Magazine article Insight on the News

The Iron Lady Braces West

Magazine article Insight on the News

The Iron Lady Braces West

Article excerpt

Like Churchill, the former British prime minister shares her formula for the survival of the West.

There are bonds of blood thicker than the separating waters of the Atlantic, and it was to those ties of culture and language that former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher appealed in a visionary speech loaded with dire warnings, calling for a Western alliance rededicated to security, trade and shared values. Such an alliance is vital in today's dangerous world and imperative to survival in the future, she told a packed house at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., where 50 years earlier Winston Churchill foretold the coming Cold War in his historic -- though at the time largely unappreciated -- "Iron Curtain" speech.

Lady Thatcher's remarks were tightly focused on a formula for survival of the West in what she perceives as desperate times. A self-described "alarmist" message -- and therefore akin to that of the legendary speaker whose prophecy she came to honor -- Lady Thatcher's mid-March warning ironically (or predictably) received scant media attention.

In its contrarian gutsiness, it was not the sort of speech the American establishment was eager to hear. Lady Thatcher tacitly acknowledged the contrast of her worldview with current Clinton administration foreign policy -- not to mention her astonishment at the phobia of America's cultural elite toward the great traditions of Western civilization.

President Clinton, whose administration has been characterized by critics as having a single-minded obsession with frantic and generally fruitless global policing ventures, declined an invitation to join Lady Thatcher at Fulton as Harry Truman had joined Winston Churchill. One could almost hear the sound of the slap at Clinton in her reference to "a fair amount of hypocrisy" in U.S. intervention allegedly to restore Haitian democracy -- "that had never existed." Recalling Carl von Clausewitz, she suggested that it would have been more honest to bill that intervention as "the continuation of American immigration control by other means."

Dismissing the United Nations as an "institutional failure," Lady Thatcher said the best insurance against threats by rogue states today and in the future would be "the West's powers of retaliation," meaning "the West must install effective ballistic-missile defense which would protect us and our armed forces, reduce or even nullify the rogue state's arsenal and enable us to retaliate."

Treaties and inspections with no muscle behind them will not suffice, she said. Ideally, Lady Thatcher indicated, the West would decisively eliminate threats of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons as they emerge in the rogue states. But, "given the intellectual climate in the West today, it is probably unrealistic to expect military intervention to remove the source of the threat -- as for example against North Korea -- except when the offender invites us to do so by invading a small neighboring country."

On the high road, Lady Thatcher continued to stress the theme recurrent in her speeches in America -- that of shared culture and achievement. It is, she said, "the West -- above all, perhaps, the English-speaking peoples of the West -- that has formed the system of liberal democracy which is politically dominant and which we all know offers the best hope of global peace and prosperity. In order to uphold these things, the Atlantic political relationship must be constantly nurtured and renewed."

The roots of the special relationship go back, of course, to the colonization of North America by British subjects. While it reasonably could be assumed that the American Revolution might be viewed as something of a breach in that relationship, Lady Thatcher always has had high praise for the results of the war for independence and for the American patriots who provoked it. Her regard for American ideals of "liberty, free enterprise, private property and democracy," as she mentioned in delivering the first Clare Boothe Luce Lecture at the Heritage Foundation in Washington in 1991, might be seen as a reflection of her own revolutionary zeal. …

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