May 1982, in case you forgot, was the month things heated up between Argentina and Great Britain over the disputed Falkland Islands. The shooting war had begun. Argentina had invaded the small islands in April of 1982 and renamed them The Malvinas. With considerable diplomatic wrangling afoot, the U.S. landed somewhere in the middle and on this segment of Face The Nation, Chairman of the House Latin-America Sub-committee Congressman Michael Barnes (D-Maryland) fielded questions from the panel of journalists over just how bad was this contretemps was going to get.
Congressman Michael Barnes: “We can’t underestimate, I think, the dangers that are inherent in this kind of just tragically crazy international activity. I think the Argentines did underestimate what was involved when they took this initial aggressive action. And now both sides are in a position where it’s very difficult for them to just get out of this situation. And if a major military action breaks out, and it could break out at any moment, it’s easy to see that escalating to the point where, say the British started to lose, they might feel that they had to attack Argentine positions on the mainland in order to offset the advantage that the Argentines have of having only three hundred miles distance there whereas the British have eight thousand miles or thirty-five hundred to Asuncion Islands. So it’s easy to see this escalating, I’m not suggesting any imminent possibility of anybody using nuclear weapons. But the Argentines do have an advanced nuclear weapons program.”
One of the interesting aspects of, not only this, but most Cold-War era disputes is the natural assumption the Nuclear Option will be employed by either one or both of the belligerent parties to settle a dispute that gets out of hand. Whether this was mainstream media's attempt at entertaining fear or the Cold War mentality had become so ingrained in our Press corps that even a somewhat benign dispute could erupt into nuclear war seems strange now.
In any event, Congressman Barnes' assessment is rather gloomy and it's fascinating to listen to in retrospect.
That thing called the Fear Card even when we don't get to play it.