Margaret Thatcher, Secret Defender Of Soviet Security, Ctd

Matt Steinglass differs with Conor Friedersdorf over how to interpret the Thatcher news from last week:

I don’t think the revelations should lead one to mistrust politicians in quite the way Friedersdorf does. It’s true that politicians’ most simplistic public statements and slogans will not always be adhered to in the details of their diplomatic maneuvering. But I don’t actually think Margaret Thatcher thought it was okay for Communism to persist indefinitely in Eastern Europe. It’s just that she also didn’t really think the Soviet Union was a rabid totalitarian dictatorship bent on invading Western Europe, and whose leaders could never be trusted; and apparently, in late 1989, she thought there was more risk in a sudden collapse of Communism, with Eastern European countries ripping away from the Soviet orbit, than in a slower evolutionary transition. Her public political pronouncements were a camera-friendly, lowest-common-denominator version of her somewhat more sophisticated actual anti-Communism. And the same was true of George H.W. Bush. Both were capable of tempering their ideological preferences with a healthy dose of realism.

But Thatcher was utterly wrong about Germany - and fueled by paranoia. She was a pragmatist, as Reagan was (and Bush wasn't), and, in my view, she single-handedly rescued Britain from terminal decline. But she blew this one big. It was her foreign policy poll tax. And it was party why her colleagues decided she had to be pushed out of power.