Lady Thatcher and the Cold War
Trevor Salmon and William Macnair
Dux femina facti -- Virgil, Aeneid
It is possible that Lady Thatcher will be remembered as much for her stand on the Cold War as for the economic policies of her three administrations or her personal achievements as the politician who held the office of British prime minister for longer than anyone in one and one-half centuries. There was nothing about Mrs. Thatcher as the newly elected leader of the opposition, however, that could have given anybody a glimpse of that future reputation. Closer examination of her record in foreign and defence policy, moreover, presents a more complex and interesting picture than the conventional portrait of the "Iron Lady."
Mrs. Thatcher is a chemist by education, a lawyer by training, and a politician by instinct. She had no experience or knowledge of foreign affairs when elected leader of the Conservative Party in 1975. Her platform and appeal was in economic and domestic issues, such as trade union reform, and her experience in government was as a junior minister in the Ministry of Pensions and in the cabinet with responsibility for education. In his biography, Hugo Young reports that in foreign affairs "her ignorance . . . was startling."1. However, Mrs. Thatcher was practical in mastering a brief, and her instincts and self-confidence overcame the handicap of lack of knowledge. In Britain, the prime minister, as head of government, takes a prominent role in foreign affairs. As leader of the opposition she had to confront Prime Ministers Harold Wilson and James Callaghan, both experienced in foreign questions____________________