A plea to Argentina

When a few Argentine military officers decided to invade the Falkland Islands six weeks ago, they did not consult fully with their uniformed colleagues let alone the people of Argentina. Will they now be responsive to what appears to be a growing popular resentment and despair over the war? If General Galtieri wishes to spare the needless sacrifice of more Argentine and British lives, he will heed the appeal of the British commander on the Falklands to lay down arms and abide by the call of the United Nations to withdraw Argentine troops from the islands.

To do so is not to take a dishonorable, cowardly course. It requires far more courage and statesmanship to admit to an impossible situation and to be willing to avoid slaughter in the face of impending military defeat. Persisting with a posture of false bravado, on the other hand, can only further discredit Argentina in the eyes of the world.

The British do not seek to humiliate Argentina. Indeed further fighting would be all the more tragic since it is not over the issue of sovereignty -- but merely over Argentina's armed grab for it. On the substantive question, most of the international community has been prepared to recognize the political realities of the situation that dictate eventual transfer of control of the islands to Argentina. But there is little doubt that a down-to-the-last-man battle will postpone and complicate future negotiations. The more Britain itself sacrifices in the war, the less generous diplomatically it may be and the more justified some leaders will feel in urging that Britain hang on to the Falklands.

For Argentina, the choice is simple. It can make a bad situation worse. Or it can accept a dignified withdrawal in accordance with the UN resolution, thereby saving precious life and keeping the door open for a negotiated settlement. The world ardently hopes it will choose the latter.

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