February 2, 2008


Comrades in Arms: The alliance between Reagan and Thatcher was even stronger than it looked—especially when they disagreed: a review of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher: A Political Marriage, by Nicholas Wapshott (Paul Beston, 1 February 2008, City Journal)

During the run-up to the Iraq War in 2002 and 2003, Americans became accustomed to hearing British prime minister Tony Blair referred to as George W. Bush’s “poodle” for his unyielding support of the president’s stance against Saddam Hussein. Many would doubtless have been surprised to learn that for seemingly slavish obedience to an American president, the same moniker had fallen on one of Blair’s predecessors at 10 Downing Street: Margaret Thatcher. The Iron Lady’s close relationship with Ronald Reagan during the 1980s aroused similar charges in the British media, a testament to the difficult position that British leaders have occupied since World War II, best reflected in Dean Acheson’s famous statement that Britain had “lost an empire” but “not yet found a role.”

In Nicholas Wapshott’s Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher: A Political Marriage, the British prime minister knows well what her role is: to stand firmly with the United States and protect the Atlantic alliance, revive her country through free-market reforms, and oppose the Soviet Union and international communism. But if such goals placed her close to Reagan, they hardly made her his poodle. The picture that Wapshott sketches instead is of two leaders who more than once found themselves powerfully at odds over crucial events. Those disagreements might have proven serious enough to damage their alliance, Wapshott suggests, if it weren’t for their extraordinarily strong political and personal bond. When the chips were down, in the words of one aide, it “took a crowbar” to separate the two.

The convergence of Amnglo-American governing philosophy--the Third Way/End of History--makes these relationships far easier than they might otherwise have been. Indeed, President McCain will have a similar relationship with Prime Minister Brown or Prime Minister Cameron or both.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 2, 2008 11:40 AM

Unless McQueeg decides to hold a grudge against one of them for some reason or other.

Posted by: JimBobElrod at February 2, 2008 1:35 PM

McCain is probably going to have a difficult time with foreign "alliances". In the Senate, he seems to prefer poodles (Lindsey Graham, Mike DeWine, Susan Collins, etc.). If the British PM plays the role, good. But if not....

Posted by: jim hamlen at February 2, 2008 1:46 PM

The book is an illuminating read on the two biggest "change" leaders of the last Century.
I'm amazed at the insight into McCain the previous commenters exhibited, must be a Vulcan mind meld thingy.
BTW Orrin, you need to add the Amazon buy me link to this post.

Posted by: Mike at February 2, 2008 8:01 PM

Well, after McCain's explosion on John Cornyn, I could see him verbally assaulting Brown, Cameron, Sarkozy, or (more particularly) Al-Maliki, Olmert, Mubarak, or Singh. Would that he goes off on Putin.

Posted by: ratbert at February 3, 2008 12:37 AM

The only plus I see for a McCain presidency is that he will scare the bejesus out of world "leaders" in a way the thoughtful Bush never did and maybe that will be enough. Am I rationalizing? Probably, but we might as well try to find something positive out of the inevitable.

Posted by: erp at February 3, 2008 10:21 AM