The Sovereignty Dispute over the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands

The Sovereignty Dispute over the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands

The Sovereignty Dispute over the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands

The Sovereignty Dispute over the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands

Synopsis

The complex question of the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands remains far from resolved, even after the military and political events that took place from April to June 1982. The first scholarly work of its kind, this broad and dispassionate study of the causes of the South Atlantic war between Britain and Argentina addresses the larger issues raised by the Falkland crisis and untangles a web of events and attitudes that stretch back over the past century. The book begins with a close evaluation of the two pivotal arguments: Argentina's stance that international law supports their historical right to the islands, and Britain's position that the length of their occupation of the Falklands, together with the principles of self-determination, legalized their de facto control. Gustafson then discusses how potential off-shore oil reserves, diplomacy, domestic politics, and the use of force entered into the sovereignty dispute; analyzes the effects of war on international relations; and considers possible future approaches to handling the dispute.

Excerpt

The case of the sovereignty dispute over the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands in the South Atlantic ocean, over which Argentina and Great Britain fought a war in 1982, raises fundamental issues of world and domestic political order. Internal sovereignty is said to be the "concept of supremacy or superiority in a state by virtue of which some person or body or group in that political society is supreme and can, in the last resort, impose his or its will on all other body and persons therein." Without a sovereign, there would be no one and no way to settle disputes; one could always appeal to another person or group, who claimed another basis of supremacy, such as the law of God or nature. External sovereignty is the idea that a state in international relations has total control of its policies and thus is not ruled directly or indirectly by any outside group. The state has territorial sovereignty or has the legal right to exercise actual control over parts of the earth's surface. This territorial sovereignty may be 11 acquired originally by occupation or by accretion, or derivatively by cession or other consent, by award of international conference, conquest, or prescription. To be legally effective occupation there must be actual possession and exercise of administration. Acquiescence or recognition by a competing claimant is evidence of the existence of sovereignty."

These legal definitions of sovereignty may not adequately help us to understand practical sovereignty or to establish domestic and world order. While such persons or bodies as monarchs and cabinets may be granted legal, nominal sovereignty as defined above, these sovereigns often, if not always, defer to and act in accordance with many other governmental and extragovernmental persons and groups, such as political parties, trade union leaders, foreign leaders, or others. De jure, legal, nominal sovereignty usually or maybe always operates with de facto limitations. "Even the most absolute despot must at least retain the respect and obedience of his praetorian guard or janissaries or they will turn on him, and what he must do to retain their support is a practical limitation on his unfettered sovereignty. In practice, sovereignty is always limited and never absolute."

Legal sovereignty cannot be saved by arguing that it is located in the constitution, nature, or God. All of those sources require some person or group authoritatively to interpret and enforce laws derived from them. And . . .

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