Commentary

Key personal & political events

1983 Oct 25 Tu
Shultz (George)

Cold War: US disappointment at MT’s line over Grenada (Shultz memoirs)

Document type: Press
Document kind: Memoirs
Venue: -
Source: George Shultz Turmoil & Triumph
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: -
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 414 words
Themes: Defence (Falklands War, 1982), Foreign policy (Americas excluding USA), Foreign policy (International organizations), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states)

Assessment: A New Departure

The facts soon emerged that Grenada, like the Falklands, was a shot heard round the world by usurpers and despots of every ideology. The report was sharp and clear: some Western democracies were again ready to use the military strength they had harbored and built up over the years in defense of their principles and interests.

The British

The British position remained a puzzle. Whatever the reasons for Prime Minister Thatcher's opposition, she did not exhibit any particular concern for “the special relationship” between Britain and America. President Reagan and I felt that she was just plain wrong. He had supported her in the Falklands. He felt he was absolutely right about Grenada. She didn't share his judgment at all. He was deeply disappointed.

Why did Mrs Thatcher react so negatively to the American effort? I could only speculate. She had been needled hard two days earlier, in the rough-and-tumble of question time in the House of Commons, about being “ Ronald Reagan 's poodle.” She may also have had a special sensitivity about a former British colony “going bad” and the Yanks having to go in there and clean up the mess. And her government was embarrassed, having declared too confidently that no Grenada operation was imminent.

At any rate, Margaret Thatcher and her government opposed the American rescue operation and did so vehemently: “We in the Western countries, the Western democracies, use our force to defend our way of life. We do not use it to walk into independent sovereign territories. … If you're going to pronounce a new law that wherever communism reigns against the will of the people, even though it's happened internally, there the USA shall enter, then we are going to have really terrible wars in the world.”

[Footnote: Statements made by Prime Minister Thatcher in a highly publicized phone-in program on BBC World Service on Sunday, October 30.]

She came very close to saying in her radio broadcast about Grenada that there were no circumstances in which intervention of one country in the affairs of another was justified, even to rescue its own citizens whose lives were threatened. The reality was that in the fog of chaos, Americans were clearly in danger. I was also dismayed to hear her taking a position similar to Cap Weinberger 's. A Shultz - Weinberger “debate” on the question of whether and when force was required and justified was now well known. The debate, I knew, would continue long after our Grenada intervention.