Argentina and the Falklands/Malvinas, 1982

Mass mobilization, or national identity mobilization is dependent on shared identifications, and these are based in common experiences that people in a nation has gone through.
In this paper, identity structures developed along two basic Argentinean experiences, the loss of the national project ("Argentina potencia") and the loss of citizens ("disappeared") due to military repression along the dirty war, will be compared with national identity mobilization along the 1982 Falklands War.Similarity of previous themes, issues and metaphors appear in the identity constructed along the Argentinean Falklands Islands short 'recovery'.

Argentina and the Falklands: national identity mobilization as theoretical inquiry

Phenomena of social identity processes are even more complex to be studied in the making, not in the outcomes. These can be very well shocking or surprising: how --we ask-- is it possible for a mass of several million people to experience an overwhelming feeling of unity of purpose at the same time? How can they imagine that, their differences aside, they perceive and decide as a unitary political strategies actor, having a single purpose, and feeling a single emotion?
Alexander Haig's view from the helicopter taking him into the Plaza de Mayo, of the masses chanting 'Argentina, Argentina' in answer to Galtieri's proclamation that: "Let the world know that here we have a strong will, if the British want to come, we will fight", in April '82, must have forced several questions in his mind, far away from whatever was intended. The public convocation, purposely designed as a local show of political strategies resolve and unity, prompted in Haig's mind a scene similar to the ones previously seen in Italy-Germany along WWII and of later Egypt and Iran masses, a massive combination of a fascist leader and his blind followers, (Cardoso, et al, 1983:154) Insider and outsider's view are opposite, because in the second case, there is no identification with the mass will.
How can this kind of mobilization happen? Physical mobilization of any national identity is a very powerful tool for image purposes, but crowds are only the external aspect of crucial socio-psychological phenomena.
Bridging the gap between individual and group psychology, some authors now accept identification mechanisms as the ones that provides a way to go from 'a mixture of aggregated states of individual members of the system, to a global characteristic of the system', as in Bloom (1990:25).  
Identification theory's main propositions are:
1. Identification, as the mechanism of internalizing the images, attitudes, mores and behavior of significant others is a psychobiological imperative, based in the human infant's need to survive, but also much at work in adults as in infants in a permanent way.
2. A satisfactory synthesis of identifications, or identity stability, is crucial for a sense of psychological security and well-being. Psychological security and a sense of well-being require at least identity stability. Individuals may also seek to protect and enhance identifications already made that are satisfactory for their self-esteem needs.
Identity enhancement leads to a greater sense of well being --by the contrary-- any confusion or diffusion of identity causes anxiety and the risk of collapse. The last barrier to individual or social disintegration is the preservation of a shared sense of 'who we are', and lately, 'what we stand for'.
As life circumstances change, individuals may make new strategies and appropriate identifications. Social identity is as important as individual identity, because as the individual enters more fully into society, identifications are made with more diffuse symbolic entities than the simple identifications with mother or father or blood family. These are G. H. Mead's 'generalized others', E. Erikson's 'ideologies' and Habermas' 'identity-securing interpretive systems'.
National identity for Vertzberger (1990:266), represents a modal personality, a characteristic socio-psychological structure within a given society, particularly among its elites. It has both direct and indirect implications for information processing at individual and group levels, inside the culture. One of connected phenomena is mass mobilization, which is possible when the individuals in the mass share the same identification. This means that the people have gone en masse through the actual psychological process of making that larger identification with the nation.
Bloom, (1990:52) and Mack (1983) say that human beings feel it essential to identify themselves with a particular group (my tribe, my country) within which membership gives a sense of value and meaning, and having a complement in the added dynamics of having external groups regarded with prejudice and intense hostility.
This feeling of identity with a group, tribe or nation means also that all people sharing the identity know that they have gone through the same formative experiences that shaped their nation as they know it: integration or civil war, development or chaos, degree of backwardness or industrialization have an influence and are influenced by all the participants in such shared identity. They have gone through those times together, and remember them. This is at the root of what Brading (1991) calls a "consensual guiding fiction of national destiny".
For Bloom, (1990: 53), National Identity describes that condition in which a mass of people have made the same identification with national symbols, so they may act as one psychological group when there is a threat to, or the possibility of enhancement of, these internalized symbols of national identity.
In the degree that a group of individuals shares a common identification, there is the potential for the group to act together to enhance and protect that shared identity. This mass may act as a unit in situations that affect the shared identity, to make new strategies identifications or to protect identifications already made, that are significant for the majority of them.
When the news of the military recovery of the Malvinas were given to the public, masses gathered in front of the Government House to give support to the decision, but also to confirm that a new strategies identity was offered, and people were very anxious to accept it.
They could never too soon identify with a more powerful image than the loser's self-image that they had had before. "At last, something is done and well done, and we Argentines are doing it", was the shared feeling. If this feeling is translated into theoretical words, it confirms Blooms' propositions:
The mass national public will always react favorably to policies that protect or enhance national identity (1990:80).
And consequently: The mass national public will always react against policies that can be perceived to be a threat to national identity.
The final conclusion is that the national identity dynamic can be triggered by international images manipulated by the government or by other actors. The main point is to offer elements appropriate for positive self-esteem, for the public to identify with, those have to be based in a theory of human symbolic needs both culturally determined and historically situated.
That there was inevitable manipulation by the military junta in Argentina is a fact; as in Levy (1990) who sustains a theory of domestic propensity to scapegoating overriding more realistic strategic and foreign policy considerations. Nevertheless, what is intended in this paper is to look at public psychology dynamics as peoples reacted to the unexpected news of the invasion, in April 2 1982.
Political strategies ideologies and ideas of nationalism cannot by themselves evoke identification; they do not work in a political strategies vacuum. They must provide adequate models of behavior, appropriate attitudes and feelings, appropriate ideologies, appropriate identity-securing interpretive systems, badly needed to deal with real, experienced situations. Popular support --identification with such an ideology-- comes only if it interprets and provides an appropriate attitude for an experienced reality. This experience may, of course, be politically manipulated- but a symbol or an ideology without a relevant experience is meaningless and impotent in terms of evoking identification.  
Argentina and the Falklands:

Argentina and the Falklands

Argentina and the FalklandsTwo 'narcissistic wounds' to Argentinean national self-image

What are the experiences shared by the Argentineans that provided this structural model for shared attitudes and behavior?
I will contrast two shared public historic experiences that have inescapable consequences for the development of this national group's self-image:
a) The 'reversal of development' in Argentina. (Waissman, 1989)  
Historic overview:
Society in general and European emigrant nations in particular regarded Argentina as a nation set apart from the rest of Latin America by its historic role in liberating other countries during the XIX century wars of independence, by its natural wealth, cultural advancement and by what they saw as a racially superior population of primary European descent. No country in Latin America, says Brading, vaulted so high as Argentina (1991). For a few decades, it counted as a developed economy, its citizens enjoyed a European standard of living and intellectuals aspired to lead the Southern Hemisphere.
This aspiration to greatness has been present as a real possibility or as an illusion since the generation of 1837, with Echeverria, Alberdi and Sarmiento. Along the beginning of the XX Century, and before WWII, Argentina was positioned in the fourth place of nations of the world, as per the evaluation in 1937 of Argentina's GNP of $510, compared with Austria, $370; France, $540; Germany $ 685; Italy $260; and Japan $185. (Maizels,1963). At the end of WWII it seemed economically strong, fourth in the world in gold reserves in 1945, but a precipitous decline followed: by 1964 it was in the twenty- eighth rank. Its per capita exports were sixth in the world in 1913, thirtieth in 1964, and in regular decline ever after. In present times, Argentina has become a strange lesson in economic strategies mismanagement strategiesand but also in political strategies breakdown.
This chronic political strategies instability is ascribed, according to Calverts (1989:210), to influences that fostered a double set of loyalties: nationalism and attachment to Europe. Among those influences, geographical isolation developed a sense of fatalism and isolation; Argentina as a victim of forces beyond her control has sources in her remoteness; where clinging to Europe provided a false identity and prevented development of a locally rooted one. Argentina as Europe's most remote outpost (Calvert,:210) generated this self-image of a outlying citadel under attack from hostile forces. Close relations with Britain in the XIX century and the adoption of a political strategies system modeled upon that of the U.S., positioned Argentina more on the side of the great powers of the world; so the belief that its importance was rooted in its alliance and identification with the West. But history can change the most rooted perceptions.
Argentina’s economic strategies frustration after WWII and international exclusion due to its neutrality behavior along the war strategies produced a change in the way in which ruling elites in Argentina perceived their country's image and their own roles in such an image. With the breaking down of the prominent "Europeanized identity", the surge of nationalist ideology is not an isolated phenomena; it comes along with basic political strategies elements. So, the cycle of military coups d’état that began in September 1930 and alternated civilian and military governments until 1983, with the fall of the military junta that decided the invasion and military recovery of the Falklands.
A review of all coups' proclamation speeches, done by Verbistsky (1986) provides us with an analysis of the images that motivated military rebels to take power. Most of the images are about recovering internal order; enhancing national traditions linked with God, Fatherland and Home; but mostly they are about Argentina's insertion in the Western world, getting a proper place in it according with its historical, strategically important role, and the attainment of promised and lost greatness, honor and prestige.
In those documents, there is a forced need to find the culprits of the country's disorder, chaos and backwardness in various kinds of foreign influences that caused politicians' corruption of several origins, mainly the Soviet atheism. Military elites are and were since 1930 very sensitive to the country's steep decline that greatly threatened their self-concept: as individuals, soldiers and nationalists. The threat was enhanced by other aspects of their self-image, such as the view of their role in Argentine life and ideology. Their failure as promoters of Argentina's status as a continental power in the 40s, was transformed into the dreamed role of defending the nation and also Christian civilization against communism, expressed through the 1976 coup proclamation speech.  

Argentina and the FalklandsFrustration of the "Argentina Potencia" project:

Present in all those descriptions, a public nostalgia for the failure of a dream, the dream of 'Argentina potencia', Argentina as a "great power" is the subjacent trend. Every one of these coups was announced as a way to recover past greatness and a powerful national destiny including Latin American leadership. This aspiration surfaces immediately when the opportunity arrives, such as on Galtieri's second visit to the U.S, as head of the Army, in 1981. His treatment by Caspar Weinberg (secretary of defense), Richard Allen (White House national security adviser) and Thomas Enders (assistant secretary of state for Latin American affairs), made him say: "On the domestic level, Argentina must analyze what it means in the context of the recent past, our present and our future. At the foreign level, Argentina has a leading role to play in the world and must not be satisfied with a secondary role" (Sunday Times, London, Insight Team,1982:63)
Even after the Falklands war, Admiral Stefani, in (1982:131) is claiming indirectly for his country the role of leader of Latin America:
"The subcontinent has fully understood the courage displayed by Argentina in cutting off the chains of oppression, whether these be political strategies or economical. Latin America has also become aware of its potential which lies dormant and which will enable it to become fully developed as an area. It has also understood the role which the great powers want it to play, that of dependence and providing support whenever it be needed. From now on, after the example set by Argentina, Latin America will wish to remain in the West, but not playing a secondary role and being underestimated by the powers of the West.".
He is echoing an old aspiration that Hernandez Arregui (1960) expresses in his wish to see Argentina as
"the foundational stone of the Western values' defense, conceived as the first line against post-war strategies re-colonization processes that are to be resisted by virtue of national historic consciousness".
The unexpected failure of the Argentinean national project is dealt with by Waissman (1987) who used the term "reversal of development in Argentina" as a way to focus this special case of failure in establishing an industrial democracy. Brading (1991) can say that this country is a living remainder that the escalator of modernization can always go in reverse.
But economic strategies decline is linked also with international isolation. Escude (1986) describes this situation of Argentina as 'international pariah' and sees it as the inevitable result of what he calls the price --for a country without real power-- of issuing a challenge to the superpowers. The results of an economic strategies boycott and further political strategies destabilization from Washington are seen as ongoing punishment for war strategies time neutrality. The consequences were a preference for Canada and a postponement of Argentina in developmental support in the post WWII years.
Whatever the preferred explanation from outside observers, the internal view depends on which approach is taken: if the classic, liberal one that sees Argentina "too rich and too white to be Third Word", as in Milenky, (1978:4) thus propitiating more natural links with the West than with the Soviet bloc or Cuba. In this view, it is better to adopt the fiscal and monetary tools of advanced industrial nations, aligning foreign affairs decision-making into the Western bloc of nations. Or the statist-nationalist approach to foreign policy that identifies Argentina as a non-aligned, predominantly Latin American country or Third World advanced developing country, which carries a program for development that aims at state-directed development and more independence from foreign influences. Autonomous industrial development would be the key to national sovereignty and independence. Oscillation between this two visions of the country's identity and standard in the world order has caused political strategies turmoil and internal upheaval that generates both damage to self-image and international reputation.
The split in national self-image stemming from both opposite approaches is also producing a sense of lost status and national crisis. Argentine foreign policy, then, says Milenky, is made with an acute sense of external and internal vulnerability in mind. Neither approach nor its supporters have met the challenges of the external, hemispheric situation until the second civilian presidency, inaugurated in 1989, after the demise of the military junta. A Peronist president, Mr. Menem has corrected the erratic previous course with a definite West alignment and inclusion into US initiatives for the continent, in 1991.
It was precisely the first military junta in 1976 that sought to reposition Argentina into the Western sphere of interests, rescuing it from Third World interests, and paradoxically, it was the same military government that in 1982 provoked war strategies with one of its revered allies, as the U.K. The paradox is possibly explained by its failure to get accepted and acknowledged as the self-declared reserve of Occidental culture and civilization' (Verbitsky, 1984: 51-57). Some seeds of this permanent tension between being accepted and rejected into the Western world, are apparent in the country's recent history.  

Argentina and the FalklandsTransformation in self-image:

Between the 50s and 70s, the country suffered the common US policy of benign neglect towards Latin America, as any other country in the region. But this 'benign neglect' was transformed into widely spread, unanimous international criticism in the Carter years, when the first news about the policy of disappearances got public. As more and more reports of atrocities against unarmed, defenseless civilians got public, the international community began reacting against internal political strategies repression and pressing the military regime for reforms.
Coincidental with the Carter administration taking office, in 1977 a new strategies attitude towards human rights violations was enforced, primarily against Argentina. In this aspect the consequent Humphrey-Kennedy Amendment was in place, banning weapons sales on the bases of human rights violations, together with also more supervision and criticism from State Department levels, which were also influencing processes of needed credit approvals. This provoked a rancorous answer in the Argentine military, who could perceive an unjust attack on their previously approved and U.S. trained behavior. "We are left alone, we that are Occident reserves, are attacked by people who should be defending our cause; we are the combat front against communism that is left alone." Verbitsky (1984:30).
Even after the Falklands, the experience of being Britain's enemy was part of the "sense of having being excluded from the family of Western countries, whose interests we were defending, where we feel that we belong", (Garcia Martinez,1982). Perhaps is this feeling of isolation and the urge for get included again at the decision-making level of powerful, developed countries, what has prompted a line of thinking in foreign policy decision-making that Escude (1984) calls " a power policy without real power" that has overstretched Argentina's real capabilities over a number of international confrontations that is above those it can realistically sustain.
This is the main psychological point in military elite's perception of the declination of Argentina's power: that --together with the loss of political strategies or military influence-- the connection with the West superpowers was being transformed into one of subordination and rejection, through the instrument that human rights protection and defense began to provide.
How is this perception of the decline of Argentina's power and standing in the world perceived by domestic publics? This is a very wide question that probably deserves deeper research. For Staub, (1989:55) the problem is composed, further into the 70s, by a feeling of deprivation, combined with the belief that one's country or group deserves more, and has been unjustly postponed by external or internal enemies, or deprived of material possessions, territory, prestige or honor. There is an overwhelming sense of loss.
The notion of loss, says Northrup (1990:67) is central to the hypothesized relationship between identity and conflict, in both interpersonal and intergroup conflict. The loss is perceived as affecting all members of the collective. Losses can be physical, as in the case of property or territory; symbolic or psychological as in the case of loss of a certain culture such as in migration, or the loss of security provided by a certain group of beliefs as people in the ex Soviet Union are now going through with the collapse of their political strategies system.
A way to manage losses uses denial mechanisms. British appropriation of the Islands in 1833 had been a loss of territory, domestically denied today in everyday practices such as the printing of documents that offer to the citizenship a geographical map of the Argentinean Republic, complete with the Falklands and Antarctica as legitimate parts of national territory. Any contradiction between national soil that nobody can see, live on or transit by is covered up by the accepted assumption that "the Malvinas were, are and shall be Argentineans" widely accepted after primary school indoctrination on, as in (Escude, 1987)  

Argentina and the FalklandsProtracted mourning and social conflict:

In social mourning theory (Volkan, 1989), a protracted process is described as one where there has been some loss for which the way to mourn in a proper, healing way for domestic groups within a nation is impossible. The loss can be of a shared positive image ("Argentina potencia") or a real, concrete loss such as that of whole groups of people being disappeared by a repressive machinery of destruction of political strategies opposition.
If the connection with the community is internalized, as in the case of shared national identity, the loss is perceived as affecting all members of it, and demanding shared answers. Azar (1986:29) suggests that when international conflicts are 'protracted', it is because they have at their source some particular loss of recognition of identity, and of effective participation in the process that determine conditions of security and identity. Especially when these deprived aspects are not acknowledged and are not consciously incorporated into the cultural self-concept, by some shared working through, there is some risk when the possibility of discrepancies between ideals and concrete behavior appears.
A good predictor of behavior is the analysis of how and which group defense mechanisms are in place to deal with this discrepancy between idealized self-image and damaged or amputated self-image. If in that culture, aggression is an acceptable and necessary part of the culture, and then when combined with some enemy whose image can accept negative attributions about the damaged self-image, there is potential for violence.
Wedge (1986) adds grandiose or paranoid solutions, to totalist strategies in conflict, as Kaplowsky (1990:61) does. Totalism is also generated by exaggerated positive, grandiose, and even megalomaniac self-images, that serve to compensate for negative self-images which pertain to undeniable or public humiliation, victimization, passivity and weakness, and which give rise to damaged self-esteem.
For Rozitchner (1985:80) the need to choose a 'grandiose Malvinas recovery project' is then connected to the need to cover up a similar 'grandiose' domestic destruction of social structures and lives along the 'dirty war', and the need to mask generalized public rejection. Repressed negative perceptions and feelings included in the foreign policy decision making process are part of compensation defense mechanisms, where “group-thinking” fails to accept the present situation of deteriorating public support and to come to terms with it, as the basis for realistic future planning.
Inside Argentina, Ras (1982) describes "the progressive disintegration of Argentinean optimism, originating a real national neurosis observable in certain social phenomena, such as compulsive attention to 1978 World Soccer championship, where the triumph against the best teams of other countries gave back the Argentinean public the certitude that they can be the best of the world. Such glory, achieved in a gladiator circus, in the form that consumption society prescribes, gives an ersatz consolation for national soul wounds, lacking more significant triumphs in other meaningful areas of international competition".
Winning this '78 World Soccer championship provided to the public, --overwhelmingly emotionally invested in the game-- the hope that good times were coming back; that they were not wrong considering themselves as winners. Not more the losers, soccer symbolic triumphs could guarantee -albeit in an imaginary way -a future more promissory on national pride than the scarce present.
This anxiety for compensation comes, according to Ras, in a long term perspective, from the concrete, measurable reversal of development vis a vis self-image. There is even still a connection with the process of coming to terms with an even more old loss: such of the Ibero-American nations that have to come to grips with the demise of the Spanish empire, 'the empire where never sets the sun" and Anglo-Saxon countries' inevitable supremacy after the demise. In such context, the challenge towards Great Britain was surprisingly shared by all social levels, including the military junta's political strategies opponents, because it had these roots in this search for self-affirmation that everybody in Argentina and in Latin America can identify with.
Public's perception of loss of national greatness and growing backwardness dealt with defense mechanisms that prevail over working through the loss of that valued self-image, as a prerequisite for building up a new strategies one . Some indicators of maniac affirmations in the sense that, it does not matter what could be an individual citizen's accountability in solving the problems of the country, ('God is Argentinean'), are there. The assumption that, in the last minute the country will be saved from itself is a very dangerous one, but prevailed along the Falklands War, and it obscured the perception of British's resolve towards military confrontation.  
b) Argentinean self-image after the 'dirty war'
The second experience that will be studied here is the collective going through all the emotional hazards and painful experiences of the politico-military internal repression organized by the military junta's against guerrilla movements, so called 'dirty war', along 1976-80.
Between 1976-79, after the military coup was executed with public support in the name of 'restoring a shattered economy and internal political strategies order of the country', immediately an internal undeclared war strategies was waged. Scholarly research covers different aspects of this process of military repression against civilians, as in Gillespie,(1987) and Pion Berlin,(1989). Staub,(1989) and Kelman,(1989) who describe the Argentinean 1976-83 repression as a case of genocide and in their studies are using examples of the 'dirty war' to make their point about the psychological structure, that make possible group violence.
What are the traces that such experiences have left in national self-image? Important images for shared identity are the ones held about the self and its attributes; images of the others around us and their respective images of us. Phillipson and Laing proved in 1961 that interpersonal perception relies on an endless mirroring of subjective images of the other, my image of the other as I see him seeing me, my own image in the other person's eyes and so on, in an endless spiral of reflections.
In this way, it is possible to focus in two different set of images: the internal vision of the group, how do we believe we are (as we see ourselves), and national images 'as the others see us,' and we see us reflected in international images of us. Both images can differ sharply and this opposition of positive and negative self-images is a source of acute discomfort, since it is difficult to suppress one of the images and sustain the other, when so many messages are coming upholding an unwanted negative image of own group. In the political strategies realm, some censorship of international press can be intended, as the Junta did, but it is impossible in modern times the absolute control of information flows coming trough the media. Then, some defense mechanisms have to be in place to balance the cognitive dissonance between 'what we believe we are' and what others are saying we are.
This work of balancing self-esteem has different aspects as it reflects elite's and public's perception, that may necessarily differ. Popular images of what Argentineans thought themselves to be were not challenged until the horrible news from military concentration camps began trickling out. What was described by the military as 'dirty war strategies against subversion' slowly began to be recognized as an organized genocidal persecution of civilians (Frontalini & Caiatti)
First, with the local news under an hermetic censorship, the only source of information were international institutions as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, whose April 1980 report was forbidden to publish in Argentina, and Amnesty international, whose reports never got a line in the local papers. Word of mouth information going through informal networks was easily denied for being too terrible to be accepted and internalized.   

Argentina and the FalklandsInformation processing and self-esteem:

This image of Argentines torturing and killing other Argentines, the lack of any due justice procedure; innocent pregnant women being tortured and children being sold as war strategies booty was too much to be accepted and included into the image of 'what we are.' The usual juggling with defensive mechanisms was operating, as described in Femenia (1987) to be able to accommodate, repress, twist or simply deny the unpleasant parts of the self-image being forced upon people.
It was at this level of unconscious complicity that the military junta had an unexpected ally in the silent public; both were --for different reasons-- together in the denial process of silencing undesirable aspects of self-images. Majority proportions of the military and the population together supported the official farce that "Argentines are right and human", as a popular sticker, proclaimed.
But this precarious balancing act was wearing down at the beginning of 1980, as more and more information was available. Rage, sadness, fear and impotence were prevalent in people who could not understand that they had paid that terrible price for a process of development that was nowhere to be seen. Failure in improvement of economic strategies conditions, -one of the rationales for the need of containing opposition through military repression- left people in a state of impotent anger and confusion. It was difficult to accept responsibility because the enemy was “us”; there was no external enemy to blame. An 'occupation army that spoke our own language', but even more: 'they were the people we grew up with' -friends, relatives, neighbors, trusted teachers- all were suspicious to be either in the guerrilla side or in the hidden apparatus of repression.
There is a anxiety-producing; identity-shattering process here that is almost impossible to include into the construction of normal self-image and a normal dose of self-respect. If this self-esteem is sought, even precariously, the shadow of the disappeared, lost and never recovered, looms over everyone. It becomes part of an unconscious feeling of hidden losses and denied responsibility that, being never acknowledged and mourned, is therefore never put behind to rest.  
State terror and identity:
How can common citizens make sense of this? how can groups integrate into their self-image these homicidal aspects? More personal questions such as: who are you, as part of a people that can commit such crimes and go on with everyday life, with business as usual, happily making money without skipping a beat to make room for the 'disappeared' mother's anguish?
From the detached point of view of sociological research, this kind of social behavior can be characterized as genocide. But from an insiders' subjective point of view, this questions are even more basic: they imply issues about the meaning of their lives, of the psychological framing of every day life; and touch the processes of identity construction inside the determined political strategies context in which they have to live.
The added problem that military elite's and public's constructs and perceptions not only differ, but are opposite in their purposes, and that in that opposition lies personal security, compounds to the sense of loss of trust in a previously shared identity. This forces people to try to construct new strategies identifications that can help balance and restore a sense of security and of lost self-esteem. If the perception that self-esteem can be regained by challenging a country stronger than one's own gains some credibility, this can be understood in the context of this search for a new strategies and confirmed sense of self-esteem and importance.  

Argentina and the FalklandsAggressive decision-making and protracted mourning:

Argentina's loss of self-esteem because terrible 'crimes of obedience' (Kelman, 1990) were perpetrated, was asking for and needing some process of mourning of previous self-images in order to come to terms with both present situations: the loss of the 'greatness image' and acceptance of the reality of state terror.
In this lack of working through, a particular situation arises that is better described by Volkan's (1988:172) ideas about the influence of pathological mourning processes in group's identity. He describes the need for recognition that victims have, in order to have some social standing in their status as groups or peoples deprived or attacked by others:
"A victimized group needs to have its losses recognized by its opponents. When those who victimize show awareness of their victims' grief, that grief is in effect validated. Such validation raises the self-esteem of the victims and may be interpreted as a message to complete mourning".
Is important to link the recognition of the damage suffered with the enhancing of victims' self-image .The persistent denial of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo's plight by the military junta, that was carrying on the repression while maintaining a public discourse of denial --assuring that peace and order were prevalent-- and that missing people had fled voluntarily the country was one of the problems. The second was the silencing of the press and the stigma attached to the relatives. Both factors together blocked a normal mourning process, either by individual families or for society in general, as in (Femenia, 1991).  
Argentina's international position:
In the international relations arena, the Reagan administration, following Carter's rejection, brought changes in political strategies conditions and gave the military junta a fresh support, (Crawley 1984:440). The junta was offered a slice of international action by providing intelligence and counter-insurgency experts in El Salvador and Guatemala, helping the US involvement there to be presented as a shared effort.
Galtieri was given, in exchange for his help to the U.S., the lifting of the arms embargo in force since Carter's administration.
Argentina's image appears in this way no more as the human rights violations monster, not because its image has improved, but because there are in the world worst examples of human rights violations around. Even so, being able to attract U.S.'s attention gives again a sense of importance to military elites, because they feel now justified, and back in their role of co-defenders of anti-communism together with the U.S.
In this role, they begin to defiantly assume the disappearances and the repression as a 'necessary measure to restore order'. Even in the role of police force against its own people, they have a strong sense of purpose. The rationale of being 'defending Western values', aligned with one of the superpowers fighting against the other, is the inside perception of local elites engaged in a game of balance of power between U.S. and the Soviet Union.
The military had again a sense of purpose and some self-esteem, as invited to share the U.S.'s project. That also gave them of course, internal power for their own purposes that could lead to the odd conclusion of being defending Occidental civilization by using mass murder methods against civilians of their own country.  

Argentina and the FalklandsThe military junta's loss of support and brinkmanship decision-making:

But the rationale of being part of the defense of Occident is a very powerful toxic, indeed. Combined with the effective destruction of guerrilla movements, it would give military elites a very strong sense of being aligned with the just cause, and in control of the rest of the population, that then become 'dissidents' and 'subversives' only for voicing opposite political strategies opinions. They felt justified of whatever they had to do, because, in this view, it was needed to put Argentina internationally again in the right position of Western alignment.
The Junta political strategies behavior assumed in 1981, a defiant attitude of repression justification due to balance of power commitments with the U.S. had the consequence of angering the public; and political strategies parties and groups begun to press the Junta for information on the disappeared. The internal balance of power has shifted and suddenly the military became accountable for what they had done. Public manifestations were more and more frequent, and public demands for improvement of economic strategies conditions overflowed policy control.
Impunity times were over around 1981, concludes Verbitsky (1989:131) with the growing and open discontent of the masses, and the deterioration of terror as a public control mechanism, So, together military elites and people were left to discover the deep abysm in which they were. But they were not ready for the task, and chose to escape forward.
If in 1980, the recovered place of prestige in the relationship with the US led the junta to behave in a more defiant way about the disappeared, but neither acknowledging their victim's sufferings (it was rational to kill them; families innocently kidnapped were collateral damage) nor accepting their own role as the ones who decided and carried on the illegal repression, the problem is out there. What they were able to acknowledge, at most, was that they were 'following directives and orders' (Juicio a las Juntas, 1985).
This military attitude carried over long after the Falklands defeat and postponed the possibility of public discussion over the issue: only watching a 1983 TV documentary with real victims telling their histories, could the public begin to grasp the extension of human suffering along the repression. It caused a tremendous shock in the public: Something like a dam of repressed grief was broken.
The previous forced containment of the grief into the closed borders of private spaces, with parents afraid to assume that they had a disappeared child; families with relatives knowingly dead, but with no corpse to be buried; groups deprived of the social ritual of wake and burial, (which includes different proceedings at hospital, church, cemetery and later rituals for public grief) made it impossible to acknowledge that the country was in a protracted , arrested, grieving process.
It took the demise of the junta after the Falklands defeat and the change of political strategies regime to obtain public spaces where the media could tell and discuss people's experiences along the dirty war. Nevertheless, fear was always there, and these developments were done always in the context of still powerful military forces that demand public recognition of their "triumphs in the battle defeating communist subversion."
Volkan (191988:172), states that, "It is psychologically important for the leaders of old enemy nations to acknowledge the injuries sustained by the other nation or group, once war strategies has ended and time has begun to heal the wounds of conflict". This is more easily preached than done. German people were unable after the end of WWII to fully mourn their own losses. Mourning would also mean taking responsibility for the war strategies crimes of Hitler and the Nazi party, if this is not done into will be postponed and turned into some kind of acting out through outside aggression.
If groups accept that victims do exist, it means to open the door to the possibility that either one's group can be victimized, or that one's group can be the victimizer, and both possibilities are frightening self-esteem threats.
Groups suddenly and permanently dispossessed of land and identity, as in Volkan, (1988:175) are prone to have radical political strategies attitudes that are largely motivated by the inability to mourn the loss that accompanies a radical change in status. Even the mourning can be explicitly denied for political strategies reasons; one of the strategies of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo was the refusal to acknowledge the possibility of their children being dead: they played the demand for having them back alive well into the beginning of the civilian democratic government of 1983.  
Public/private self-identity:
The historical events of a group's history are intertwined with the group's self as well as with the sense of self of its individual members through those psychologically shared processes. The individual who perceives his group as victimized and whose own sense of self is threatened by that perception may be drawn to retaliatory activities in the same way a nation that perceives itself to be victimized may go to war, as in the cases studied by Volkan (1988:177)
A psychological notion that describes two basic human anxieties (Bion,1959) and a permanent need for balance between the two, such as the fear of threat and the fear of loss, helps to understand why the individual or group that confronts a mourning process due to lost valuable aspects of the social self, such as self-esteem, pride and international prestige, can be tempted to balance towards confronting fear of threat. On the one hand, confronting the fear of loss, puts our own group in the victim's position, of being the loser; on the other hand, another option, much more acceptable in society, prescribes some active redressing of the threat.
All strategic thinking is based in the premise that there are threats that have to be confronted; external enemies, more or less evil, that need to be confronted; but there is a tremendous lack of society images, metaphors and shared histories about how to come about grief. This is usually connected with lack of prestige, helplessness, and other negative descriptions that do not add to a group's status in an anarchical world.
Then, there is also a wealth of available, customary attribution process at hand to legalize and formalize the finding in the outside world of all causes of the problems suffered by any group with its self-image, that demand some corrective measures. This translates the working through, from a psychic process into a physical one that involves dealing with the outer world, with other groups, nations and concrete targets and including enormous amounts of physical goods such as armies, weapons systems that are concrete and provide an immediate sense of comfort. All this is measurable, tangible and helps people concretize in some way what is happening, thus obscuring the fact that there has been a substitution of a psychic process by a different one.
In a material society like ours, it is a kind of meaning that is easier to understand, ready made for everyone and has more immediate advantages than a more obscure socio-psychological process. It does not make good front page news, either. Reconciliation processes are not part of power politics considerations in the Western world.
Attribution also helps offering a situational rationale to explain causes of behavior, which is a gratifying way of thinking about our own group's mistakes or weaknesses: they are not product of an intrinsic attitude, but the result of dispositions under which the group understandably is unable to do different. It exonerates the self of any misgiving, and allows room to assume that, if it were not for those wicked dispositional circumstances, the self would have done better.
So, attribution is a very appropriate saving-face maneuver, always at hand. Provides an easy, quick, but illusory patching up of the self. But it hides the fact that any real self-knowledge has to come to grips also with the unwanted, unacceptable aspects of the self, and grieve for them: I mean accept them as an intrinsic part of the self, and not to project them or excuse them using attribution. The self has to accept that its ideal image is only a construct to aspire to, but always illusory; sometimes believed by the group that owns it; never possible to be imposed over what other nations choose to perceive about own group. When this discrepancy between internal process of self-evaluation and external adscriptive status is perceived, it presents the group with a status inconsistency that has somehow to be dealt with or else risk taking more losses in the international competition.  

Argentina and the FalklandsHidden loss of a valued national self-image and brinkmanship decisions

A nation whose status is not recognized by the international system, Staub (1989:55) shows a will to produce changes in the stratification system and 'challenges' a superior status nation, thus producing circumstances which will make possible international violence. Frustration with the low probability of achieving their goals by peaceful means, says Lebow (1985:212) produced the Argentinean’s loss of faith in the prospect of continuing using diplomacy.
If this happens, and peace talks go nowhere, it is because one nation is 'only taking for the sake of talking', with the purpose of gaining more time and without serious commitment. But if a nation thinks that they can do that and get away with it, is because the unbalance of power allows its leaders to think so.
In the case of Great Britain it had taken, along 1981, the attitude of ignoring formal Argentinean letters reclaiming sovereignty on the Falklands, and had stopped bothering itself with the problem. Argentina was such a small priority, perhaps the last, in Britain's list of strategic concerns.
This had immediate results in Argentinean domestic front, because the reduction of prestige that comes from being part of a nation that shows it has not enough power to threat another so as to be considered at least a strategic risk by it. Lebow is making this point in his analysis of the Egyptian (1973) and Argentinean (1982) leaders' loss of faith in negotiation and the reduction in domestic political strategies clout, added to the increased political strategies cost of inaction, that forced them into brinkmanship decisions. (1985:216). For him, the principal incentive for a resort to force is probably a state's own perceived vulnerabilities, which lead its policy makers to challenge a stronger adversary even when external opportunity to act and a vulnerable commitment are absent.  
Diminished self-image and aggression:
From the point of view of internal perceptions, Argentinean elites had to confront a definite situation in which they were ignored and postponed by a First world country with which relations had been consistently important: the connection with the U. Kingdom was the base for the important development of Argentina at the last of XIX century and the first 40 years of the XX.
Even when previous intents of colonizing Argentina were frustrated by the local population, Britain had pursued a policy of investment and connection highly regarded by the locals. In opportunities when this relationship could be realistically perceived as negative --in times of Peron, after some British decisions highly negative for the country-- elites chose to support a wide appreciation of the mutual benefits that even being a British 'honorary colony' would provide for Argentina. This relationship offered a model of identification upon British examples; a sense of general connection with Europe; and helped to underline the difference with other Latin American countries, not so 'Europeanized'.
It is possible to suppose then, that a country so admired has the power to give a blow to the follower's self-esteem by simply ignoring it and withholding the kind of international recognition that fearing or respecting an adversary nation's might brings. Upon this situation, Muller Rojas (1983:71) can say that is probable that a complex of this kind of feelings can prompt a decision to challenge a more powerful adversary, as to make a show of its own resolve to attack, and only to teach the other country that neglecting a lesser country's capacity of threat has indeed a price.
To repair a self-image lacking in efficiency, Moneta (1984:47) is saying that there is present a propensity for illusory thinking: "Malvinas is representing for the military actor a non accomplished objective, that implies a high level of frustration and humiliation, so imposing a painful reorganization of perceptions, values and capabilities. That is the reason behind the refusal to acknowledge that odds were against the military recovery of the islands."
What constitutes here the brinkmanship aspect is that this attitude is only planned to the point of the challenge of the adversary commitments, with no further judgments about future trends in the military balance. They think that, being them so desperate, the counterpart has to yield and accept the move. Somehow it is expected, as in Lebow (1985:212) that their foreign ventures would succeed, without provoking war strategies 'by the grace of God'.
The Argentinean military junta's chiefs deluded themselves with the illusion that their country would emerge victorious at little cost and that the posturing of challenge was enough to gain back international recognition and national pride, the kind of pride that comes with the actions of an underdog nation challenging a more powerful one. In this imaginary vision, the myth of David and Goliath is superimposed over North-South foreign policy considerations.  

Argentina and the FalklandsThe recovery of the Malvinas as scapegoating:

Some extra considerations about the scapegoating hypothesis have to be also included here.
Scapegoating is broadly defined to "include military and diplomatic actions undertaken for the purposes of enhancing one's internal political strategies support. The mechanisms through which scapegoating actually works to increase internal support include both social-psychological responses to nationalistic symbols and rational choice responses to perceived interests," (Levy, 1990)
In the case of Argentina, the faltering legitimacy of the military regime was demanding some effort to gain support from different groups in society towards strengthening a position already weakened by economic strategies problems, and crumbling under pressures from international and domestic human rights organizations. Having suppressed democratic citizenship and its social contract between state and civil society, (O'Donnell 1979:291) authoritarian regimes have a greater temptation to resort to national identity mobilization through the use of patriotic symbols. The issue of Malvinas was one of them.
Brinkmanship decision-making could be regarded as the foreign policy aspect of domestic scapegoating processes.  
National self-images in times of recovery of things lost.
Public and elite's reactions to the appropriation of the Malvinas Islands are themed over and over again, between April-June 1982, along a script that can be described as loss and recovery. The country's psychological unity depends in the recovery of territories and projects lost; adequate self-esteem is predicated in the reintegration of aspects missing from long ago, that now are back, and so on and on.
This 'magic recovery theme' is played over and over again by both elites and different sectors of the public. Along the 74 days of the Falklands War, the Argentine military Junta issued periodical communiqués, as a means of communication with the public. Some of the remarks of these communiqués dwell with the issue of loss and recovery, and the importance of this prescribed wholeness for national unity. Such verbal propositions, by Galtieri or the Military Junta are as follows:
(April 2) "We see clearly how important is the decision made and to defend it, rises the whole of the Argentine nation, whole materially and spiritually. We know that our people backs us, because he knows his rights and obligations, and that has been aspiring, since long time ago, to the reintegration of the Malvinas, Georgias and Sandwich del Sur into national territory." (M.J.)
(April 2) "This decision has been thought of in the name of all and every one of the Argentineans, united without distinctions of sector or private interests, and thinking of all governments, people and institutions that fought along 150 years for this recovery."(M.J.)
(April 11) "Lets ask God that all Argentina can answer as a whole to the clarion that is calling her from the bottom of history and answer the challenge: our heart is free from the shadows of the past! Here is the nation, united as never was before!"(Galtieri)
(April 14) "Lets ask (God) that this fraternity we are now living in could be the dorsal spine of the reconciliation sought." (Galtieri)
Here are some verbatim quotes from all sectors of society, collected along the conflict.
"If this recovery is supported by the immense majority of the Argentinean public, it is because we are not only recovering island territory; we are also recovering identity. The bad image that successive unwanted governments, including this, had given us abroad, and to ourselves, conspires against the self-assurance we would like to have. "
"I would like to know if the British understand what it means 150 years of legitimate claim for a country in search of itself, that finally finds itself not because a government's decision, but for reasons of will, vocation and love. This is done not for populist meetings in any plaza of the world, but as an answer for everybody's feelings."
"The South Atlantic conflict has given us a real success; the discovery of our national being and national identity and cohesion through the recovery. We are no more fragmented into 26 millions of wills".
"We now know that there is, under passions and debates of different tendencies, a rock solid ground of national unity, from which every one of us will want to participate with fervor".
"It has been a long time since we experienced this feeling of national unity that will allow us to recover our identity".
"The fight for our territorial integrity is also the fight for our moral integrity, and this fight goes on, after the Malvinas defeat. We must bury the myths of the past and all vestiges of indolence and carelessness".
"In this different body politic that we have now, it was given to us a purification of behaviors and leadership styles. Now, we can assume political strategies postures that are going to transform the nation, and to resolve old problems. Old wounds will be repaired".
"We must feel proud of having fought against the powerful countries of the world, in inferiority of means and confronting the whole world. Our individual interests are submerged now into our new strategies whole country. We are all re-united in our search for a common mission of being Argentineans".
"Argentina proclaims that it is the world champion of occidental values".
The unity-through-recovery mystique was not only verbalized, but embodied in the popular imaginery of the period, described in images, songs and symbols: the Malvinas were the long lost 'little sisters', a piece of family together again.
"The day has arrived in which we can embrace that unknown missing Argentinean, called Malvinas. We are very conscious about recovering these pieces of our motherland. We are very proud to be in the age of the rescue of our pieces, our islands that we feel as family. We rejoice in the reunion of missing parts of our identity".
(All this over a poignant drawing of a lady running to embrace a little child that is stretching her arms to the woman (mother?). (Femenia, 1996)
The images proposed to the public and widely accepted and used, observes Rozitchner (1985:75) are constructed using a special logic: as wide linkage between individual, social and historical elements with a psychological, subjective base that is at odds with concrete material data from external reality. The power of wishful thinking, an emotional need to reach an imaginary wholeness has built up a complex web of values and rationalizations that became viable in real brinkmanship behavior.
In this case, territorial integrity symbolized family, group and national integrity. It became the signifier of all past losses, and alluded cryptically to 'missing relatives', 'old wounds healed' and 'reconciliation'. In the popular shared imaginery of the immediate past, it is inevitable to make the connection with a delayed grief process in which the metaphorical lost pieces of identity get a name, a face, and a personal history: that of the ten or twenty thousand disappeared people and of their histories and places in society that were also long lost and missing.
The risk of defeat in the brinkmanship decision of forced recovery of the Falkland Islands was a proper price to pay for such a miraculous, magic and also imaginary recovery of things long lost and never properly mourned.
Real defeat brought a shock of necessary national depression, impervious to any symbolic illusory play, at least for the immediate time around June 14, 1982, notwithstanding all the Junta's semantic efforts to transform defeat into an acceptable step along the negotiation process.
Finally people knew strategies that the Malvinas were lost again, and this confronted domestic publics with a repetition of the previously repressed need to mourn and work through the loss of a piece of territory/self missing. Demonstrations around the Plaza de Mayo were focused in the claim: "Do not surrender, what are we now going to tell the children?" The obvious answer, a more realistic geographical/political strategies self-image, and not an imaginary one, was one of the possibilities.  

Nora Femenia, (1992) Peace Fellow, United States Institute of Peace
Direct correspondence to:

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