This morning former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher died from a stroke at the age of 87. Serving as the first female Prime Minister in the U.K., Thatcher won three general elections for the Conservative Party and shaped British politics for a generation. We culled through the archives of the Miller Center's Oral History Projects and present in this post key excerpts from the interviews in which former administration officials recollect the relationships between Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and “The Iron Lady.”
On this day in 1991, President George H.W. Bush delivered an address to a joint session of Congress announcing the end of the Gulf War. President Bush told the nation in his address:
We must now begin to look beyond victory and war. We must meet the challenge of securing the peace. In the future, as before, we will consult with our coalition partners. We've already done a good deal of thinking and planning for the postwar period, and Secretary Baker has already begun to consult with our coalition partners on the region's challenges. There can be, and will be, no solely American answer to all these challenges. But we can assist and support the countries of the region and be a catalyst for peace. In this spirit, Secretary Baker will go to the region next week to begin a new round of consultations.
Following the war, President Bush and his administrative team seized the opportunity to build upon the success of bringing together Arab countries that cooperated during the war to revive the Arab-Israeli peacemaking process. It was also a politically ripe moment as the president enjoyed unprecedented domestic popularity. For the next eight months, Secretary of State James Baker engaged in shuttle diplomacy, with efforts culminating in the 1991 Madrid Conference, during which Israel entered into direct, face-to-face negotiations with Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and the Palestinians for the first time. The Madrid Conference served as a catalyst for the 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan, as well as for non-public talks between Israel and Palestinian Arabs in what became known as the Oslo peace process.
The Bush administration’s peace process efforts were interrupted by the 1992 elections. Although Bush was the strongest candidate among voters concerned with international issues in the general election campaign and although the president believed his record of foreign policy would be rewarded electorally, the campaign narrative focused instead on the economy, advantaging the Democratic candidate, William Clinton.
Read more about the Madrid Conference in the Miller Center’s Oral History interview with Secretary Baker here.