Thatcher stresses importance of national security

Dan Murtaugh

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said during a speech Saturday in Cahn Auditorium that “tears of tragedy” about Sept. 11 have cleared people’s eyes, allowing them to see the importance of national security.

“Years of illusion have been stripped away,” she said in front of more than 1,000 people. “Ever since the end of the Cold War, the West has come to believe that it was time to think and speak only of the arts of peace. With the Soviet Union vanquished, it is all too demanding and unsettling to think that other enemies might yet arise to disturb our prosperous calm.

“So we heard more and more about human rights, which is right, but less and less about national security. But we must always have regard to national security.”

Thatcher, whose speech was sponsored by the Junior League of Evanston-North Shore, praised President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair for their reaction to the attacks and their military campaign against the Taliban, the ruling party in Afghanistan.

“The trap is closing on (Osama) bin Laden and his network of terror,” she said. “But the president is right to emphasize that this war on terrorism must and will continue. Too many states have financed terrorist groups, and too many have harbored their leaders, spokesman and agents.

“This war must be carried through to the bitter end, and those that are on the side of justice and freedom and law must win through. That is not revenge, that is not even retribution – that is justice.”

The attacks have made it clear that the United States needs to develop a ballistic missile-defense shield, she said.

“There has been some criticisms (about the defense shield); there should be no criticism,” she said. “(The dissolution of the Soviet Union) frees us to develop an anti-missile missile with which to protect our own people, which is the first duty of any government.”

After mingling with guests and receiving gifts from the Junior League, Thatcher opened her speech by quoting Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing.” Burke’s quotation has never been true for English-speaking people, she said, because they have never stood idle when confronted with evil. She said the United States and England already have joined together to defeat three evils – Nazism, fascism and communism – and they also will defeat terrorism.

“Peace in this world only comes if democracies are prepared to defend it,” Thatcher said. “We have defended it in war. We must defend it in our own way in peace time.”

The United States must fight terrorists and nations that harbor them now, Thatcher said, instead of trying to appease them. She said the world learned that appeasement didn’t work when Europe let German aggression remain unchecked before World War II.

Thatcher said the U.S. government needs to be careful not to impose too many restrictions on the economy when it implements financial-revival programs. The United States has been such an economic power because it has low taxes and few economic restrictions, she said.

Thatcher built her career in the British parliament as a fierce advocate of low taxes and small government. She proudly boasted that during her 10-year reign as prime minister, she lowered taxes on savings from as high as 98 percent to 40 percent.

She became prime minister in 1980 after holding various ministerial positions for the conservative party for about 30 years. She said she started her career in a very liberal district thinking she could convert her constituents into Tories.

“At 23, you think you can save the world,” she said. “At 73, you know you cannot.”

She said her party’s greatest accomplishment was making liberal party members more conservative, to the point that they didn’t raise taxes when they came into power in 1996.

She also said she fondly remembers the relationships she built during her years in government, especially her friendship with former President Ronald Reagan.

“Ronald Reagan delivered the decisive blow that brought down the Evil Empire,” she said. “The world is forever in President Reagan’s debt.”

She said Reagan and other great presidents made the 20th century the American century, and the United States will continue to have a strong role in global issues into the next century.

“America is still the shining city on the hill,” she said. “Your faith in liberty offers others hope.”

Tom Burzycki of South Bend, Ind., saw Thatcher while visiting his daughter, Music freshman Kathleen Burzycki, at Northwestern for the weekend. He said Thatcher was “delightfully articulate” despite being out of office for more than 10 years.

“She’s among the most prominent of the Brits to explain her love of America,” he said. “Most Brits do not.”