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The best account of the Falklands War.
on 21 April 2006
This is a remarkable book: surely the most thorough analysis of the Falklands campaign, combined with a strong element of polemic. Hugh Bicheno is extremely even-handed in his description of the events of the war, giving credit and criticism where due to both sides, but he does not pretend to be impartial as to which set of combatants had right on their side. Argentina was a fascist state, in which the military was driven by extreme nationalism, but tortured and murdered those whose views differed only in terms of nuance. Similarly, the regime professed a devotion to Roman Catholicism, thereby winning support from elements in France, Belgium, Italy and elsewhere, but this supposed piety did not draw the line at throwing nuns out of aircraft. The readiness of the Foreign Office to hand over British subjects to such a regime inspires contempt. Bicheno raises the interesting point of the former Foreign Office minister, who announced in Parliament that British Intelligence could read Argentina's codes. He puts this down to stupidity, but elsewhere wonders how far elements in Whitehall and the BBC deliberately sought to undermine the British forces, with the aim thereby of forcing a change of government in Great Britain. As far as the actual fighting is concerned, it is hard to see how this book can be bettered. Myths grew up on both sides after the war, although the subsequent career trajectories of certain British officers showed that some correct lessons had been learned. Bicheno quotes the exasperation of a Royal Marine, fed up with the widespread acceptance of the idea that the land war was a pushover. If you think that, you should definitely read this book. Not only does it show, again and again, what a terrible place a battlefield is, but the author also enumerates the alarmingly long list of points at which slightly different actions on the part of the Argentine defenders might have had disastrous consequences for the British. It is salutary to realise that the Sea Harrier aircraft that were so vital to British success in the Falklands have just now been prematurely withdrawn from service, with nothing lined up to replace them for years to come. The only thing to prevent a repeat of 1982's aggression by Argentina is the fact that her armed forces are even more enfeebled than our own. Yet the same irrational mentality holds sway, Bicheno observes, under nominally democratic regimes in Buenos Aires as under overtly totalitarian ones.