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The Origins of the South Atlantic War



The most widely-accepted views of the origins of the South Atlantic War contend that it arose either out of the Argentine junta's need to divert attention away from a worsening economy or from misperceptions in both London and Buenos Aires. This article argues that the ‘demobilisation’ of Argentine civil society removed the need for a diversionary war; and that the lengthy crisis bargaining that followed in the wake of the ‘grab’ of the Falklands/Malvinas Islands substantially mitigated the impact of any misperceptions. This article advances an alternative to existing theories that explains the outbreak of this war by reference to both structural and organisational factors. A fast decreasing gap in relative power between Argentina and Britain may have encouraged the junta more seriously to consider the possibility of initiating a war between the two. Thereafter, however, the organisational pathologies of the Argentine military led to a suboptimally timed preemptive invasion, intransigent diplomacy and a ‘hedged’ approach to deployments that severely undermined Argentina's military effectiveness, allowing Britain to undertake reconquest of the islands with a very reasonable chance of success.


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Journal of Latin American Studies
  • ISSN: 0022-216X
  • EISSN: 1469-767X
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-latin-american-studies
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