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Of the British Bulldog’s Many Failings
The Dream: A Critique of Winston Churchill’s Foreign Policy by Marcus Casca: Part 1
[Marcus is the author of Hounds of Aryas.]
The greatest vice of America’s aristocrats is not their psychosomatic response to the lightest pressure, nor is it their desperate adherence to the universal coherence of thought, word, and deed. It is not their inability to elocute their aims to a restive underclass whose rage is rapidly consuming their fidelity to the American regime. Their ultimate failing is worshipping ineffectual statesmen, politicians who have led the world into moral decrepitude, economic tyranny and sociopolitical chaos. In the arts of foreign policy and domestic legislation, America’s authoritative element denigrates Americans like Smedley Butler and Andrew Jackson. They instead elevate foreigners like Winston Churchill to the pinnacle of their political pantheon.
Winston Churchill certainly wrote compelling literature. His newspaper articles combine biting wit with brute fact, while his novels expertly engage the imagination of his readers. Churchill’s novels are no less engaging. His Malakand Field Force encapsulates the eternal character of Afghanistan’s valleys and peaks, while A History of the English-Speaking Peoples expertly chronicles the ever-reinventing nature of the Briton. But we speak here not of Churchill the writer but of Churchill man and the statesman. No politician generates more undeserved praise than dear Winston. A great deal of the blame lies with academics, particularly those influenced by Straussian thought.1 Their devotion to perfidious Albion is troubling. What wise fool travels to modern England to study statesmanship? Did not C.S. Lewis, the greatest Ulsterman of modern times, warn us of England’s’ unnatural landscape and demonic nature of her dialects?2 One might as well sail to Libya and study her rich history in manumission.
A more systematic writer might address each of the British Bulldog’s many failings. Let us simply examine his foreign policy during the Second World War, a conflagration which consumed 100 million men and decimated the Levitical and Ayrshire branches of my family.
As every military officer knows, accomplishing what one intends to achieve is the ultimate goal of political leadership. Churchill’s twin strategic goals throughout the war were to restore the balance of power to the European continent, and to maintain the British Empire.
1 Strauss, Leo. “Leo Strauss on Churchill.”
LINK › WINSTONCHURCHILL.HILLSDALE.EDU/LEO-STRAUSS-ON-CHUR...; I do not fault Leo Strauss himself for this tragedy. He understood Churchill for who he was: a man who amputated Europe’s legs while poison spread up her arms.
2 Lewis, C.S. Surprised by Joy, 24-25
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Churchill failed on both counts. Indeed, he often pursued tactical decisions that fueled his failures. To paraphrase the great Sicilian Vizzini, the greatest classical blunder a maritime country can commit is fighting a land war in Asia. What is Europe but an appendage of Asia?
Apart from a brief Peninsular campaign in the early 1800s the British followed the Sicilian sage’s advice. They rarely secured their right to freely act on the world stage through their army’s martial prowess. For 300 years Britain’s navy was the bastion of her security. Her sleek ships expertly obliterated naval threats at Trafalgar, and maintained British dominance by securing the Straits of Gibraltar, Suez Canal, Malta, the Cape of Good Hope, the Strait of Malacca, the Falkland Islands, and the Saint Lawrence waterway. With the Union Jack waving above these geographic chokepoints, only the United States rivaled Britannia’s prowess, and even then only in the New World and the Pacific. As evidenced by the German High Seas Fleet in 1916, Britain’s maritime monopoly often crushed opponents psychologically before any battles were fought.
No matter whether the Hapsburgs, French, Russians, or Germans dominated continental affairs, every European knew that Albion ruled the waves. From London the weaker continental powers could expect aid against their strongest neighbor, a hand beneath their chins preventing them from drowning without raising them from the muck and mire. Yet Winston Churchill chose to sacrifice English soldiers for Poland’s sake. For Poland’s sake! For a polyglot tyranny masquerading as a republic, whose citizens loathed each other more than the Nazis.
Neutrality would have maintained Britain’s psychological and moral superiority over continental Europe. Prudent statesmen recognize that Churchill’s antagonism of Adolf Hitler borders on insanity. For all his bluster, Hitler never expressed serious interest in fighting Britain until Neville Chamberlain declared war on Germany. The Nazi dictator negotiated for peace while the British Expeditionary Force awaited evacuation at Dunkirk. He showed supreme patience by not reducing the British army to viscera. Some have even interpreted Hitler’s decision as mercy.
Hitler was perfectly content to maintain the old balance of power, one where a thousand-year Reich would reign alongside the eternal maritime power of Great Britain.3 The object of
3 Van Creveld, Martin. Hitler in Hell, 120
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Hitler’s ire had always been the Soviet Union, his most feverish dream to absorb the fertile fields of Poland and the Ukraine into a Greater German Reich. The German military was indeed a potent juggernaut. It took the entire world two bloody wars to crush their martial spirit and replace it with Hamburgesh decadence. Yet Hitler did not wish to destroy the old order; he aimed to restore it by obliterating the Soviet Union.4
The Bolsheviks desired to overrun Western Europe as much as the Nazis wished to conquer the East, but Comrade Stalin wished to export his ideology to every continent. Indeed, the only European power capable of retarding Soviet ambitions was Hitler’s Germany, the one regime which combined will and industrial might into a potent fist.5 Germany formed the schwerpunkt of 20th century statesmanship. Defeating her through attrition would effectively hand Europe to the communists, while allying or making peace with her would ensure the survival of two telluric power blocs for Britain to play against one another. Winston Churchill was hardly a stupid man. He still opted for the destruction of the old state system.
Martin Gilbert’s disciples frequently portray Churchill’s continued opposition to Hitler as the inevitable consequence of Nazi aggression. This is pure propaganda, misinformation more fit for sheep than men. The Gilbert school also ignores Winston Churchill’s inability to recognize pure malevolence when it peered directly into his eyes. Churchill’s speech to the House of Commons on his return from the Yalta Conference illustrates this point quite well:
“The impression I brought back from the Crimea, and from all my other contacts, is that Marshal Stalin and the Soviet leaders wish to live in honorable friendship and equality with the Western democracies. I feel also that their word is their bond. I know of no government which stands to its obligations, even in its own despite, more solidly than the Russian Soviet government.”6 Churchill’s tacit support of international socialism stems from his education and upbringing. Young Winston was wracked with self-doubt by his father’s emotional distance, and turned to his American mother Jennie for guidance. This gave him a preconception that the
4 Van Creveld, Martin. Hitler in Hell, 123, 195: “It is hardly true…that we National Socialists believed in nothing and were out to destroy all the values of Western civilization. In fact nihilism is an essential characteristic not of the German race but of the Slavs and the Jews.”
5 Finland too possessed the will to halt repeated Soviet invasions, but the Baltic nation lacked the manpower and logistical capacity to do so indefinitely without German aid, which brings the problem full circle. See Van Creveld, Martin. Hitler in Hell, 306-307
6 Crozier, Brian. The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Empire, 72, 81-83
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United States would always support their English-speaking neighbors. Lost in utopian speculation, Winston Churchill forgot that the Briton is more water than granite. Jennie Jerome admired Abraham Lincoln. Franklin Delano Roosevelt idolized the Soviet Union.
When the United States followed Albion into a global conflict for a second time in fifty years, she did so to promote a set of values shorn of Victorian sensibility: a new regime where every subjective choice would be addressed with equal dignity. There was no deep philosophical distinction between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in the 1940s. Both were “’idealist’ powers” championing a new stage of human development where the British Empire would be a living fossil, “the greedy old imperialist” to be gently escorted to the ash heap of history at the earliest opportunity.7
Thus Roosevelt shipped vast numbers of victuals and munitions to Archangel for mere promissory notes. The American convoys resupplying Britain were far more meager and cost the Churchill government hundreds of thousands of pounds. The Soviet-American alliance prevailed for decades following the Second World War, steadily eroding the once mighty British Empire. The Suez Crisis, the last example of Europe’s independent military prowess, ended in humiliating fashion when President Eisenhower threatened Churchill’s handpicked successor Anthony Eden with an economic blockade should he not agree to a ceasefire with Egypt. Eden bowed to American whim, and the sun set on the British Empire.8
Churchill’s confrontational attitude towards Germany also reflects his warloving nature, a quality he did not lose until his seventies. Churchill’s entire body of literary work revolves around his attraction to battle, his love of bloodshed for bloodshed’s sake. He thanked God for Britain’s conquest and annexation of the Orange Free State and Transvaal Republic in the 1890s, for the wars allowed him to revel in strife. Why wouldn’t he pursue a German war with equal vigor? It freed him from his Wilderness Years, from the tedium of writing and painting to seize eternal renown on the political stage. Prime Minister Churchill would risk genocide for personal glory. Why else would he invade Norway and bomb Finland, two distant peoples who had never offended him, but to live on in the minds of gibbering scholars who play at statesmanship?
7 Johnson, Paul. Modern Times, 466; Lewis, C.S. That Hideous Strength, 210
8 Lapping, Brian. End of Empire, 329-340
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Honest men compliment Winston Churchill’s prolific writing while admitting that, in Churchill’s final years, his past sins were a source of continual personal torment. Churchill’s short story The Dream is rarely read by his disciples. And why should they? It shows Churchill in the twilight of his career, reflecting upon his failings. The Dream deserves serious study. It holds the key for understanding Churchill as he understood himself, while bringing us to grips with the world he and his fellows bequeathed us. We shall examine Churchill’s most important work to provide this revelation to those who love Churchill (and by extension statesmanship) for all the wrong reasons.
The Dream begins with the former prime minister doggedly replicating a ruined portrait of his late father Randolph. This act, like all deeds, carries numerous implications of immense importance. Winston is nearing the end of his life, yet opts to restore Randolph’s likeness himself rather than contract it out to a professional painter. Why does Winston Churchill personally restore the portrait?
Only Churchill scholars would recall that Randolph Churchill once led England’s House of Commons and dominated the kingdom’s economic policies as Chancellor of the Exchequer. They might recall that Randolph resigned abruptly from his political duties in 1886 and suffered a pestilential death a decade later at the age of forty-six. These scholars criticize Randolph for distancing himself from Winston. Yet Winston bore no ill will towards his estranged father. He even named his own son after Randolph, a deed few jilted sons willingly do. It seems that Britain’s greatest prime minister respected and adored his father, and by focusing his passions into a single act of paternal devotion achieved something miraculous:
“I was just trying to give the twirl to his moustache when I suddenly felt an odd sensation. I turned round with my palette in my hand, and there, sitting in my red leather upright armchair, was my father. He looked just as I had seen him in his prime, and as I had read about him in his brief year of triumph. He was small and slim, with the big moustache I was just painting, and all his bright, captivating, jaunty air. His eyes twinkled and shone. He was evidently in the best of tempers. He was engaged in filling his amber cigarette-holder with a little pad of cotton-wool before putting in the cigarette… he was so exactly like my memories of him in his most charming moods that I could hardly believe my eyes. I felt no alarm, but I thought I would stand where I was and go no nearer.”9
9 Churchill, Winston. “The Dream,” 362
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The afterlife has done wonders for Randolph Churchill. His spirit radiates joy and confidence; he is no Marley to Winston’s Scrooge. One could certainly believe that Randolph had descended from Heaven at his son’s silent request. Yet as the story progresses, Randolph’s heavenly exuberance transforms into terrestrial despair. Fear replaces faith, science perverts compassion. In the end Randolph cannot leave his son fast enough.10 But for the moment Randolph retains his aristocratic grace. He reclines in an armchair, idly quizzing his only son on the affairs of the past fifty years.
Many of Winston’s responses are rather ominous. At one point Randolph jokingly asks Winston whether the Christian calendar is still in use, to which Winston replies, “Yes, that all goes on. At least, they still count that way.”11 Like many modern men, Winston accepts what Friedrich Nietzsche prophesized: God certainly existed. He prospered alongside the Jews and the Aryans. Yet by Winston’s time the Aryans were long gone, while the Jews who staggered through the 20th century often worshipped Marx and Mises rather than Yahweh. God died in the Victorian age, yet his passing only became common knowledge with the ignition of the world wars.
By the 1950s England is a nominally Christian country. Bishops still sit in the House of Lords, after all! But in the eyes of Winston Churchill, C.S. Lewis, and many others, Anglicans are merely going through the motions. They do not practice what they preach because, deep down, they do not believe what they say.12
Winston deigns to clarify this tragedy for his father. Randolph, still elated from his time in the afterlife, seems to ignore his son’s implication about modern Christianity’s sorry state. The dialogue then meanders into recollections of defunct gentleman’s clubs and figures long since forgotten. Randolph’s glee magnifies with every reminiscence. Particularly pleasing to the wraith is the state of modern racing and his son’s religious affiliation. Winston still clings to Protestantism, and reveals that horse-racing “goes on” in the modern age.13
10 Churchill, Winston. “The Dream,” 371; Indeed, his exit resembles Athens’ exodus from philosophy and subsequent allegiance to Christianity.
11 Churchill, Winston. “The Dream,” 363
12 Lewis, C.S. That Hideous Strength, 289-290
13 Churchill, Winston. “The Dream,” 364
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Winston’s answers matter immensely to Randolph. He fields both queries with trepidation, and accepts his son’s explanations with relief. Yet Winston’s answers once again have troubling implications. It is clear from the dialogue that Randolph closely attends to equestrian matters. One can posit that his handling of horses is the act that saved him from utter ruin. However, it is equally obvious that Winston is not a hippic man. Horse racing hardly ignites Winton’s passions, for his mind geared itself towards flowery speeches and munitions statistics long ago. Randolph cannot imagine a regime not run by knights. Winston cannot dream of a regime with them at the helm.
Winston does profess a Christian denomination in The Dream. He is an Episcopalian. Yet his answer raises as many questions as it answers, queries which Randolph is too polite to field directly. Winston lives in England. He is the scion of a ducal house, yet he is not an Anglican, a member of the Church of England. Winston’s religion ties him to the ecclesiastical affairs of the United States rather than his native land. It begs us to wonder about the health of the English regime. Perhaps England’s subjugation and consolidation of a quarter of the globe into a British Empire caused it to lose what distinguished it from all other European states, states who professed spiritual loyalty to a foreign pope, singular theologian, or abstract set of principles rather than a national religion possessing a telluric character.
Winston Churchill then delivers a light jab at the intrusion of economics into political life. He attributes this to female suffrage, an event which pleases and surprises Randolph. When Randolph asks whether the female vote has altered the selection of candidates for election, Winston responds, “Well, it has made politicians more mealy-mouthed than in your day. And public meetings are much less fun. You can’t say things you used to.”14 Far from promoting democratic values through honest debate, female suffrage in England has separated speech from thought and deed to an unprecedented degree. Statesmen now emulate economists. They place self-preservation far above securing stability for their native regimes.
Politeness must never banish honesty to the wilderness. Indeed, if politeness is to survive as an avatar of compassion, it must never separate itself from honesty.
14 Churchill, Winston. “The Dream,” 366
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Winston’s lawyerlike dodges lead Randolph to believe that individual empowerment and the democratic process has created heaven on earth: “You must be living in a very happy age. A Golden Age, it seems.”15 At this point Winston sees where the conversation is moving, and seems to know how it will end. His uneasiness and Randolph’s increasing suspicion about the true state of temporal affairs quickly arise as the dialogue progresses.
Tension between the spirit and old man flickers when Randolph asks how Winston makes a living. Winston answers that he writes books and newspaper articles. Without hesitation.16 Of all of Churchill’s exploits, his literary prowess is perhaps the last profession many of us would associate with England’s premier politician. Is he ashamed of his political career? His military exploits? No matter the reason, Winston is now a reporter in his father’s eyes, a reporter who spends much of his time painting, but a reporter nonetheless.
Randolph Churchill bears no ill will towards journalists. However, Winston’s revelation leads to a rather pregnant pause, a silence Randolph breaks with the following axiom: “I always said ‘Trust the people.’ Tory democracy alone could link the past with the future.”17 Randolph’s statement strikes the reader as rather odd. It sounds as if the spirit, having pondered all which was said in the past half-hour, suspects what we already know: that Winston is hiding something ominous from his father. This unnerves Randolph. The shade clings to his faith in the democratic process for reassurance. Will his faith hold? Does the Presence shunt him back into the Secondary Realms to question his political presuppositions and, in doing so, save him from further unpleasantries?
When Winston mentions that Randolph’s ancestral seat is currently occupied by M.I.5 (a British counterintelligence service), the spirit sits up in his chair for the first time. Gone is Randolph’s relaxed demeanor. The wraith dons “a startled air,” listening with horror as Winston regals him with the myriad wars of the 20th century.18 The conjoining of perpetual conflict with democratic states surprises Randolph. The dead English lord had always equated democracy with reason and peace. Nonetheless here Winston stands before him, muttering that “we have had
15 Churchill, Winston. “The Dream,” 366
16 Churchill, Winston. “The Dream,” 367
17 Churchill, Winston. “The Dream,” 367
18 Churchill, Winston. “The Dream,” 367
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nothing else but wars since democracy took charge.”19 Modern democracy is antithetical to prolonged peace, an admittance which troubles both the quick and the dead in The Dream…
To be continued in Part 2
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