In the spring of 1982, the world watched intently as two determined nations inched toward war over the disputed Falkland (or Malvinas) Islands. The clash between Great Britain and Argentina featured the first major naval combat between fleet units in nearly four decades. Many of us no doubt recall keenly following accounts of the engagements in our daily newspapers, nightly newscasts, and various weekly news magazines, long before the Internet. (One of the best histories of the campaign remains Admiral Sandy Woodward’s One Hundred Days: The Memoirs of a Falklands Battle Group Commander , available from the Naval Institute Press.) Images of the Argentine cruiser General Belgrano sinking or British paratroopers retaking Port Stanley remain fixed in the public’s consciousness from that conflict. Britain emerged the victor from the fairly brief but violent clash, and relations had stabilized in the intervening years. But lately, that situation has begun to change.
A few months ago, retired Navy Reserve Captain Bill Dempsey called to ask if we’d be interested in an article on the latest tensions between the two countries regarding Falkland Islands sovereignty. He was going to visit the islands and Argentina to get the real pulse of what’s going on there, 28 years after the two countries went to war over the south Atlantic archipelago. What he found appears in this issue, and we bet few of our readers realize just how heated the situation is. Britain routinely patrols the Argentine coast, and a squadron of new Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft is on constant alert. Meanwhile, Argentina is bolstering defense spending that had dwindled after the first war. The major point of contention this time is rights to an estimated 60 billion barrels of oil beneath the region’s sea floor, where Britain has already started drilling. Stay tuned.
This month also features our annual look at homeland security. We revisit some familiar topics from past years and examine what progress has been made toward securing our ports and borders. In the October 2008 Proceedings , then-Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen described the small vessel threat as a “needle-in-a-haystack challenge” that represented a major gap in homeland security. What has been done to address this problem? Very little, says retired Coast Guard Captain Jim Howe. Although the Small Vessel Security Strategy (SVSS) of 2008 created a “framework to enhance our maritime security posture and increase our level of awareness” according to Admiral Allen, Captain Howe points out that the document didn’t answer the big questions: where would the resources come from to do the missions and who would pay for them? The result is that more than two years after the release of the SVSS, we still don’t have firm control over what enters our ports and waterways.
In “The Day Before,” Walter Slocombe and Daniel Gerstein discuss a possible consequence of terrorists entering the country through a poorly guarded port: a biological attack in a major U.S. city. Many agree with them, believing such an event is inevitable. Their article features scenarios and images that may disturb you, but the authors also spell out what measures must be taken in advance of a biological attack. You may be surprised to discover that nine years after the anthrax attacks of 2001, we remain woefully underprepared to respond.
For the third straight year we take a look at our Southwestern border. While this has been an ongoing story, 2010 has seen new developments that even more directly affect the United States, from bullets fired in Juárez, Mexico, hitting El Paso’s City Hall to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s tough (and controversial) new immigration law. Retired Marine Corps Colonel John McKay warns that it is only a matter of time until transnational terrorists take advantage of the porous border with our southern neighbor. He calls for the United States to partner with Mexico in any future hemispheric security strategy and provides sound guidance for the next steps.
Finally, regular Proceedings contributors Scott Truver and retired Navy Captain George Galdorisi team with colleague Antonio Siordia to analyze what the Navy of the mid-21st century might look like. Using the options presented in a Center for Naval Analyses study, our team selects the most likely one and details how it all might work to ensure the U.S. Navy never reaches a “tipping point” where it would no longer be “globally influential.” For all the crystal-ball gazers out there, here’s something just for you.
Paul Merzlak, Editor-in-Chief