One possibly unforeseen problem that could arise from the election of the new pope from Argentina is that Argentine President Christina Fernandez de Kirchner will likely attempt to revive the country’s dispute with the UK over the Falkland Islands, which Argentines call the Las Malvinas. And as Archbishop, Cardinal Bergoglio, only helped to complicate matters by voicing support for Argentina’s claim to the disputed islands by claiming that Britain “upsurped” those islands during a memorial mass once again only last year for the dead from that short 74 day war that cost many Argentine and British lives.
In 1982, Britain and Argentina went to war over the disputed islands, where 649 Argentines lost their lives and 258 British troops. Both sides had substantial military equipment losses as well. Britain lost 2 destroyers and 2 frigates, while Argentina lost 1 cruiser, 1 submarine, and several smaller craft. Britain lost 34 aircraft, Argentina lost 100 aircraft of various classes. Critics of the war termed it “The Silly War”, because a dispute over some relatively small pieces of land could not be resolved in the UN or in the international courts without this huge war cost to both sides as missiles slammed into ships and aircraft from both countries, costing many lives. One day a major Argentine ship would be lost, another day a British ship would be. The war was a tragic breakdown of diplomacy and a major breakdown of the UN’s ability to broker a peace between nations.
In 1989, both the UK and Argentina renewed diplomatic relations with each other, agreeing to leaving the dispute over the Falklands open for a future date. So, it seems that renewed warfare is unlikely. But, in Argentina, there is a strong sense that old time colonialism from the UK only allows them to hold on to property which is considered part of Argentina even in the country’s constitution.
Old time colonialism can lead to some especially sticky international hotspots. In the 1950’s local Vietnamese sought to affirm sovereignty over the nation of Vietnam from the French, leading to a war, and the refusal of the South to participate in an election in which the Communist government of Ho Chi Minh would have most certainly have won. This led to a politically fractured nation, and a sense of Vietnamese nationalism and dogged determination to reunite the nation. Many Americans didn’t understand this sense of determination and nationalism, and the U.S. was involved in a long war that was fought with the understanding of Cold War sentiments of preventing a Communist victory in the region.
Part of the problem with Argentina’s Archbishop also been that he’s been viewed as two faced on some issues dealing with Argentina’s government over the last 30 years, appearing to be an ally of the old military junta on one hand, but covertly an opponent. But, with freer and more democratic elections in more recent years, Archbishop and then Cardinal Bergoglio, has only continued a two-faced approach to this government, despite the absence of overwhelming political pressures such as existed during the old military junta days. So the question is which pope was actually elected yesterday, the one that voices support for Argentine sovereignty over territory that they consider to be their own, or the one that affirms British control of the islands, or simply a peacemaker who wants the two sides to peacefully resolve their differences.
As pope, Cardinal Bergoglio, now Francis 1, will actually have to take a side on issues. The days of being on all sides of some issues just to seemingly satisfy everyone has now passed. The church is at a difficult crossroads on many tough issues. A leader with some backbone to clean up scandals and problems is really needed right now. With not only huge problems with sex scandals still plaguing the church, but problems with the Vatican bank operating in secret and only allowing money laundering by Italian gangsters or others to abuse it, will require a little backbone for a change.
This pope comes into power with a tremendous sense of goodwill where not only most Catholics, but most Protestants want him to succeed. A major Jewish organization has a lot of trust in him. And many Muslim leaders look forward to working with him in the interests of interfaith goodwill as well. He has an excellent opportunity to perform as a great pope for the next ten years or so, based on his age of 76, which isn’t particularly young. But, he’s a respected leader in his church, and appeared to be the best candidate for pope available at this time, winning a surprising fast election to become leader of the world’s largest Christian church.
The continued simmering dispute over the Falkland Islands will give this new pope one of many new tests of his leadership skills. If his leadership skills fail, then the international arms business might sell a lot of hardware to both sides once again as tensions could once again rise up, although a second round of warfare should be far less likely than in 1982.