The Corner

Re: Thatcher and The Falklands

May I take a whack at Derb’s question for John O’Sullivan? Had Mrs. Thatcher cut a deal with the Argentines, her government would most certainly not have fallen. Why? Because everyone in her government would have known that the Falklands could not have been retaken.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

As soon as word reached London that the Argentines had invaded the Falklands, the Minister for Defence, John Nott, convened a meeting of the Chiefs of Staff. Reviewing the situation, the Chiefs gave Nott their considered professional opinion, whereupon Nott presented himself to the Prime Minister to convey that opinion to her.

In the judgment of the generals, admirals and air chief marshalls who ran the United Kingdom’s military, Nott informed Thatcher, the Argentines would consolidate their control of the islands in a matter of a very few days, and, once they did so, Her Majesty’s armed forces would lack the resources to dislodge them. In the judgment of the most authoritative military minds in the country, in other words, recapturing the Falklands would prove impossible, and had Thatcher chosen to accept that judgment she would certainly have made clear to the Commons and the press that she had been acting just as the Chiefs of Staff had wished.

What did Thatcher do instead? She replied to Nott, very crisply and without a moment’s hesitation, “We have got to get them back.”

Leadership. As Derb noted yesterday, it is rare but marvelous.

Peter Robinson — Peter M. Robinson is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

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