I finally finished Churchill’s first volume of the six-volume World War Two series. It took me long enough. I think I started reading it back in December. At this rate, I’ll finish the whole series in about two and a half years.
The Gathering Storm is very relevant to today’s world of rogue states and international terrorists. I think it is safe to say that Churchill would have supported the Iraq War. This passage, which Churchill wrote while Norway was falling into Hitler’s claws, is echoed by the events prior to the Iraq War:
To this point, then, had we come from the days of the Rhineland occupation in 1936, when a mere operation of police would have sufficed; or since Munich, when Germany, occupied with Czechoslovakia, could spare but thirteen divisions on the Western Front; or even since September, 1939, when, while the Polish resistance lasted, there were but forty-two German divisions in the West. All this terrible superiority had grown up because at no moment had the once victorious Allies dared to take any effective step, even when they were all-powerful, to resist repeated aggressions by Hitler and breaches of the Treaties.
Substitute number of divisions with WMDs, Hitler with Saddam, and 1930’s with 1990’s, and you would have a pretty accurate description of Iraq if we had not gotten rid of Saddam.
The most important lesson to be learned from this book is to stop evil before it happens. I cannot imagine the frustration and anguish Chuchill felt as all his warnings about the rising evil in Germany went unheeded. And then, nearly every one of his fears became reality. He had the foresight and the wisdom to see the true nature of what was brewing in Germany. He knew it needed to be stopped, but, instead of listening to him, the Government cast him into a political backwater, where he had to live with being an unofficial advisor of sorts. Of course, with our clear hindsight we wonder why the Government was so naive and blind. Now, we need a clear vision of our own dangerous world. We need to take the lessons of the past and actually learn from them. I’m afraid the United States as a whole has not done this, though I do think the President has (as shown by his action in Iraq and paying attention to the genocide in Sudan). Samantha Powers in the preface to A Problem from Hell identifies our society’s inability to readily acknowledge and respond to great evil:
Despite graphic media coverage [of genocide], American policymakers, journalists, and citizens are extremely slow to muster the imagination needed to reckon with evil. Ahead of the killings, they assume rational actors will not inflict seemingly gratuitous violence. They trust in good-faith negotiations and traditional diplomacy. Once the killings start, they assume that civilians who keep their heads down will be left alone. They urge ceasefires and donate humanitarian aid.
We cannot continue in this way. When it comes to clear, threatening evil, pre-emption may very well be the only prudent decision. This can be applied to terrorism, rogue states, and genocides.
The United States is in the unique position of having the resources and power to stop great evil in this world. Much of it can be solved by simply giving aid, but unfortunately much of it can only be solved by force. We must not cry “Peace! Peace!” when there is no peace, and we must not succumb the siren songs of “Peace at All Costs.” We must fight what is evil, and we must continue fighting until it is no more.