Argentina and Britain are at loggerheads again over the fraught issue of the Falkland Islands, and a weary world is collectively rolling its eyes.
"[The British] are militarising the South Atlantic once again," Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez told an audience of supporters and war veterans last night, promising to demand a UN investigation into Britain's recent decision to send a destroyer (and Prince William) to the Falkland Islands. She has called the move "a grave danger to international security".
Diplomatic rumbles between the countries over the 788 barren islands, which lie nearly 500km east of South America, have been frequent, ever since their brief – but bloody – war over the issue 30 years ago. But the temperature has been rising in recent months, and the UK has ruled out any talks with Argentina. Both sides have indulged in a great deal of old-fashioned, and seemingly senseless, posturing. What's really going on here?
Patriotic among the penguins
Britain has exercised sovereignty over the Falklands since 1833, and the 3,000-strong population is largely of British origin and vehemently patriotic. The islands became an embarrassment to the UK during the era of post-colonial withdrawal, and it might well have ceded sovereignty to the well-nigh useless rocks in the 1970s. But since Margaret Thatcher and General Galtieri of Argentina spent the lives of over 900 servicemen in 1982's 74-day war, the Falklands have become more important – symbolically and economically.
British prime minister David Cameron, a protégé of Thatcher, last month offered an uncompromising defence of Britain's stance on the Falklands in the House of Commons: "We support the Falkland Islanders' right to self-determination," he said. "What the Argentinians have been saying is far more like colonialism. These people want to remain British. The Argentinians want them to do something else."
More to the point, vast oil reserves lie in the sea around the Falklands, and that cold fact (not the islands' famed penguin breeding grounds) lies at the heart of both countries' ongoing interest in the region.
Further listening: The war was far from universally popular in Britain. Here is a YouTube collage of images from the 1982 conflict, backed by Elvis Costello's song "Shipbuilding", which became an anti-war anthem at the time.