Accession Number:



Bureaucratic Politics and the Falklands Campaign

Descriptive Note:

Research paper

Corporate Author:


Personal Author(s):

Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



The 1982 Falkland Islands war between Great Britain and Argentina provides a rich case study for the military theorist. A limited war in all but the violence with which it was pursued, the Falklands conflict marked the first combat use of a number of modern weapon systems. The main elements of classical military theory all came into play -- public passion, national will, chance, miscalculation, surprise, deception, fog, and friction. In defeating the Argentine occupation forces, British troops overcame significant disadvantages related to the remoteness of the conflict, the severity of the South Atlantic climate, and the effects of a British military drawdown worldwide. Tactically, four factors are widely recognized as crucial to the British victory training, leadership, courage, and the aid provided by Britains closest ally, the United States. Whether Britain could have triumphed without U.S. assistance is an intriguing question and beyond the scope of this paper, which instead focuses on how that assistance came to be. The development of U.S. policy towards the conflict provides an abundant source of materials for the student of bureaucratic politics. The struggle over what constituted the proper policy response was played out at the highest levels of the Reagan administration. The process was confined almost entirely to the executive branch, dominated at the time by a conservative view of Americas place in the world. One might have expected the entire administration to rally around an agreed course of action in support of broadly accepted policy goals. But Graham T. Allisons bureaucratic politics model says otherwise. President Reagans leadership style, the interplay of diverse personalities, conflicting interpretations of national interest, and divergent bureaucratic imperatives all combined to create a situation characterized by diffuse power, multiple action channels, and missed and mixed signals.

Subject Categories:

  • Government and Political Science
  • Humanities and History
  • Psychology
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

Distribution Statement: