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The Angry Economist

Churchill: What His Life Tells Us About The War On Terror
Posted by William P. McGowan, Ph. D. on Feb 5, 2006 - 7:18:00 PM

 ENGLAND—A saying most academic historians hate to hear is those who fail to learn the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them. Academics hate the phrase because it suggests a predictive power that history does not possess, but learning how other people in others times dealt with political and military challenges is useful. 

 

No time better exemplifies the dangers of living in historical ignorance than today, as we are led by a generation of policy makers who grew up during or after Vietnam. This is how the press gets away with telling us weve never been in a situation like this before, when the reality is quite different. As a society, we have faced evil before and won, and no ones life better demonstrates this than of Sir Winston Spencer Churchill.

 

For those who dont know, Winston Spencer Churchill was Prime Minister of England through all of the Second World War and a good part of the Cold War.  A giant among political figures, Churchill held the British Commonwealth together in its darkest hour, orchestrated the defeat of global fascism in the 1940s, and warned of the rise of global Communism in the 1950s.  Luckily for us, Churchill was also a prolific writer, so we have a pretty good idea of what he thought of his life and times and what he might think of ours.

 

Remember that early in the 1930s, Churchill was living in a political wilderness of liberalism that refused to acknowledge the existence of evil.  At the time, the new German chancellor had fans in the West, people who admired Germanys low unemployment rate, its clean streets, and its vibrant economy when the rest of the West was suffering global depression. 

 

The “intelligentsia” laughed at Winstons simplistic characterizations of Nazism and considered him mad. They stopped laughing when World War II began. Obliged by treaty to defend Poland, Britain entered a war undermanned, undersupplied, and overwhelmed.  

 

The same thing could happen to the United States today. Back then, it was Nazi Germany defending and expanding into geographic regions with its military might.  Today, it is state-sponsored terrorists who infiltrate societies and plant bombs among the innocent in order to do the most damage. 

 

As during Churchills day, those who wish to avoid conflict painted those urging preparation for it as warmongers and kooks.  Political opposition in Britain then and the United States today consists of perfectly intelligent, well-educated people who simply did not want to acknowledge the threat evil posed to their way of life. 

 

Unlike the United States today, however, the people of Britain had good reason to fear war.  They had just survived the inferno of World War I, when their country lost an entire generation of men in less than five years. Those who survived The Great War simply did not want even to think about another war with Germany, as if they could control that outcome by their own collective sheer will.

 

Today, our Baby Boomer intelligentsia define themselves by the Vietnam conflict, assuming that is as bad as it can get. Churchill saw much worse and would not agree. Todays retired hippies still dont want to acknowledge what Winston Churchill knew all along: that evil exists, and that it is the duty, indeed, the obligation of those of us living in the democratic West to fight evil wherever it roots its head for both national security and international stability.

 

Remember that while he was growing up, Churchills Great Britain WAS the worlds only superpower, and like it or not, was the responsible for global stability.  Like Americans living at the beginning of the Twenty-first Century, Churchill didnt create the world in which he lived; he merely inherited the problems of running it.  And, as with Britain in 1914 and again in 1939, the options for the West are pretty clear, if unpalatable.  First, we could do as many in British society did in the 1930s, and simply wish our problems with North Korea and Iran away hoping some internationalist society can prevent them.

 

Or we can act.

 



 

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