Books: Still the Quiet Volcano Erupts; Statecraft. by Margaret Thatcher (HarperCollins Pounds 25). Reviewed by Simon Evans

The Birmingham Post (England), April 13, 2002 | Go to article overview

Books: Still the Quiet Volcano Erupts; Statecraft. by Margaret Thatcher (HarperCollins Pounds 25). Reviewed by Simon Evans


Byline: Simon Evans

So the end of Lady Thatcher's public life came, not with a bang, but with a whimper. It was a minor stroke that finally silenced her, something three consecutive Conservative leaders had abjectly failed to do. But, like a dormant volcano, we can expect the odd eruption - such as this, her third book - from this most indomitable of political leaders.

She certainly has much to say, as you would expect, about the post September 11 world, mainly because the events of the past seven months have, she says, vindicated her Realpolitik view of foreign affairs.

Although much of the book had been completed before the Twin Towers collapsed, it is clear Lady Thatcher's opinions on the post-Cold War world needed little revision. Indeed, she believes the terrorist attacks on America were made possible by the drift of Western attitudes away from a concern with national security towards a more amorphous concern with 'human rights'.

Essentially, Lady Thatcher argues, America was caught off its guard and is belatedly coming to realise the fallacy of the Clinton years: 'We hoped that within the global village there were only to be found good neighbours. Few of us were tactless enough to mention that what makes good neighbours is often good fences.'

The threat of Islamic terrorism necessitates, Lady Thatcher asserts, the need for Governments to broaden their field of vision away from purely domestic issues towards world affairs. There also needs to be, she says, rather menacingly, a 'somewhat different balance between individual liberties and the safety of the public at home'. Lady Thatcher's arguments, whether you agree with them or not, are often cogent and backed up by her considerable experience of world affairs, albeit in a different age.

What she has to say about her erstwhile rivals and allies often makes for enlightening reading. She has little time for President Gorbachev, believing that he achieved more by doing nothing - when the Eastern bloc dominoes started to fall - than by his often ill-advised reforms. She credits her old friend Ronald Reagan with 'winning' the Cold War, although it could be argued that the internal contradictions of communism would have brought it down anyway.

She also mounts a rather unconvincing defence of her old pal General Pinochet, arguing that he was an invaluable ally during the Falklands War and that his regime 'turned Chile into the free and prosperous country we see today'. In other words it doesn't matter if you torture and kill political opponents as long as you safeguard the free market.

One issue on which her book has been overtaken by events is the Middle East. She has little to say on this issue other than to rehearse well-worn arguments for why the United States should do nothing, especially when it comes to reigning in Israeli aggression. …

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