We still have much to learn from the 'Don't go wobbly' Iron Lady
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher showed American President George H.W. Bush why she was called the Iron Lady when she told him “this is not the time to go wobbly.” It was after Iraq invaded Kuwait and Bush was waffling on whether to respond. “Aggression must be stopped,” she later explained on PBS’ “Frontline.” “That is the lesson of this century. And if an aggressor gets away with it, others will want to get away with it, too, so he must be stopped, and turned back.”
Alas, that is a lesson still relevant in this century, but we now have one less person to teach it to us. The Iron Lady died Monday after suffering a stroke. She was 87. That her passing was not unexpected did not lessen the sadness of the occasion.
It’s impossible to overstate what a consequential leader she was for Britain and what a difference she made to the whole world. She pulled her nation out of economic chaos with the firm, unwavering conservative principles of free-market capitalism while President Ronald Reagan was reinvigorating America. And together, they forged a plan to push the Soviet Union into collapse.
They were aided by contemporaneous efforts from Lech Walesa in Poland and the new pope, John Paul II. And all of that force was exerted just when the right person was in charge in Moscow, Mikhail Gorbachev.
The Soviet Union was never supposed to collapse. Even Communism’s strongest foes never believed it could be killed. But because the world was lucky enough for those five people to be on the planet at the same time the Soviet Union did in fact collapse, and Communism worldwide suffered a crippling blow. And until 9/11 came along, it was the biggest story of the modern era.
And 9/11, as they say, changed everything. It did not diminish what Thatcher and her cohorts accomplished, but it created a world with different threats than the ones they faced. No longer do existential threats come just from nuclear-armed states with well-defined borders. Now they also come from rogue fanatic terrorists who have no allegiance to any borders.
But what Thatcher said about aggression still applies, and a case could be made that religious terrorists are even more likely to step up their attacks if they perceive weakness. We must still help them learn that they can’t get away with it.
We have lost a strong champion of freedom, and she will be sorely missed. We could use a healthy dose of “Don’t go wobbly” right about now as a relief from the Obama administration’s deplorable, lead-from-behind passivity.