A state of war now exists between our two countries

Falkland Islands

Falkland Islands (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Camping in the Forest of Dean during a chilly April in 1982 was not my idea of fun. Some people like to be at one with nature. I’m not one of them. I like my accommodation to have stars (the more the merrier), central heating and a bed. Preferably with some soft down pillows that you can just sink into.

When we arrived, there was a list of jobs waiting for us. The first thing to do was to put up the tent. It was massive. We were not. It was a struggle. Then we had to make a drying rack out of whatever we could find. If you know we’re going to need a drying rack, why not pack one.

Then one night, everything changed. The word went out. Something big was about to happen. We crowded into the only tent with a radio. The Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, made a live broadcast. Her tone was sombre. Her words were deadly serious. The Argentinians had invaded the Falkland Islands. Britain would put together a task force to retake them. “Where are the Falkland Islands?” someone asked. “Just off Scotland.” someone replied sagely. It felt like the most momentous event ever.

After the radio broadcast, some gurus came on and discussed what that meant. We then learned that the Falkland Islands were not just off Scotland. They were a very long way away indeed. Our task force had a very long journey ahead. It would be weeks before they arrived. America tried to broker a peaceful deal between the two countries in the intervening time, but to no avail.

War should always be a last resort, but there was a certain purity of purpose about the conflict that has sometimes been missing from later engagements. Argentina invaded because they though they owned the islands. We retook the islands because we disagreed. You could argue about who’s right and who’s wrong, but there is no doubt about why each country behaved the way it did.

Apart from the abortive diplomacy efforts by the Americans, there were only two parties involved. There was a definite trigger and the conflict came to a definitive end with nearly a thousand people dying in the process. The argument still rumbles on because both sides feel they are right. Funnily enough, a state of war was never officially declared.

A small garrison remains there to this day. The cost of this presence equates to over $30K per year per islander. If we spent as much for everyone in the UK, our defence budget would rocket by nearly $2 trillion!

I wonder if we had this clarity of purpose about the Iraq and the Afghanistan conflicts, would they have taken so long and cost so much? Would they have achieved more?

Would they have even started?

It’s not a draw! You all lose.

This image was selected as a picture of the we...

This image was selected as a picture of the week on the Malay Wikipedia for the 44th week, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wargames is one of my favourite films. It came in an era when every teenager who was lucky enough to own a home computer spent their spare time plugging away at their keyboards. I wrote loads of games on my trusty Spectrum, so a film about a teenager skilled in the art of hacking just hit the spot.

I would like to think that nearly causing world war 3 by hacking into the NORAD computer is a bit more difficult than suggested by the film, but I found the story entertaining all the same. Our hacking protagonist starts off challenging the computer on the other end of the phone line to Tic-Tac-Toe and ends up playing a game of global thermonuclear war.

In the film of course, everything works out OK because our hero, Matthew Broderick, proves to the machine that it is not possible to win the game. The computer goes through every strategy it can think of and the end result is the same, the world is left a smoking ruin with no victor to share the spoils.

I love playing games. When a friend of mine suggested that we play a game called Supremacy, I asked him what the game was about. It’s about global conflict and there are nukes. We gathered some friends and cracked open the box. The gate-fold map depicted a stylised map of the world, not dissimilar to the schematic shown in the huge command centre from the film. We started setting up the board. Everyone had tokens to indicate their armed forces and there were cute little plastic mushroom clouds to show which bits of the world that were too hot for comfort.

My friend explained the rules, which were fairly standard board game fodder. You could make money by playing the commodity markets. With the money, you could buy conventional forces, nukes or defence satellites (which shoot down nukes). It all made sense until he read out the final rule; “…and if 12 territories end up with a mushroom cloud, every player loses.”

We all looked up. “You mean it’s a draw?”

The player reading the rules insisted “No. It’s a game about trying to achieve global supremacy without leaving the world a smoking ruin.”

“But that’s the definition of a draw isn’t it? Everyone getting the same result.”

My friend was resolute. If the world ended up a radioactive dead zone, we forfeited the game.

Turn 1, the first player crashed the commodity markets. Turn 2, everyone bought nukes. At the start of turn 3, someone landed an army in South America, which resulted in the South American player launching a nuke. Then came the retaliatory strike during which, one nuke went astray bringing someone else into the fray. In the end, we ran out of plastic mushroom clouds and the man who owned the game stormed out with the huff.

We should definitely get rid of all nuclear weapons, especially if the people in charge are anything like us.