In this article, Fred Halliday Professor of Politics at the LSE claims that the British defence of the Falklands in 1982, prepared the way directly for the support of Afghan Mujahadeen in the late 1980s and hence to September 11th. Professor Hallidays argues that
The temptation to see the Malvinas war as an isolated, exceptional event should, however, be resisted. In particular, the covert United States-British collaboration which was central to eventual British victory helped to consolidate a far more momentous (and far less publicised) military project then being implemented, one whose destructive impacts are still reverberating across the region and the world: the jihad against the then Soviet occupation of Afghanistan....
The real legacy of the 1982 war is, then, one of profound strategic and ideological irresponsibility, whose consequences were to be seen in the local wars and pitiless massacres perpetrated in many poor countries in the 1980s - El Salvador and Nicaragua, East Timor and Angola - by the friends of Margaret Thatcher. Those who seek to conduct a balance-sheet of the grisly record of that decade must complement their assessment of the adventure in the south Atlantic by putting it in the context of wars in the Hindu Kush and beyond, then and now.
There are two arguments here: one is that the Falklands invasion was of the same imperialist nature as later invasions, and the other is that it historically caused the British to ally with America in funding the resistance in Afghanistan.
The first argument seems to me to be manifestly wrong. Professor Halliday attacks the British invasion of the Falklands for being a 'grotesque indulgence' to grant 'a population of 3,000 people the right to determine matters of strategy, diplomacy and economic interest', whatever one thinks of his argument, I don't think that is the same justification as the justifications offered for say the invasions of El Salvador or Iraq. Those invasions whether justified on the basis of toppling nasty dictators (a matter of dispute) or weapons of mass destruction (likewise) were not justified in the same ways as the invasion of the Falklands was. Rather the invasion of the Falklands ressembles far more the 1991 Gulf War, it was clear in the case of the Falklands that the population did not want to become Argentinian- and Professor Halliday admits that point and calls British policy on the issue a grotesque indulgence. He may be right, but whatever kind of error it was, the point is that it was not the same kind of error as those possibly committed in Iraq or Latin America.
So if no principle was established by the Falklands War that necessarily connects it with the events of Iraq or Afghanistan or indeed the US interventions in Latin America, to which Professor Halliday also links it, is there a historical link to what subsequently happened in Afghanistan. Again I don't see any evidence that there is. Ok the Americans backed the British- and the British helped the Americans train the Afghans- but there were other occasions where the Americans annoyed Margeret Thatcher- the invasion of Grenada deeply disturbed her and yet there was no doubt on which side the Thatcher government fell in the Cold War even so. If the argument is that without the Falklands, Michael Foot might have won the British election in 1983 and not backed the Americans in Afghanistan- well that's an argument about the 1983 election not really about the fact that there was a necessary connection between the Falklands War and the support for the resistance in Afghanistan.
You might rightly ask why I'm bothering to write this post. Firstly I respect Professor Halliday- I even own one of his books, so consequently I am disturbed to find him writing something I consider wrong- maybe I need correction- readers I ask for it.
The second point though and the more important point is that Professor Halliday appears to me to make an error its very important that we don't make if we are to understand the world. He has decided that the UK in all its actions is imperialist and therefore all its actions must be imperialist and all of them must lead forwards and backwards to and from each other. History though isn't like that. History is muddled, confusing and complicated- simple models in general don't work. If we are to truly assess the relevance of the Falklands War (if it has any relevance) for the war on terror, then we need to understand what it was about- and misunderstanding it as part of a pattern of British imperialism helps noone.