The Falklands, which were not named for the wild Falks indigenous to them as everyone supposed, but rather for Lord Falkland, lie at the latitude of the Strait of Magellan and Charles Darwin is almost the last man to find anything of interest there, and even he had to strain.
"After the possession of these miserable islands had been contested by France, Spain, and England, they were left uninhabited," he wrote; but miserable or not he found marvelous valleys of fragmented quartz boulders strewn about as if broken off the quartz mountains and distributed by a vibrating board. He had no explanation whatever for this. I dare say that improbable as it may sound the stones got there through a brief mini-glacier that appeared in recent times and vanished as suddenly as it came--how else could the stones have been thus sprinkled in what look like stream beds?
In due time the islands were sold to a private citizen by the government of Buenos Aires and used (as Spain once had done) as a penal settlement, Darwin goes on, then the English claimed they owned the islands and seized them. When Darwin visited in 1833 the British officer was in charge of a population of which more than half were runaway rebels and murderers.
Since neither runaway rebel nor murder is a heritable gene, I do not doubt the population now is perfectly respectable and they speak English, of course.
"Everyone has heard of the climate," Darwin says ominously. It has less sunshine and less frost than the high mountain country of Wales, and, not to split hairs, the trifling 25 annual inches of rain dribble down so that virtually every day of the year is damp and overcast. It is frightful, and Darwin said even wheat would not ripen.
"Nothing could be less interesting than our day's ride," Darwin observed. Not a tree on the damn place, though the mainland is covered with trees. The earth is peat, and supported a wretched growth of very small shrubs; an undulating moorland suitable for Heathcliffe and other Bronte types.
Nowadays, of course, the islands support many thousands of sheep and an adequate number of shepherds, but there never was the least chance these islands would wind up in a Club Mediterranee or that (moving up) the jet set would choose them as site of their insular orgies.
The question posed by the present Falkland crisis is by no means simple. The English have 98.6 percent of the right on their side, obviously, but the question remains how many guys you are authorized to slaughter in defense of logic, law, honor and so forth.
The other day on Connecticut Avenue I had a left arrow to turn, and here came an old lady on a bicycle barreling straight ahead, which she had no right whatever to do. I gave serious consideration to running her down, to teach her a lesson, but lawbreakers are treated so kindly nowadays by the courts that I figured it would be a real pain to have to go to court and all that, and probably I would have been expected to send flowers to the funeral, and one way and another I let her get away with it. Hence crime flourishes, of course.
On the other hand, one learns about the age of 8 that bullies who throw their weight around are not improved, socially, by being appeased. On the contrary they usually improve considerably the first time somebody knocks their meaty heads off. We were faced with this situation in Iran, when Americans were taken hostage, and the American government's response (doing absolutely nothing) was in itself one reason Carter had no chance whatever of being elected for another term.
Which brings us to the inevitable point, faced many times indeed in common life, in which no course of action is blameless, but paralysis is no answer, either, since it awards the victory one way or another by default. It is sometimes (not always) better to weigh matters, to decide, and to act, one way or the other.
The solution requires ingenuity. The American president, well rested from skipping pebbles in Barbados as the crisis heightened, should now go to Buenos Aires in person, offering the Argentines the wretched islands provided they withdraw their troops. As a favor to the United States. Second, he should go to London, explaining to the English they are free to land on their islands, to raise their flag, but must leave within 60 days, ceding the stupid islands to Argentina.
This is not strictly legal, I am aware, and it blurs the British correctness in their arguments. It is, however, the only correct solution, nitpicking aside.
Nobody doubts Gen. Haig has done his best, and perhaps he could be given another medal or something, and turn the matter over to someone who is more determined to work the world out of the unworkable than to play diplomat. The Argentines have to get their stinking troops off, then the Brits have to cede the stinking islands, and the American president should make it his first business (you promise the president he can go scuba diving off the Yucatan once he has accomplished this, thus insuring a quite brilliant surge of energy) to get both sides off the treadmill they are on and which (unless he intervenes with insistent force) they are both powerless to get off. No point is served trying to "get them together." What is needed is a perception of the ultimate outcome that must be achieved, and then the energy and the clout to bring it about. The American president has this force, to decide the outcome and to make certain the two nations agree perfectly. It is all too probable that Gen. Haig does not.