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June 27, 2012

Now It Can Be Told: Ronald Reagan Was Prepared To Give The UK An Amphibious Assault Ship During The Falklands War

That's the story of then Secretary of the Navy (and current Romney naval adviser) John Lehman.

Had the UK lost one of it's two carriers, Reagan was prepared to give the UK the use of the USS Iwo Jima, an amphibious assault ship that could handle the Harrier jets the UK flew.

“We agreed that [Weinberger] would tell the President that we planned to handle all these requests routinely without going outside existing Navy channels,” Lehman said in a speech provided to the U.S. Naval Institute he made in Portsmouth, U.K. “We would ‘leave the State Department, except for [Secretary of State Al] Haig, out of it.’”

Reagan approved the request without hesitation and his instructions to Weinberger had been simple, “Give Maggie everything she needs to get on with it,” Lehman said in the speech.

Ah for the days of the Special Relationship.

One reason the State Department was to be cut out from such a transfer is that Haig was basically pushing for the UK to give in gracefully to the Argentinians.

John O'Sullivan writes about the internal deliberations of the Reagan team as seen through recently released NSC meeting minutes.

1. Reagan stuck to a distinction between sovereignty over the Falklands (on which Washington was neutral) and armed aggression to settle the question (on which Washington sided with Britain);

2. Within that distinction he allowed his Cabinet secretaries considerable leeway to pursue their own interpretations of U.S. policy;

3. Defense Secretary Cap Weinberger and CIA Deputy Director Bobby Inman used that leeway to push military and intelligence aid to Britain, and Secretary of State Haig used it to push Britain toward diplomatic concessions that amounted, in his own account to the NSC, to “camouflaged transfer of sovereignty.”

The US' "neutrality" during the war always seemed odd and was really de facto support for Argentina. While it was some what understandable in terms of hemispheric relations, it's nice to know based on Lehman's telling of it, that if push had come to shove we'd have been on the right side of history.

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posted by DrewM. at 07:19 PM

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