Standing Tall... 70s Style
Articles in the various British papers today detail a heretofore "secret" deployment of a British combined submarine/surface task force to the Falklands in 1977. This was during a confrontation five years before the Falklands War in which 50 Argentine scientists had landed on one of the British-held islands in the area, which the Callaghan government thought might be a prelude to an invasion. Check out these "rules of engagement" issued to the task force commanders:
"Commanding officers and aircraft captains are to respond to any aggression with tactful firmness and are to exhibit a determination to meet any escalation, though not to exceed that already carried out by the enemy.
"All use of force must be governed by the principle of using only the minimum force necessary to achieve the aim." Such force must be used only until it was evident "that the immediate aim is being achieved, and must in no way be retaliatory".
The CO of HMS Dreadnought, the submarine in the task force, received the following additional guidance:
"If you are attacked with [anti-submarine] weapons by [Argentine] forces, you are to surface or withdraw at high speed submerged, whichever will be of least risk to life." [Emphasis mine.]
My first thoughts on reading this were, "Whiskey Tango...?" Correct me if I'm wrong, but I was always taught that a nuclear submarine surfacing in the face of fire was the equivalent of a tank approaching a hostile force with her turret reversed; that is, an internationally-recognized sign of surrender or desire to withdraw (the act of surfacing essentially renders a nuclear sub hors de combat).
The thing that's funniest to me about these articles is that they seem to be trying to spin it as "the brave Labour government standing up to foreign aggression, which Lady Thatcher didn't have the foresight to do". As I remember, there was no Argentine plan to invade in 1977 (the military junta that ordered the invasion didn't take over until later) and the Argentines in 1982 didn't tip their hand very far in advance of the actual invasion. In any event, it's clear to me from the ROE under which the Brits were operating in 1977 was so restrictive that it was essentially a giant bluff; one that worked out, but a bluff nonetheless. No wonder our adversaries during that time thought the West was nothing but a paper tiger...