Almost 30 years after losing a war over the Falkland Islands, Argentina is once again warning Britain that it still wants back what it calls the Malvinas.
Argentina is now angry over a British company's oil exploration off the windswept islands in what it considers its own South Atlantic backyard.
Although nominally democratic, the unpopular Kirchner government in Buenos Aires has claimed that the sparsely settled islands are a symbolic matter of Spanish-speaking pride throughout Latin America -- and is theirs because the islands once belonged to Spain in the 19th century.
In response to all this, the Obama administration announced that it would remain neutral. Aside from the fact that the Falkland Islanders wish to remain British, and our prior support for the Thatcher British government during the 1982 war, there are lots of reasons why our neutrality here is a bad idea.
Britain is a longstanding NATO member. It has bled side-by-side America in two world wars, Korea and two conflicts in Iraq, as well as presently in Afghanistan. And the United Kingdom still shares close linguistic, cultural and historical affinities with the United States.
We do not support all the British do; nor do they always support us. But our centuries-old friendship should earn Britain special support in its disputes, even in the relatively unimportant Falklands mess. If Britain is not considered an ally, then America no longer has real allies.
And perhaps that is the point, after all. The Obama administration does not wish to see the world so divided between allies and the rest.
The president rather abruptly cancelled missile defense with the allied Czech Republic and Poland in order to woo the antagonistic Russians.
Dictatorial Syria and the anti-Western Palestinians gain as much American outreach as does pro-American and democratic Israel.
Obama seems more eager to mollify Venezuela's Hugo Chavez than to strengthen our alliance with a democratic and pro-American Uribe government in neighboring Colombia.
The list goes on. Meanwhile, Obama has symbolically tried to downsize the profile of the U.S. by downplaying the idea of an "exceptional" America, bowing to foreign leaders, and apologizing for supposed past American sins.
All that raises the question of what exactly are advantages these days of being a friend of the U.S., when neutrals and enemies garner as much of our sympathies?
We have seen such naive attitudes before in the West.
After the horrific carnage of the First World War, utopians wrongly swore that rival European alliances had alone caused the war, and so created the League of Nations. Enlightened world citizens would do better legislating peace than prior nationalist politicians who crudely had once sought security through balancing power and forging alliances. Hitler and the far more lethal Second World War followed instead.
After 1945, a much wiser United States talked grandly about the new United Nations, but, in reality, its own alliances kept much of Europe and Asia free from an aggressive Soviet Union.
Today there are many Falkland-like hot spots throughout the world. Yet the United States, not the International Court at The Hague, keeps North Korea from attacking our ally South Korea. The power of America, not the international community, persuades China not to squeeze our friend Taiwan. Europe is safe because of an American-led NATO -- not due to any concern from the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
In other words, America and its alliances keep friends safe. And the world is more peaceful and prosperous than at any time in history because dozens of nations count on our support and share our values.
So until human nature changes, there are always going to be some nations that are more aggressive than others, seeking to take what they can by force. Groups of like-minded others will resist them both for principle and their own self-protection. And the majority of "neutral" countries will keep quiet, waiting to see who proves the stronger -- and then opportunistically joining the eventual winner.
An idealistic America may now decide that it does not want or need special allies like Britain. But that diffidence will eventually mean we have more enemies than ever -- as the watching world makes the necessary adjustments and joins those who unabashedly promise them support and protection.