The Corner

Thatcher and The Falklands: Postscript

By the way, Derb, there’s a marvelous postscript to Thatcher’s encounter with Defence Minister John Nott.

Thatcher never doubted that the Chiefs of Staff were correct—that HM’s armed forces did not, indeed, possess the military werewithal to dislodge the Argentines. In instantaneously overruling the Chiefs, then, she was also instantaneously deciding to rely on the Americans to supply whatever the British military lacked.

The American side of the story quickly grew complicated—much more so than the Prime Minister had expected. Whereas secreatry of defense Cap Weinberger sided unambigously with Mrs. Thatcher, UN ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick sided just as unambiguously with the Argentines, and secretary of state Al Haig adopted a stance of neutrality, hoping to work things out through shuttle diplomacy. Ronald Reagan himself eventually cast the tie-breaker in Mrs. Thatcher’s favor, directing Weinberger to share U.S. intelligence with the British and to supply Ascension Island, which the British expeditionary force used as a way-station, with jet fuel and other materiel. But even then, to the immense exasperation of the Queen’s first minister, Reagan remained publicly neutral, tilting only ever-so-slightly in the British direction.

Through sheer force of will, in other words, Thatcher carried along with her not only her own government but that of the United States as well.

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

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