At Guildhall on Tuesday, the Centre for Policy Studies held its Margaret Thatcher Conference on Security. Its title is an implied reproach to the way security is seen by current governments. You couldn’t have a Barack Obama Conference on Security, or a Donald Trump one, because neither cares about the subject. You could, I suppose, have a Theresa May Conference about Security, but that would have nothing to say about international institutions and alliances, the values of democracy, totalitarian ideology, and the needs of global defence. It would concern itself with second-order subjects like the surveillance of terrorist suspects and the state of deportation law. Many have complained that the Tory election campaign failed to preach any Conservative economics. Ideas about the security of the West were even more notably absent. Jeremy Corbyn was allowed to get away with the suggestion that his party could remain committed to Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent, but that he, as a unilateralist prime minister, would never permit its use. It is questionable whether western governments have the political will to act if some aggressive power — probably Russia — decides to kick the door down. It may not even need to bother to kick. After speaking at the Thatcher conference, I went off to lunch in the House of Lords. My host had ceased to receive emails because the parliamentary computers were down after an allegedly Russian cyber attack.
When I first started reading this paper in the 1970s, it contained many articles about the decline of the West. Fans of Alexander Solzhenitsyn lamented our spiritual decadence. Learned authors compared us with 18th-century Spain, made rotten by too much ready silver from Latin America. The Soviets were advancing in southern Africa and Nicaragua. They invaded Afghanistan. It looked grim, but conservatives argued that the West could prevent it if only we had enough cultural confidence and weapons.