Friday, August 20, 2004

In celebration of Thatcherite Moments:

I came across a copy of this speech about two years ago by accident. It is from a John Findley Green Foundation Lecture ("New threats for old") by Baroness Margaret Thatcher at Westminister College, Fulton, Missouri, circa 1996. I was floored by how succinctly Baroness Thatcher perceived the present and gathering dangers that the West is facing.

….The long twilight struggle of the Cold War ended five years ago with complete victory for the West and for the subject peoples of the communist empire — and I very much include the Russian people in that description. It ended amid high hopes of a New World Order. But those hopes have been grievously disappointed. Somalia, Bosnia, and the rise of Islamic militancy all point to instability and conflict rather than co-operation and harmony.

The international bodies, in which our hopes were reposed anew after 1989 and 1991, have given us neither prosperity nor security. There is a pervasive anxiety about the drift of events. It remains to be seen whether this generation will respond to these threats with the imagination and courage of Sir Winston, President Truman and the wise men of those years.

Baroness Thatcher on new threats:

When Soviet power broke down, so did the control it exercised, however fitfully and irresponsibly, over rogue states like Syria, Iraq and Gadaffi's Libya. They have in effect been released to commit whatever mischief they wish without bothering to check with their arms supplier and bank manager. Note that Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait took place after the USSR was gravely weakened and had ceased to be Iraq's protector.

The Soviet collapse has also aggravated the single most awesome threat of modern times: the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These weapons — and the ability to develop and deliver them — are today acquired by middle-income countries with modest populations such as Iraq, Iran, Libya, and Syria, — acquired sometimes from other powers like China and North Korea, but most ominously from former Soviet arsenals, or unemployed scientists, or from organised criminal rings, all via a growing international black market.

According to Stephen J. Hadley, formerly President Bush's assistant secretary for international security policy: "By the end of the decade, we could see over 20 countries with ballistic missiles, 9 with nuclear weapons, 10 with biological weapons, and up to 30 with chemical weapons."

According to other official U.S. sources, all of northeast Asia, southeast Asia, much of the Pacific and most of Russia could soon be threatened by the latest North Korean missiles. Once they are available in the Middle East and North Africa, all the capitals of Europe will be within target range; and on present trends a direct threat to American shores is likely to mature early in the next century.

Add weapons of mass destruction to rogue states, and you have a highly toxic compound. As the CIA has pointed out: "Of the nations that have or are acquiring weapons of mass destruction, many are led by megalomaniacs and strongmen of proven inhumanity or by weak, unstable or illegitimate governments." In some instances, the potential capabilities at the command of these unpredictable figures is either equal to — or even more destructive than — the Soviet threat to the West in the 1960s. It is that serious.

Indeed, it is even more serious than that. We in the West may have to deal with a number of possible adversaries, each with different characteristics. In some cases their mentalities differ from ours even more than did those of our old Cold War enemy. So the potential for misunderstanding is great and we must therefore be very clear in our own minds about our strategic intentions, and just as clear in signalling these to potential aggressors.

And that is only the gravest threat. There are others.

Within the Islamic world the Soviet collapse undermined the legitimacy of radical secular regimes and gave an impetus to the rise of radical Islam. Radical Islamist movements now constitute a major revolutionary threat not only to the Saddams and Assads but also to conservative Arab regimes, who are allies of the West. Indeed they challenge the very idea of a Western economic presence. Hence, the random acts of violence designed to drive American companies and tourists out of the Islamic world.

In short, the world remains a very dangerous place, indeed one menaced by more unstable and complex threats than a decade ago. But because the risk of total nuclear annihilation has been removed, we in the West have lapsed into an alarming complacency about the risks that remain. We have run down our defences and relaxed our guard. And to comfort ourselves that we were doing the right thing, we have increasingly placed our trust in international institutions to safeguard our future. But international bodies have not generally performed well. Indeed, we have learned that they cannot perform well unless we refrain from utopian aims, give them practical tasks, and provide them with the means and backing to carry them out.

Baroness Thatcher, in conclusion:

By speaking as and when he did, Churchill guarded against a repetition of the withdrawal of America from Europe which, after 1919, allowed the instability to emerge that plunged the whole world — including America — into a second war.
Like my uniquely distinguished predecessor, I too may be accused of alarmism in pointing to new dangers to which present institutions — and attitudes — are proving unequal. But, also like him, I have every confidence in the resources and the values of the Western civilisation we are defending.

In particular, I believe (to use Churchill's words) that: "If all British moral and material forces and convictions are joined with your own in fraternal association, the highroads of the future will be clear, not only for us but for all, not only for our time, but for a century to come."

That at least has not changed in fifty years.

Indeed. Read the whole text.

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