The South Atlantic Crisis of 1982

Implications for Nuclear Crisis Management

by Lawrence Freedman

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The Falklands war began on April 2, 1982, when Argentina, which has had a long-standing claim to sovereignty, sent forces to occupy the Falkland Islands. Britain immediately sent a task force to the South Atlantic to recover the islands, and by the middle of June it had achieved this objective. This Note examines the course and management of the conflict and assesses its potential relevance to nuclear crises. It addresses the variety of specific nuclear features that have been attributed to the conflict and also considers a more general set of concerns related to escalation. This case study indicates that military power has a logic of its own and points out the limitations of military power as part of a crisis management strategy of controlled escalation and signaling.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation note series. The note was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1979 to 1993 that reported other outputs of sponsored research for general distribution.

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