2002 December 09 Monday
Capitol Hill Politicians Reading Winston Churchill

There is an interesting article in the Christian Science Monitor about what the politicians and their staffers in the US Congress are reading. They are thinking Churchillian thoughts.

Winston Churchill is big on Capitol Hill, among both Democrats and Republicans. So is Kenneth Pollack's new book, "The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq," whose title is derived from Churchill's "The Gathering Storm."

Not on the must-read list are books like Mark Bowden's "Black Hawk Down," a harrowing account of just how grim urban street fights can get, even for today's most elite forces. Nor, judging by interviews and the buzz on Capitol Hill, is there a surge of interest in "hearts and minds" books on Arab history or the culture of radical Islam.

The upshot: The ideas shaping thought in Congress about war appear to be clustered around a few simple, Churchillian themes: that there is a grave threat to national and global security that would be folly to ignore. That professional military advice is sometimes just "the sum of their fears." That there's no point in trying to understand "barbarism."

I think Churchill is highly appropriate inspiration for the current circumstances. His speech to Parliament on October 5, 1938 on the Munich Agreement is chilling.

Do not suppose this is the end. This is only the beginning. It is only the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to you year by year unless by a supreme recovery of martial vigour we rise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden times.

Churchill understands the nature of war:

"Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on that strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The Statesman who yields to war fever must realise that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events. Antiquated War Offices, weak, incompetent or arrogant Commanders, untrustworthy allies, hostile neutrals, malignant Fortune, ugly surprises, awful miscalculations all take their seat at the Council Board on the morrow of a declaration of war. Always remember, however sure you are that you can easily win, that there would not be a war if the other man did not think he also had a chance." - Winston Churchill, "My Early Life," 1930.

If you haven't yet read it then please go read Stephen Hayward's speech to the Capitol Hill Club of October 2, 2001 entitled A Churchillian Perspective on September 11.

In addition to his reflections on the nature of the military challenge at hand, he also had a lot to say about the clash of civilizations that played out in this episode, and which are playing out again right now.

"How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property—either as a child, a wife, or a concubine—must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the Queen: all know how to die. But the influence of the religion paralyzes the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science—the science against which it had vainly struggled—the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome."

Well, now. This is the kind of statement which modern multiculturalists would use against Churchill as proof of Western chauvinism or racism or worse. Though I am not sure very many people would dissent from this description of the Taliban, or any other contemporary form of radical Islam.

Hayward makes many excellent points. Go read him.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2002 December 09 05:26 PM  Politics Anglosphere


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