With the announcement out of United Kingdom today that former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has died at the age of 87, her life, career, and words are being appropriately reviewed. This is an opportunity for some to recall her wisdom and tenacity. For others, it will just be an extended awkward moment as some try to find nice things to say about a leader whose policies and philosophy they despised. The next few days over there will be much like things were here in America in 2004, when Ronald Reagan died.
I try to watch Prime Minister’s Question Time on C-Span, when I can. This is where Great Britain’s top elected official stands in the House of Commons and wages verbal war with friend and foe alike over policies and practices. Across the pond, their big political kahuna answers to other elected officials, the way our leaders occasionally face a hostile press (though mainstream media hostility toward the White House is a rarity these days). I think we might have better executive leaders, if they had to actually debate directly with congress – at least on occasion.
Margaret Thatcher was at her best when it came to those exchanges. Her last such appearance, on the day she left office in 1990, is worth watching again today.
There is much to review and laud about the Iron Lady’s life and work. Of course, her views on economics were the things for which will be most remembered. But today I am thinking of something else she said—when she had actually been out of office for more than a decade.
By then she was called Lady Thatcher, and she wrote an op-ed article that was published in the New York Times on February 11, 2002, a few months after the Sept. 11th attacks. The title of the piece was, Advice to a Superpower. She was characteristically direct describing the ideology behind the attacks and the on-going threat. Her words from that article will probably not be highlighted in the media today—likely not even mentioned. But her focus on the Islamist threat drew a clear, unmistakable warning from the past. Thatcher wrote:
Perhaps the best parallel is with early communism. Islamic extremism today, like bolshevism in the past, is an armed doctrine. It is an aggressive ideology promoted by fanatical, well-armed devotees. And, like communism, it requires an all-embracing long-term strategy to defeat it.
The Iron Lady nailed it. Though Islamism and communism as ideologies bear little resemblance to each other, beyond a mutual affinity for subduing and controlling others, they do have much in common when it comes to methodology.