Thatcher's Diplomacy: The Revival of British Foreign Policy

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Thatcher's Diplomacy: The Revival of British Foreign Policy

By Paul Sharp
St. Martin's Press, 1997
269 pp. $65.00

A University of Minnesota political scientist, Sharp points out that Thatcher was both an enthusiast of global economic liberalism and a champion of the nation-state, and he believes that this apparent contradiction provides a recipe for statecraft in the post-Cold War era. His book offers a detailed account of the Falkland Islands war, a discussion of Thatcher's difficult relationship with her successive foreign ministers, and an examination of her "diplomacy of support" of the United States (different from her predecessors' policy, aimed at influencing Washington to change its ways, for instance toward milder behavior in the Cold War). Sharp gives Thatcher higher marks for her opposition to European integration than do many of her critics. However, he concludes that her impact on world affairs was rather limited because "by philosophy, instinct and inclination, Thatcher was not a political builder -- quite the reverse." Sharp writes with flair and nuance, as when he says, about Germany in 1990, that "Thatcher had no German policy, merely an anti-German disposition." But if he is right about both the virtues of Thatcher's belief in sovereign states and the fact that "all the diplomatic talent in the world could not re-create the role" of a major actor in the Cold War "on British influence and power alone," wouldn't a middle power like the United Kingdom be severely limited in what it could accomplish in essential matters?

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