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Chapter Fourteen HAIG'S SHUTTLE: ROUND TWO American Military Assistance The initial contest in Washington between the Latinos and the Europeanists , over the basic American orientation to the conflict, was settled as a draw. In another arena it was settled decisively in Britain's favour. Immediately the dispatch of Britain's task force was announced, Caspar Weinberger, the US Secretary of Defence, decided that maximum practical support should be provided. Weinberger, a passionate anglophile, admired the decisiveness of the British response to what he felt was blatant aggression. He was, however, also concerned that most of the military advice he was receiving suggested that Britain could easily fail. It would have to fight a staggering distance from home and without the sort of air superiority that American forces would have deemed vital. A British defeat would be a disaster for American policy - not just in terms of the humiliation of an ally but also as a demonstration that aggression might prosper. Accordingly a British defeat must be prevented and that required American assistance. One of the major areas was intelligence support, especially signals intelligence (SIGINT) from US listening posts that was passed on to Britain's GCHQ. To some extent the traffic was automatic, but a more concentrated effort was made as the conflict developed and there was a drive, albeit limited in results, to provide satellite photography. As the Americans exercised with Argentine forces (especially with the Navy in 189 Compromises the UNITAS exercise) assessments of their operational effectiveness were requested, and received. The first major policy issue to arise was triggered by the British request for the use of Wideawake air base on Ascension Island. A decision was made relatively easy because Britain actually owned the Island and, under the leasing agreement, had reserved the right to use it in an emergency. The US had little choice but to permit use of the airfield. Denial would have caused a major crisis, as the British military position would then have been hopeless, while US officials were conscious of the many US facilities on other British territories where the US enjoyed a virtually free hand. After the Base Commander's reservations had been overcome through some transadantic telephone calls, the US began to provide aviation fuel, critical stores and spare parts, as well as weapons systems, including a variety of missiles additional and more modem air-to-air Sidewinders, anti-aircraft Stingers, radar-seeking Shrikes. By the end of the war the aid bill, excluding the Sidewinders and the fuel, was $60 million.1 The decision to support Britain was largely taken by Weinberger himself. Implementing it was straightforward. The intimacy of AngloAmerican defence relationships meant that there was a network of agreements and understandings readily available to provide the bureaucratic and financial guidelines. The President was informed, although whether the full implications for the policy being pursued by Haig were explained to him is less clear. The assistance was not discussed at the National Security Council and it appears that Haig, specifically, was not told.2 Walters has claimed that he did know, although he suggests that it was less than Argentina suspected. John Lehman, then US Secretary of the Navy, claims that no attempt was made to hide the extent of the support, but nor was any effort made 'to educate people on what was really going on'. He explains the ignorance by the ease with which support could flow through established channels - 'it was really just turning up the volume.'3 Eventually, as happens in Washington, the scale of the American support effort to Britain leaked. ABC News reported on 13 April the provision of satellite communication links, weather forecasts, intelligence and jet fuel. The next day the Washington Posi provided more 190 Haig's Shuttle: Round Two detail. This article was written by Carl Bernstein, whose Watergate fame added credibility to the revelations. They were immediately brought to the notice of the Argentine Junta. It seemed that, despite everything they had been promised on the issue of neutrality, the US Government had already decided to side with the United Kingdom. The Pentagon initially denied the story but then, three hours later, refused to comment on it. Haigwas furious, but he appears to have been satisfied that the story was inaccurate: My day in Washington, which I had hoped to devote to a fresh examination of the Falklands crisis and other acute problems, was spent instead in trying to convince an outraged and deeply nervous Argentina that...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781400861583
MARC Record
OCLC
889251506
Pages
512
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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