Friday, December 07, 2007

December 2007 Book Club Selection: Statecraft, Margaret Thathcer

Former British Prime Minister offers a crash course in foreign policy

It takes a special breed of woman to earn the nickname "the Iron Lady".

As the occupant of 10 Downing Street from 1979-90, Thatcher earned herself a reputation for being tough and ruthless. She also proved herself to be a capable cold warrior, and eventually came to be known as one of the "big three" neoconservative leaders of the 1980s (the other two being US president Ronald Reagan and Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney).

Thatcher served as British Prime Minister at a time when the world was undergoing incredible changes. As such, one should be unsurprised that she would have a thing or two to say about foreign policy.

Like her political career, Statecraft was written at a time of global change -- in this case, the preliminary manuscript was finished shortly after the 9/11 attacks that precipitated the war on terror.

In Statecraft, Thatcher examines each part of the world, and outlines a step-by-step policy framework to deal with each. In outlining these policies, Thatcher takes realism as her watchword. She continually refers back to her experiences as a Cold Warrior (both prior to and after the collapse of the Soviet Union) for examples that vindicate her recommendations.

Most notably, Thatcher is largely dismissive of what she often regards as empty idealism. She weighs the state of the world while considering competing interests, and often espouses a view that is both Americo- and Anglo-centric in nature.

In particular, she spares no suspicion regarding the European Union, which she at one point describes as a French attempt to eclipse the United States as the world's dominant power.

Statecraft offers a stark reminder that Britain's "iron lady" is built of very stern stuff.

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