignoring the fact that the technical means at the disposal of the Argentines were much greater than those of the Americans and Japanese in WW2, the fact still remains that the US weren't at war with the Japanese before the attack, whereas Argentina had initiated the confrontation and most certainly anticipated a response, and that a surprise was in no way realistically achievable for the Brits.

    And that's when all the political factors mentioned by others come into play. War doesn't happen in a vacuum but as the continuation of politics through other means, and thus has to act within constraints posed by foreign policy as well as domestic issues. The circumstances of which also had changed very significantly since WWII had ended.

    If you're not the US, you at least want to appear adhering to international laws and trying to settle the disagreement diplomatically, even if you know the military confrontation is unavoidable/the option you want.
    It wasn't beyond question that Britain would have support for the campaign. Parts of the US administration saw this as part of the end of the British Empire, and ranged from seeing Argentina's takeover as the natural course of events to seeing Britain as imperialists who were the opposite of what the US stood for. On the political front, Britain needed to be seen to take action decisively, which would then open up other political options. This was presumably deemed to be more significant than trying to gain non-existent surprise. Among Thatcher's political acts during this campaign was a threat to nuke Buenos Aires should any power intervene on Argentina's behalf. Probably no one took this threat seriously, but it was part of a campaign to define the battlefield as Britain would like it.

    In the event things worked politically as well as Britain could have hoped. She received political and was offered logistical and military support, Argentina was isolated on all fronts, and the British forces had full control of their campaign.

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