« "Kerry is believed to be keen to dust off..." Guardian | Main | Planked Salmon »

08 April 2013


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Reagan also had a side to him that was willing to make unpopular decisions on matters where he had very strong convictions. He did not let his ego get in the way when the US Embassy and Marine Barracks were bombed in Lebanon. He concluded that the situation was too dangerous and was not worth risking more American lives. He pulled back rather than escalate the direct American military involvement.

He also believed that the threat of thermonuclear extinction was horrible and he moved to end Mutually Assured Destruction with his SDI. He was a majority of one in his entire cabinet, except for National Security Advisor Judge William Clark. He went ahead anyway and stuck to his guns all the way through Reykjavik in 1986 when he met Gorbachov. He connected with the American people in ways that even Bill Clinton envied. Col. Lang, you are absolutely right re. Reagan and also re. the differences between politics under the British parliamentary system versus the American Constitutional republic.

David Habakkuk

I really do think that the notion of some kind of functioning Soviet system, which suddenly collapsed under the impact of the challenge from Reagan and Thatcher, is over-simplified. To see the retreat and collapse of Soviet power as a triumphant vindication of the liberal international economic order of which Dean Acheson has to be seen as the principal architect has always seemed to be quite appropriate. But the subversive effects of the contrast between the success of that order, and the bankruptcy of the Soviet economic model, were operating long before either Thatcher or Reagan appeared on the scene, and would have brought the system down, if neither had been elected.

Back in 1986, as a very conventional British Cold War liberal, I accepted the conventional wisdom that a generational change in the Soviet leadership was unlikely to lead to fundamental changes in policy. Subsequently, however, I came across a 1985 study entitled ‘The Struggle for the Third World’ by the American Sovietologist Jerry Hough. What he showed was that researchers in Soviet institutes concerned with economic development were all too well aware that this was a struggle the U.S. had won. By that time the contrast between – for example – South and North Korea had conclusively shown that, contrary to what the Soviets had thought, integration into the global capitalist economy, rather than autarkic socialism, was the route to successful development.

More recently, in the 1996 study ‘The Soviet Century’ in which he summarised his life’s work, Moshe Lewin traced the long roots of the realisation of intelligent members of the Soviet elites – including, critically, elements in the KGB – that Stalinist economic model and Marxist-Leninist ideology had led them into a dead end.

At the time Gorbachev came to power, a number of writers – notably Stephen Cohen and Alexander Yanov – who had a less utopian view of the dissident movement than some, warned that the way out of this dead end could involve a coming together of anti-Western elements in the Soviet establishment and the dissident community in a kind of Orthodox fascism.

In the event, Gorbachev’s ‘glasnost’ and ‘perestroika’ ended up empowering the most radical elements among the disillusioned researchers at the institutes, as the former Chief Political Analyst at the U.S. Moscow Embassy, Thomas Graham, explained in an interview for the 2000 PBSA ‘Return of the Czar’ programme:

‘These were people who came out of a lot of the economic think tanks in Moscow, even during the Soviet period. They tended to be well educated. They were, by and large, members of the Soviet nomenklatura – the Soviet elite. Their leading members spoke good English. They knew how to operate with us. They knew how to talk to us. And they made a very good impression on us, in part, because they seemed to sense what at least the fundamentals of a market were. They seemed to understand the logic behind the types of strategies that we were proposing.’

(See http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/yeltsin/interviews/ )

In fact, the botched ‘transition’ to a market economy produced one of the worst peacetime economic collapses in economic history – and probably the largest empowerment of organised crime ever. How far this might have been avoided, had the ‘young reformers’ and the Harvard Fachidioten to whom they looked for advice not been allowed near the levers of power, is an unanswerable question. But that the aftermath of this last great utopian experiment of the twentieth century has not been something much closer to what Cohen and Yanov feared seems an uncovenanted mercy.


Thank you for bringing some perspective and realism to this hagiographic celebration of Thatcher & Reagan. Two propositions explain this exercise in political beatification. Most peoples, most of the time, thirst for heros. This is especially true in troubled times. Second, societies get the heroes they deserve. America today deserves David Petraeus as its 9/11 hero. Democrats deserve Barack Obama as their Saviour. Financial operators deserve Jamie Dimon as their champion. Etc.

Since we have lost our bearings as a society, we all deserve Prince Ronald & Lady Thatcher.


A further thought - let's not despair. It is possible to avoid mistakes of epic proportions when it comes to heroes. Ronald Reagan was offered the role of Rick in CASABLANCA before it went to Humphrey Bogart. Of course, we cannot always count on a miscast hero declining the undeserved limelight.


So I greatly disliked Thatcher in my youth - because I am a typical European liberal. That said, she was certainly the towering figure of modern british politics. She did destroy the power of the labour unions in the UK for good or ill (probably good). In doing so she did enduring damage to the british coal industry (probably for ill). But she also sent a fleet to be butchered with grossly inadequate air-defence. Arrogance is a very dangerous thing in a leader.

She did not bring the Soviet Empire down. Nor did Mr. Reagan. The Russians did that themselves. I suppose enriching US arms manufacturers and sending missiles to the Muhahideen also helped. But only at the margin.

However I think we have yet to understand how much damage Reagan and Thatcher did to these economies.

When I think of Mrs Thatcher I prefer to contrast her with Mr. Blair. Mrs Thatcher did not lie. She believed everything she said and she argued her case. The same cannot be said of Mr. Blair.

I note with great interest that Jeff Sachs has changed his mind about many things and now speaks a lot of sense about the US. I think people should listen to him cos he knows a lot of how systemic corruption works.

Medicine Man

All before my time and so I try to avoid laying blame/credit for all that has followed Reagan solely at his feet. I do sometimes wonder however if the US has paid a price for not taking Carter's warnings about the direction of the country more seriously. Though derided in hindsight, there is much about his great malaise speech that holds up well.

William R. Cumming

Reference the Baroness not RR!

Kenneth Branagh's "Band of Brothers" speech from Henry V (1989)


O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!


What's he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin:
If we are mark'd to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires:
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England:
God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more, methinks, would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made
And crowns for convoy put into his purse:
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day!

Paul Escobar

To all,

In so far as one wishes to highlight the battle against the Soviet Union, one can associate the Catholic church with these particular political leaders (Reagan & Thatcher).

However, we should be clear that the type of global-economic-anarchism promoted by Reagan & Thatcher (furthered by the likes of Clinton & Blair) has consistently been rejected in Catholic teaching.

For example, the above commentator "Harry" highlights the Tory obsession with "destroying" unions. No pope would endorse such a wholesale condemnation & attack on the institution of unions:

"We therefore consider it Our duty to reaffirm that the remuneration of work is not something that can be left to the laws of the marketplace; nor should it be a decision left to the will of the more powerful." - Pope John XXIII

"...unions remain a constructive factor of social order and solidarity" - Pope John Paul II

If Mr. Lang is correct that Pope Francis follows in the "Liberation Theology" tradition, then I suspect he has a more sombre estimation of their legacy.

Paul Escobar


A grand speech. Diminished only slightly for me by the image of St. Crispin who was a poor shoemaker in Lyon who was martyred by the Roman authorities in the 2nd or 3rd century for his epousal of Christian faith. Whether the English success had anything to do with superior footwear is an unanswered question. All we know is that it didn't help Westmoreland any.


"... she also sent a fleet to be butchered with grossly inadequate air-defence."

What butchering would that be? She won the war with the loss of half-a-dozen small warships and a container ship. The Argentine navy lost more men killed in action with the sinking of the cruiser General Belgrano than the British lost in in the entire war.



I feel it necessary to point out that as much as I respect colonel Foresman, I am not a fan of either of these people. pl


Absolutely agree that it was the irreparable defect of the controlled economy wedded to secret police - and not Thatcher's partnership with Reagan - which caused the collapse of the USSR. The Harvard-sponsored neoliberal policies did however helped to create the "largest empowerment of organized crime ever." Whereas the western powers have been surviving the endemic corruption on the top thanks to the precious laws developed for the protection of individuals from the crimes of the "haves" and those in power (these laws are currently under deadly attacks from the corporate-financial Juggernaut), the former Soviets did not and do not have a viable system of such legal protection. Hence the absolute freedom of corruption and the criminal suppression of any dissent in the former Soviet Republics.

William RAISER

No, you were right in your choices and in your initial evaluation of Reagan. Few have done more harm to the US, or the world.


"So as you drown in a sea of praise for Thatcher, remember this. She was prepared to promote lung cancer, for cash." I would like to refer to Ambassador Murray's blog regarding a personal evaluation of her qualities: http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2013/04/margaret-thatcher

She sure managed to destroy British industry through financialization. Considering my background, I am eternally grateful to her that she destroyed the Perfidious Albion.

Lord Curzon

I was in short trousers when Baroness Thatcher came to power in '79, but I vividly remember the rubbish piled in the streets, the power cuts and the class war that the unions unleashed.

The country was practically a soviet-style lost state in 1979 with 10% of the economy trying to support the other 90%, we couldn't afford to sort out the bloated state industries which arguably should never have been nationalised in the first place without huge rationalisation and investment.

We were a basket case, a nation that had been brought to its knees by the consensual politics favoured by the men sat in comfortable armchairs, in their clubs in St James'. I shudder to think what would have happened if she hadn't come to power.


Me too, Northern Ireland problem would have be resolved earlier, Apartheid would have been supported less, Pinochet would have had one less supporter, Saddam would have been supported less passionately, England would have been able to infiltrate more thoroughly in EU and there would have been less mega-supermarkets and more grocery stores in England.

William R. Cumming

Difficult to project but 100 years down the road wondering about the Reagan/Thatcher legacy?

The delineate the 80's to some degree!


Thatcher was given a doddering UK and did something to try and turn things around.

Blair decided that the native Britons couldn't be trusted to vote the correct way and embarked on a massive population replacement of Third Worlders.

I've yet to see the amount of virtiol towards Blair & Labor for this traitorous, damaging act that was directed towards Thatcher.


"England....England....England...." - in fact, Thatcher always made a point of speaking for Britain, not England. But ironically, her domestic policies favoured only England - and southern and Midland England only at that. Once, the Conservative party ( supposedly the unionist party) was equal to the left in Scotland. Thatcher alienated the Scots by her poll tax policies, suppression of the trades unions, ecvisceration of manufacturing industry, the squandering of (Scotland's) North Sea oil wealth, and annihalation of coal mining. Today, a conservative MP from Scotland is as rare as the sighting of the Loch Ness monster, and the move to an independent Scotland has been strengthened by the perceived indifference of Westminster to Scotland's interests, an indifference and indeed hostility that has its origins in Thatcherism. But the North of England and Wales were equally alienated by Mrs Thatcher. It is wholly appropriate that her (semi) state funeral will be held in London, the city that benefitted from her policies favouring the finacialisation of Britain's economy at the expence of the regions and assocoiaiated nations (Scotland/Wales/Northern Ireland) that had given the industrial revolution to the world. There is a picture of Thatcher standing triumphantly amidst an empty wasteland in Tees-Side in the north of England, entirely devoid of buildings where once there had been factories and shipyards and foundries. Where there had been iron works, there was nothing. The "Iron" Lady rid "Britain" of such nonsense.


Of course, King Henry V was hardly an "English" king in the manner that we (or Shakespeare) would have recognized. No, at that time, even if he drew some of manpower and treasure from England, he was a French contestant for the French throne, which places the whole speech (and the play) in a funny context...



You are a Brit!. That goes far in explaining why there are so many things about the US, like the NG that you don't understand. pl


Chile - Left wing extremism v Right Wing Extremism. They're still wearing Che's face on t-shirts, aren't they?

South Africa - Because ending aparthied has worked out so well.

EU Integration - Are you serious? The EU is a basketcase run by would be statist nannies from Brussels insisting that everyone is the same.

"more grocery stores" lol okay.


A senior british officer noted after the war that but for 6 unexploded bombs, (the argentine airforce flew too low to avoid the bulk of the aa fire) they would have lost the war. Half a dozen more warships lost and we would have lost. Was that a sensible risk?

But thats not really the point is it? How many men do you consider should die and for what precisely? So that some british oil explorer can look for oil down there? Was that really a good trade? And where are the British armed forces now that we have made that point and defended the sovereignty of our empire? Could we do it again?

The Argentines are not our enemies. They were always historically our friends. The war was absurd and the situation is absurd. These islands wont remain british. That much is obvious.

To my mind a pointless war fought for national pride.


It did have something to do with superior footwear. Agincourt was a very muddy boggy field. The poor english archers had to wade through mud to cut the throats of the stranded French knights, wallowing in mud in their heavy armour.

The right footwear is always important.


I was a child in the UK at the same time. And while you exaggerate the extent (10% 90%? Really?) its true that the unions wielded way too much power.

However the problem is now they wield none. Mrs. Thatchers victory was a victory for the rich at the expense of the poor. Income distributions have become ever more skewed and industrial wealth has been outsourced to China. And today the nation IS diminished. In its economy, in its armed forces, in the public education provided. In its failing banks.

We are a nation of stock jobbers and estate agents. We could not defend the Falklands today.

As the Chigur character says in No Country for Old Men, "if the road you followed has brought you to this place, what good was the road?"

Of course you might blame Blair. I know I do. But Blair did continue with many of Thatcher's ideas. He had a nose for the popular. Admittedly he added on a sprinkling of his own monumental dishonesty and poor judgement.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad