Many of today’s political leaders are not up to the task of dealing effectively with Islamist terrorism because they don’t have confidence in Western civilization and its Christian heritage, according to a former adviser to Margaret Thatcher.
John O’Sullivan, author of “The President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister,” said that unlike Ronald Reagan, John Paul II, and Lady Thatcher, today’s politicians “have been shaped by sets of ideas in which they don't really have confidence in Western society and its Christian roots.”
“Most of them are not Christians,” he added, “and if they're Jewish they're probably secular and not orthodox and they don't really feel they can stand up.”
He also noted that they don't like to criticize Islamic ideas because they think they're attacking the identity of Muslims. “We have to find a way — and it's not easy to do — of discussing these ideas frankly with Muslims without them thinking we're attacking their identity,” he said.
O’Sullivan was speaking to Newsmax while on a visit to Rome to promote the Italian version of his bestselling book on how those three leaders of the 1980s helped end the Cold War. He said what singled them out and made them most effective was that they were “messengers of hope.”
More than just optimistic, O’Sullivan said Mrs. Thatcher was someone who recognized that “an element in hope is effort” and it was necessary to embark on projects in a hopeful way. “Of course you rely on the grace of God,” he said, “but you have to do something, and I think all three of them were in that frame of mind.”
Asked if he felt that was lacking in today’s leaders, O’Sullivan said: “The situation leaders face today is something different, but I do think the period until the financial crash, leaders themselves didn't know quite why they were succeeding.”
“There was a period of great creativity and prosperity launched by the end of the Cold War: you had the disappearance of barriers, the abandonment of foolish economic ideas of a socialist kind that held people back. You had the arrival in the world of about 2 billion new workers — there was all this good coming out.”
But he said even Tony Blair didn’t quite realize this. “[He] has almost admitted that he's not quite sure why it all went so well in his time,” O’Sullivan said. “I think it's because of what Reagan and Thatcher did: they laid the foundations, and the Pope too. When you had this crash, which is the result of foolish policies in general, they [today’s politicians] suddenly woke up to the fact that they didn't really know what they were doing: they were standing by while the tremendously successful revolution was going on.”
Asked if he could think of anyone comparable to her and President Reagan in politics today, O’Sullivan said it’s impossible to know until they take power, and that no one person can be a true equivalent. But he did single out three leaders still alive or actively engaged in politics who fit the mould: Lee Kuan Yew, who led Singapore to independence and served as its first prime minister, Tony Abbott, leader of Australia’s centre-right liberal party, whom he describes as “a tremendous figure,” and Viktor Orban, Hungary’s current Prime Minister.
Some critics of O’Sullivan’s book say that he draws conclusions too easily and that, based on statistics, the economy in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe was going to collapse anyway, regardless of the actions of the three protagonists in his book. Naturally, O’Sullivan rejects that idea.
“History is on my side here,” he said. “The economy of the Soviet Union had been about to collapse really since 1917. There'd never been a successful period of economics and that's because the system itself had been incapable of producing the goods, it was incapable of motivating people, and incapable of giving them a decent standard of living, of encouraging their human qualities and so on. So I think it was always doomed.”
He said it had survived because the West had come to its assistance “time and time again.” It needed “something external” and this was provided by these three leaders. “Everyone knew the system was being pushed to breaking point by Reagan, by the Pope spiritually, and by Mrs. Thatcher in a very interesting way: She demonstrated the recuperative powers of a free society and a free economy.” Soviet communism was a system that had lots of internal weaknesses, he said, but it needed “strong external pressures” to exploit those weaknesses and bring it down, but “peacefully rather than violently.”
A few years ago, when visiting John Paul II’s tomb, Lady Thatcher exuberantly told her accompanying party how instrumental the late Pope was in bringing down communism in Russia and Eastern Europe. I therefore asked O’Sullivan if perhaps she didn’t see herself also as key to its downfall.
“Although now an Anglican she's very Methodist in her attitudes,” O’Sullivan said. “Methodists are very much against getting above yourself, and so on. She does recognize she was a great prime minister, that people have come to regard her as a great prime minister and she's proud of that, but in an acceptable and legitimate way.”
He also added that she liked his book. "She came to my book launch, in fact — as I said at the time — it was the only book launch anyone there had attended in which the subject of the book signs the book, as well as the author!,” he joked.
As well as executive editor or Radio Free Europe, O’Sullivan continues to write and is currently working on a book on democracy.
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