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Nelson Mandela and the Caricature of Margaret Thatcher

The only person as maligned as President Ronald Reagan over the last few days has of course been Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who joined Reagan in opposing economic sanctions against South Africa–because, you would be forced to conclude if you listened only to NPR and PBS, she, like Reagan, was some sort of morally obtuse throwback.

That was as completely untrue of Thatcher as it was of Reagan. Here, one page of a letter she sent in 1985 to South African President P.W. Botha.

Thatcher-to-Botha.pngAt the beginning of the letter–which is very much worth reading in its entirety–Mrs. Thatcher explains that she opposes sanctions because she believes they would prove counterproductive. Here, as elsewhere in the letter, she all but demands that Botha pick up the pace of reform, and–note this well–urges Botha to release Nelson Mandela.

Far from being morally obtuse, Thatcher insisted on moral clarity–and toughness, and realistic, practical diplomacy. She believed implicitly in human liberty–and worked incessantly to expand it.

(With thanks to my friend Kevin Lucey for directing me to this marvelous document.)