MARGARET Thatcher came to Oklahoma 20 years ago and spoke about the importance of democracies and, especially, the need to stand firm against tyranny. It might serve President Barack Obama well to review some of what she said that day.
Thatcher, the former British prime minister who died Monday at age 87, visited Tulsa and Oklahoma City on March 25, 1993, as part of a speaker series sponsored by Oklahoma State University. She addressed a full house at Oklahoma City's Civic Center, telling attendees that totalitarian rulers needed to realize they won't ever win through military might “because we, the West, will see that you don't.”
The United States has since invested heavily to root out evil in Iraq and Afghanistan, of course. But the current occupant of the White House much prefers a “let's all get along” approach on the international stage, and indeed spent the early part of his first term apologizing to other countries for what he perceived as our heavy-handedness.
In an editorial Monday, The Wall Street Journal noted that other countries — many of them bad places like North Korea and Iran — have only enhanced their ability to produce nuclear weapons as the Obama administration has called for nuclear arms control. “On present trend, the president who promised to rid the world of nuclear weapons is setting the stage for their greatest proliferation since the dawn of the atomic age,” the Journal said.
Thatcher earned her “Iron Lady” nickname because she was tough and single-minded during her 11 years as prime minister. A champion of free markets, she helped transform Britain's economy, in part by winning tough battles with unions. She used military force to reclaim the Falkland Islands after they had been seized by an Argentine military junta. And along with President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II, she is credited with helping win the Cold War.
In her Oklahoma City speech, Thatcher recalled attending a disarmament conference at the United Nations during the Falklands crisis. The conference included numerous politicians, “who of course were all talking about peace. We all do. ...
“They were saying, ‘Disarmament, disarmament.' I said, “Look, there will always be tyrants in the world. There have been throughout history,'” The Oklahoman recounted in an editorial a few days later. If those who want peace don't have weapons, “no one will stop those tyrants,” she said.
She cited the Falklands War, Reagan's air strikes on Libya in 1986 (in retaliation for a terrorist bombing of a West Berlin disco that killed one U.S. soldier and wounded 50 others), and President George H.W. Bush's decision to invade the Persian Gulf and other flare-ups around the world during her tenure as examples of the importance of a strong defense. “At no stage — because of the policies we had followed of keeping a strong defense, and the latest technology — at no stage, when we came to those decisions, did either President Reagan or President Bush or myself have to stop and think, ‘Have we got the right weapons to do it? And the right, trained people? We knew we had. ...”
Twenty years later we've got sequestration, which is forcing haphazard cuts to all government budgets and hitting our military the hardest. The idea was the brainchild of the Obama administration.