Margaret Thatcher, and How Victory Is Achieved

By Copley, Gregory R. | Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy, April 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

Margaret Thatcher, and How Victory Is Achieved


Copley, Gregory R., Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy


A tribute.

MARGARET Thatcher, who led the British Government as Prime Minister from May 4, 1979, until November 28, 1990, died of a stroke at the age of 87 on April 8, 2013. Under her title and honors at the time of death, The Rt. Honourable The Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven, LG, OM, FRS, was given a full military funeral at St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

It was a fitting, and well-planned, farewell to someone who could easily be described as the greatest post-World War II British Prime Minister, given that Winston Churchill's wartime leadership was not matched by his brief post-War return to office. Much has already been written of her accomplishments as a Conservative Party cabinet minister and Prime Minister, and more detail of them will appear in new books being published during 2013.

What has yet to be fully grasped is what Baroness Thatcher - "Mrs T" to those who worked with her - demonstrated as the critical elements for strategic success, for Victory. "Glorious Victory", as Churchill described it. And both Churchill and Thatcher shared some of the core elements required for that rare and vital form of success.

It is significant that UK Labour Party leader Tony Blair - Prime Minister 1997-2007 - attempted to emulate Mrs Thatcher, despite the ideological differences between their two parties. But what Blair sought to do was to emulate Mrs T's style; he had no comprehension of the substance which drove her and guided her. She was correctly known as a "conviction politician", and her convictions were for her country, and the destiny of Britain. Blair's convictions - which angered even his deputy and successor, the doctrinaire Gordon Brown - were only for the wellbeing and vanity of Tony Blair. These things, ultimately, tell when history is considered in later generations.

Mrs T will be remembered in history for achievements of a national scale; Tony Blair's will be for the relative decline of Britain caused by his Nero-like fiddling of the books while the nation wallowed.

But a comparison with Tony Blair merely distracts from Baroness Thatcher's lessons. Like Churchill, Margaret Thatcher's ability to galvanize Britain was given by the alcoholism of Argentine military ruler Lt.-Gen. Leopoldo Galtieri, who - as Argentine leaders are wont to do when hard-pressed by domestic politics - tried to seize the Falkland Islands from Britain. This singular 1982 event mobilized Mrs Thatcher, who had, until then, given scant regard to the key rôle of the Armed Forces in the strategic future of Britain.

The war changed that. It also gave her a galvanizing purpose and identity at home and on the international stage. As with Churchill, after a career largely spent in the political wilderness, the right circumstance came along to provide the need for leadership; to provide a turning point for the nation. Tony Blair attempted a "Thatcher moment" by committing the UK to supporting the US in Gulf War II (2004), but it was not the same, and for reasons obvious to most strategists.

Mrs Thatcher also transformed an entrenched UK labor movement, freeing Britain from a downward spiral in national productivity. But it was a great victory at a great cost; to achieve it, she sacrificed Britain's industrial strength, and banked on the nation surging - as it did - in the "invisibles" sectors of the economy and world finance. …

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