April 8, 2013


Margaret Thatcher recognized the big issues (Anne Applebaum, Monday, April 8, 2013, Washington Post)

 Inside Britain she was the woman who sparked riots and ignored the advice of colleagues. But outside Britain -- in the United States, in Eastern Europe, even in the Soviet Union -- she made herself into an icon, a symbol of anti-communism and the transatlantic alliance at a time when neither was fashionable. She stood by Ronald Reagan in his battle against the Evil Empire. She used the same language as he did -- free markets, free people -- and entered into a unique and probably unrepeatable public partnership with him. It was useful to them both: If Reagan wanted to pull away from domestic scandals, he could appear with Thatcher on a podium. If Thatcher wanted to enhance her status, she could pay a visit to Reagan at the White House.

But their partnership was also useful to others, as Thatcher herself understood. When she arrived in Poland in the autumn of 1988, dressed in cossack boots, a full-length fur coat and a fur hat, she decided to visit a farmers' market, one of the few examples of "the free market" then available in Warsaw. She swept through the fruit stalls, swarmed by journalists and startled shoppers while the British ambassador scurried behind her, paying for jars of pickles broken in the fray. Her entourage then proceeded to Gdansk, where she met Lech Walesa. By all accounts, the two conducted an awkward and mutually incomprehensible conversation.

Nevertheless she appeared with him in front of cheering crowds at the Gdansk shipyard and declared, "We shall not be found wanting when Poland makes the progress toward freedom and democracy its people clearly seek." And that gesture, that moment, really mattered: It gave the Poles and others the courage to think they really could someday join the rest of Europe. Someone wanted them there. 

Posted by at April 8, 2013 5:11 PM

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