In response to a recent post.
Winston Churchill prefaced each of the
five six volumes of his account of the Second World War with what he called the “Theme of the Volume.” The theme of the first volume, The Gathering Storm, is as follows:
How the English-speaking peoples, through their unwisdom, carelessness, and good nature, allowed the wicked to rearm.
It is a damning indictment of appeasement, including Chamberlain’s famous Munich Accord, but also many, many errors, great and small, much “unwisdom,” that allowed fascism to grow from fringe elements into an existential threat.
Churchill during this period was an unwavering critic of appeasement. He was seen as talented but deeply flawed.
He was ostracized politically and out of power despite having held cabinet posts previously in his career.
Once the threat grew to monstrous proportions, Churchill was brought back to the Admiralty and then, in the very hour that the British Expeditionary Force was straggling onto the beaches at Dunkirk, Chamberlain resigned. The choice for Prime Minister was between Churchill and Lord Halifax, a member of the appeasement establishment.
Fortunately, Chamberlain saw the error of his ways and understood that an insider like Halifax could not possibly achieve what was needed. He recommended Churchill to the King. The evacuation from Dunkirk was a miraculous success, and at its conclusion Churchill gave his famous speech:
Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.
In my mind, Churchill’s theme needs only a few minor edits to be completely descriptive of our situation today:
How the Democrats, through their unwisdom, carelessness, and good nature, allowed the wicked to seize and wield power.
Churchill was not the popular choice in his party or in Parliament. Halifax was. Churchill made his humble “Blood, sweat, toil, and tears” speech to rally Parliament, not the British people.
We are in the process of selecting as our champion in these dark times not Churchill but Halifax: an insider intimately implicated in the appeasement errors that are bearing such poisonous fruit today.
It is an indictment of our sclerotic political culture that, even as we survey the ashes of our failures, we do not turn to a genuine clear-eyed outsider. Of course we must all root for Halifax now, but I fear we root in vain.
Update: There are six volumes, of course.