Russell and Duenes

Reagan and Churchill as Warmongers!

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Both Ronald Reagan and Winston Churchill were popularly characterized as war-mongers because they believed that a strongly armed United States in the 1980’s and a strongly armed Britain in the 1930’s was the surest bulwark against foreign aggression. In truth, Reagan and Churchill both loved peace far more than war, and they also loved peace more than the pacifists who so vehemently opposed them. People may still argue about this in Reagan’s case, but there is no argument when it comes to Churchill. He knew that Germany was going to make war, wanted to make war, and that no amount of appeasement was going to stop her. He saw with stark clarity that the only language Hitler understood was the language of force, and that collective security and a re-armed Britain were the only possible means of averting a general European (and worldwide) war. In that light, I found these words by Churchill, spoken in the House of Commons in 1938 during the Czech crisis, worth repeating:

If a number of States were assembled around Great Britain and France in a solemn treaty for mutual defence against aggression; if they had their forces marshalled in what you may call a Grand Alliance; if they had their Staff arrangements concerted; if all this rested, as it can honourably rest, upon the Covenant of the League of Nations, in pursuance of all the purposes and ideals of the League of Nations; if that were sustained as it would be, by the moral sense of the world, and if it were done in the year 1938 – and, believe me, it may be the last chance there will be for doing it – then I say that you might even now arrest this approaching war. Then perhaps the curse which overhangs Europe would turn inwards and not outwards in an internal rather than an external explosion, and mankind would be spared the deadly ordeal towards which we have been sagging and sliding month by month…Before we cast away this hope, this cause and this plan, which I do not at all disguise has an element of risk, let those who wish to reject it ponder well and earnestly upon what will happen to us if , when all else has been thrown to the wolves, we are left to face our fate alone.

But the appeasers in Britain did not “ponder well and earnestly” what would happen to Britain. By their lights, Hitler could be reasoned with and “peace in our time” could be secured by selling out millions of Europeans, many destined to die brutally under the Nazi hakenkreuz. Churchill followed up with another warning as Czechoslovakia was about to be swallowed up.

For five years I have talked to the House on these matters—not with very great success. I have watched this famous island descending incontinently, fecklessly, the stairway which leads to a dark gulf. It is a fine broad stairway at the beginning, but after a bit the carpet ends. A little farther on there are only flagstones, and a little farther on still these break beneath your feet. Look back over the last five years…

If mortal catastrophe should overtake the British Nation and the British Empire, historians a thousand years hence will still be baffled by the mystery of our affairs. They will never understand how it was that a victorious nation, with everything in hand, suffered themselves to be brought low, and to cast away all that they had gained by measureless sacrifice and absolute victory—gone with the wind! Now the victors are the vanquished, and those who threw down their arms in the field and sued for an armistice are striding on to world mastery. That is the position—that is the terrible transformation that has taken place bit by bit. I rejoice to hear from the Prime Minister that a further supreme effort is to be made to place us in a position of security. Now is the time at last to rouse the nation. Perhaps it is the last time it can be roused with a chance of preventing war, or with a chance of coming through to victory should our efforts to prevent war fail. We should lay aside every hindrance and endeavour by uniting the whole force and spirit of our people to raise again a great British nation standing up before all the world; for such a nation, rising in its ancient vigour, can even at this hour save civilization.

But Chamberlain and his fellows in the British Cabinet would not rouse the nation, and we all know the heinous, unspeakable result. William Machester, quoting Lord Boothby after the war, sums it up best:

From 1935 to 1939 I watched the political leaders of Britain, in Government and in Opposition, at pretty close quarters; and I reached the conclusion, which I have not since changed, that with only two exceptions, Winston Churchill and Leopold Amery, they were all frightened men. On four occasions Hitler and his gang of bloody murderers could have been brought down, and a second world war averted, by an ultimatum…. Every time we failed to do it. And four times is a lot. The reasons for it, I am afraid, can only be ascribed to a squalid combination of cowardice and greed; and the British ministers responsible, instead of being promoted, should have been impeached. (Winston Spencer Churchill: Alone, p. 288)

Indeed! The lessons of history are hard ones.

-D

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Written by Michael Duenes

January 15, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Posted in Duenes, History

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