Winston Churchill became Britain’s Prime Minister at the dawn of WWII. What he inherited was ugly. He knew the free world faced a powerful, voracious, ideologically-driven enemy of freedom – Fascist Germany. He knew the hourglass had flipped. Big lessons linger …
In May 1940, Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement utterly failed, producing what blame-shifting often does – war. Churchill’s first speech declared his resolve to confront Nazi evil, and reverse it. His words were heartening, a bit like Shakespeare’s rendition of V at Agincourt.
Churchill asked, in that dark moment, with France overrun, for a vote of confidence. He got it – unanimous. The nation needed a leader. Time was short, reversing history almost too late.
He told a beleaguered country, soon pounded at Dunkirk and from the sky – the “Battle of Britain” cost 15,000 airmen’s lives – there was only one option, survival required fighting.
In personal terms, like a battlefield commander, he said: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” And from that day until the war’s end, Churchill’s unremitting determination to win, his courage in the midst of combat, inspired the free world, including Americans.
Perhaps it was his American mother, or his dogged way of life, overcoming hard knocks as a soldier, POW, trench leader, head of Admiralty, but he would not quit. When he saw freedom in peril – the entire free world in life-and-death peril – he leaned into that fight, never stopped.
When WWII’s bloody chapter ended, the human cost – American, British, German, Japanese, Allies, and Axis – topped 60,000,000.
As you read this, stop for a moment and think about that number. Maybe say it out loud, “sixty million dead.” That is what happens when appeasement fails, deterrence comes too late, and a world goes to war. Nor is there any guarantee of a favorable outcome.
That is what happens when wishful thinkers hold power, indulging the idea that power is permanent, horrors cannot return, big wars are somehow impossible, mistakes tolerable.
Because of Chamberlain and a weak Europe, Germany prepared in the 1930s. The National Socialists grew, crushed freedom at home, then took their oppression global. The United States eventually turned that war’s tide, but only resolve and loss, as Reagan once noted.
So, let us wind the clock forward – and think about today. With boldness, the Chinese Communists, allied Russian autocracy, radical Islamic theocracy, and North Korean thuggery – think they have a path to world domination.
So far, the West – presumably led by America – has not convinced them otherwise. They think America is in decline, preoccupied with divisions, perfect prey for a unified aggressor, able to reach out and touch us, intimidate our allies, as Germany did parts of Europe.
They think our reputation as the world’s unbending defender of liberty is slipping, that we are prepared to surrender. They think our time is past, fight gone, liberty can be smashed. They literally want a new and oppressive world order.
This is heavy stuff, but honest minds see it, China’s belligerence, rise, and resolve. This is the kind of thinking Germany’s National Socialists – horrific abusers of humanity, filled with delusions, bigotry and brutality, adopted in the 1930s.
We are kidding ourselves if we think China does not seek global domination, which means imposing communism on humanity; the evidence points to, and China’s leaders make no apology for it in their communist plenaries and recent propaganda.
So, here is an idea: How about we wake up, accept tough facts, all worth knowing – and confronting. Biden’s compromised, witless, wishful thinkers – heavy-handed at home and appeasers aboard – do not think this fight is coming, maybe not worth having. But it is and it is.
China is determined, as the German National Socialists were in the 1930s, by propaganda, intimidation, and ultimately military confrontation. They are causing America’s allies in the Far East, Middle East, Africa, South America, Europe and even Australia, to feel abandoned, balk.
Now is the time, before it is too late, to step up, act with resolve, deter China as we and Europe failed to deter Germany in the 1930s, so a speech like Churchill’s in May 1940 is not necessary.
To imagine the world is a happy place, that spending our inventory on Ukraine will deter China, that communist leaders are not nasty, not angling to dominate the globe – is to imagine what is not and never will be. Appeasement invariably fails; deterrence requires direct, candid action.
Maybe that is why Theodore Roosevelt said in 1897: “Every man among us is fit to meet the … responsibilities of citizenship … because of the blood, sweat, and tears” of “our forefathers.” Churchill borrowed from TR, but both men knew an unchanging truth, wars are better deterred.
Our job – and most know it – is to stop dreaming, wake up, prevent war, stop excuses for failure – Afghanistan, Chinese balloons, leaks and laziness. Get on with leading. TR did it, Churchill did it. This is our time. The hourglass has flipped. Preparation and deterrence are needed in this hour.
Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman2 for AMAC.