April 9, 2007


Three Who Made a Revolution: a review of The President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister: Three Who Changed the World By John O'Sullivan (Lee Edwards, March 2007, The American Spectator)

OTHER WRITERS HAVE NOTED the timely emergence of an American president, a Polish pope, and a British prime minister in the late 1970s and early 1980s and their critical role in leading the West to a peaceful resolution of the Cold War. But it has remained for the Anglo-American journalist and editor John O'Sullivan to write the definitive history of how Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II, and Margaret Thatcher worked together, openly and not so openly, to bring about what most experts agreed was impossible -- the swift dissolution of the Soviet Union and Marxism-Leninism.

To write such a multi-faceted story, you would want a polymath: an American familiar with Reagan's special genius for combining principle and pragmatism, a Brit who could explain how Thatcher became the first woman prime minister in British history, and a Roman Catholic who understood why the Soviets were so worried about the impact of a Polish pope on their empire. You would seek someone with a keen historical sense and a flair for biography -- and the ability to integrate smoothly the myriad accomplishments of three major figures of our times. If this paragon also had a smooth, accessible writing style, that would be a heaven-sent bonus. It would be impossible, of course, to find someone who could do all of the above-unless you could persuade John O'Sullivan to write The President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister, his first but not I hope last book.

O'Sullivan begins his admirable study by making the arresting point that the times seemed to have by-passed Reagan, Thatcher, and Karol Wojtyla, who embodied such seemingly "fading" virtues as faith, self-reliance, and patriotism. But the unexpected death of the Italian John Paul I led to the election of the Polish John Paul II in 1978; Jimmy Carter's monumental ineptitude at home and abroad prepared the way for a conservative alternative in Reagan in 1980; and Britain's accelerating economic decline coupled with a series of often violent strikes in the winter of 1978-79 brought the country to the edge of anarchy. Thatcher offered a strong purgative -- economic liberty, traditional Christian values, patriotism, and a strong attachment to the United States and like-minded nations -- and in May 1979 was elected prime minister.

In the ensuing chapters, O'Sullivan deftly traces the interactive careers of the three leaders.

Loathe as we conservatives are to admit it, there's a fourth figure who belongs in the pantheon of those who saved the West: Paul Volcker. Until inflation was vanquished it would have been terribly difficult to get even reasonably decent societies to stop living only in the moment.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 9, 2007 7:05 AM

--the swift dissolution of the Soviet Union and Marxism-Leninism.---

Dissolution of the Bear? Check.

Not so the vision of (E)utopia.

Posted by: Sandy P at April 9, 2007 9:27 AM