The Gathering Storm, 21st Century Version by Peter Burrows email@example.com silvercityburro.com 8/22/15
The controversy surrounding President Obama’s Iranian nuclear deal has brought comparisons to events that preceded WWII, specifically Neville Chamberlain‘s ill-fated Munich agreement.(1) This incident is detailed in the first volume of Winston Churchill’s history of World War II, “The Gathering Storm,” which covers the prewar years to May of 1940, when Churchill was appointed Prime Minister. It has much to teach us.
In many ways, it is the best of the six volumes. Most of the later volumes get bogged down in a great deal of minutia concerning Britain’s war preparation and execution. Also, Churchill could not reveal or even hint at how breaking the German secret codes had altered the war, and it most certainly did. That remained a secret until 1974.
This shortcoming did not effect the first volume, which is about the pre-war years when Britain, and much of the world, was in denial about the German threat. The one individual conspicuously NOT in denial was Winston Churchill.
This did not do his popularity any good. Google: “Churchill jingoist” and you will find the following from the Encyclopedia of Nationalism, 2001, page 165: “Thus the appeasers of Hitler successfully maintained their criticism of Winston Churchill as a belligerent jingoist right through the 1930s and up until 1940, when Hitler’s aggressive ambitions became undeniable.“(2)
Churchill’s was not the only voice warning about Adolph Hitler, just the one we remember the most, in no small part for his prescient reaction to Chamberlain’s triumphant “peace for our time” return from Munich on September 30, 1938. Here’s what Churchill wrote about his roundly condemned House of Commons assessment:
“I well remember that when I said ‘We have sustained a total, unmitigated defeat’ the storm which met me made it necessary to pause for a while before resuming. There was widespread and sincere admiration for Mr. Chamberlain’s persevering and unflinching efforts to maintain peace and for the personal exertions which he had made.”(3)
Unfortunately, all the personal exertions in the world will do no good, and can do plenty of harm, if the nature of the enemy is misunderstood. Chamberlain was perhaps psychologically unable to see Hitler for what he was. Hitler, on the other hand, knew he was dealing with a naïve idealist who desperately wanted a peace agreement.
Preceding the Munich agreement, Hitler had violated the Treaty of Versailles with impunity by rearming, instituting conscription, and reoccupying the Rhineland. Two years after marching into the Rhineland, in the course of bullying the Austrian Chancellor, Hitler said that “If France had marched then we should have been forced to withdraw.”(4) He then marched into Austria. No reprisals.
Flush with his successes, Hitler then eyed Czechoslovakia. Like his Austrian conquest, Hitler justified German territorial ambitions by citing a large population of ethnic Germans in Czechoslovakia, especially in the bordering Sudetenland. Unlike Austria, however, the Czechs had a large and well equipped army. Should its allies come to its aid, especially France, which could mobilize a hundred divisions to invade Germany from the west, German success was highly unlikely.
That is what Hitler’s generals told him. Testimony at the Nuremburg trials revealed that had Hitler failed in his Czechoslovakia gambit, the Army General Staff had detailed plans to overthrow him. It never happened because Chamberlain and the French gave Hitler what he wanted at the Munich conference. In spite of repeated assurances, the Czechs found themselves alone.
At the Nuremburg trials, a high-ranking member of Germany’s army was asked the following: “Would the Reich have attacked Czechoslovakia in 1938 if the Western Powers had stood by Prague?” Marshall Keitel answered: “Certainly not. We were not strong enough militarily.” Churchill goes on to write: “Hitler’s judgment had been once more decisively vindicated. The German General Staff was utterly abashed. Once again the Fuehrer had been right after all. He with his genius and intuition alone had truly measured all the circumstances, military and political.“ (5)
I think to that should be added “psychological.” As Churchill himself had noted about the French: “ — France, though armed to the teeth, is pacifist to the core.”(6) Having the military wherewithal to prevent war does no good unless there is the will to actually use it to prevent war. Hitler was confident the French did not have the stomach to go to war for Czechoslovakia.
Churchill, however, does not blame the French alone for not acting: “Great Britain, who would certainly have fought if bound by treaty obligations, was nevertheless deeply involved, and it must be recorded with regret that the British Government not only acquiesced but encouraged the French Government in a fatal course.”(7)
FDR once asked Churchill what the war that became World War II should be named and Churchill responded, “The Unnecessary War.”(8) This was because there were at least two times that the political will to risk war with a show of force would have prevented the conflagration that became World War II.
Churchill acknowledges the “tormenting dilemmas” facing world leaders when confronted with war or peace decisions. “There is however one helpful guide namely for a nation to keep its word and to act in accordance with its treaty obligations to allies. This guide is called honour.” (9)
With all due respect to Winston Churchill, I don’t think that’s much of a guide. He qualified his “guide” by writing that it applied when it “pointed to the path of duty and when also the right judgment of the facts at that time would have reinforced its dictates.” (10)
It seems to me that “the right judgment of the facts at that time” is something that can only be known in hindsight. In hindsight, lots of bad things are avoided. The problem is foresight, or, as Yogi Berra said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”
One of the impressive skills Churchill had was his ability to step out of his own skin and recognize how others saw the world. This objectivity is rare. Too many of us see the world as we wish it, not as it is. Neville Chamberlain was guilty of this. He also suffered an enlarged sense of self-importance. Here’s what Churchill wrote as 1939 began: “Mr. Chamberlain continued to believe that he had only to form a personal contact with the Dictators to effect a marked improvement in the world situation.”(11)
In America, someone who thought the same way was William Borah, long-time Senator from Idaho. When Hitler invaded Poland, he told the International New Service’s Washington Bureau Chief, “Lord, if I only could have talked to Hitler, all this might have been averted.” (12)
Such hubris is just mind boggling.
Do we see any evidence of this sort of thinking today? I’m afraid so. President Obama thinks U.S. foreign policy has alienated the rest of the world with its arrogance. He wants to “lead from behind.” His new Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was of a like mind. After calling almost 40 foreign leaders and foreign ministers in her first week in office she said, “There is a great exhalation of breath going on around the world. We’ve got a lot of damage to repair.“ (13)
A belief that effective diplomacy involves the personal touch is not without some merit. Certainly Reagan proved that. However, thinking personal charm is the most important component of effective diplomacy is dangerous, especially when foreign leaders take advantage of such a vanity, as Hitler did with Chamberlain.
Today, much the same thing is happening. The Russians invade Ukraine, Assad ignores the “red line,” China hacks our government files with impunity, and Islamic terrorists commit carnage in the U.S. while their true motivations are shielded by political correctness. The world’s tyrants are taking advantage of Obama’s naivete. That’s what tyrants have always done and always will do. Somebody should tell Obama to read a little history.
The threats from Russia and China, while formidable, are not our most imminent threat, as both nations have extreme internal problems, demographic and economic, that may take years to solve, if ever. Also, in both nations pragmatists outnumber zealots, at least so far. Not so with Iran. This is a nation ruled by religious fanatics.(14)
How might a Winston Churchill assess the situation? Churchill was be able to put himself into his adversary’s shoes because he studied them and understood human nature. He had read Hitler’s biography, Mein Kampf, and understood that Hitler was obsessed with his vision and his mission. Churchill recognized that Hitler, in a sense, was insane.
A little background: In late 1923, Hitler attempted to seize control of the State of Bavaria. This was a total failure, resulting in the death of about twenty of his followers and Hitler’s eventual arrest. Churchill describes what followed:
“Although the German authorities had maintained order, and the German court had inflicted punishment, the feeling was widespread that they were striking at their own flesh and blood, and were playing the foreigners’ game at the expense of Germany’s most faithful sons. Hitler’s sentence was reduced from four years to thirteen months. These months in the Landsberg fortress were however sufficient to enable him to complete in outline Mein Kampf, a treatise on his political philosophy inscribed to the dead of the recent Putsch. When eventually he came to power there was no book that deserved more careful study from the rulers, political and military, of the Allied Powers. All was there – the programme of German resurrection, the technique of party propaganda; the plan for combating Marxism; the concept of National-Socialist State; the rightful position of Germany at the summit of the world. Here was the new Koran of faith and war: turgid, verbose, shapeless, but pregnant with its message.” (15)
Note: “Here was the NEW KORAN.” To echo Churchill, no book today deserves more careful study by our leaders, political and military, than the Koran. Turgid, verbose, shapeless and pregnant with its message: Death, slavery or conversion is to be inflicted on the infidels. It is the word of Allah.
Churchill had Islam figured out years before. In his book The River War: An Historical Account of the Reconquest of the Soudan, published in 1899, the first edition, he had this to say about Islam:
How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries, improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live.
A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement, the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.
— the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome. (16)
It is a puzzle to me that Churchill had it figured out over a hundred year ago yet the two most recent Prime Ministers of Britain, Tony Blair and David Cameron, run around saying stupid things about Islam being a religion of peace. Ditto Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Was Churchill that smart? You betcha. He STUDIED his enemies.
Still, you would think that after fourteen hundred years the civilization threatening message of Islam would have gotten through to the non-Islam world. Like Mein Kampf, few have actually read the Koran or have been taught the fundamentals of Islam. This is a big mistake. I have written nine articles about Islam which I think provide sufficient background on the subject for most people. (17)
Today, Western civilization is no longer “sheltered in the strong arms of science” because the “Mohammedans” have enough oil wealth to buy anything they want, including nuclear technology and the rockets to deliver nuclear destruction. This means we do not have the luxury of being politically correct, which is to say, we do not have the luxury of being stupid.
The terrorists who are becoming a fact of life throughout the civilized world are not radical Islamists. That is a redundancy. They are faithful Islamists. I don’t know how many Americans must die on American soil before that truth triumphs over political correctness. When that happens, I suspect the response to Muslims and their apologists will be severe.
Unlike our citizens of Japanese descent in WW II, who posed little threat to the country, our Muslim citizens pose a real and present danger. We must not let our WW II mistake with Japanese Americans prevent us from defending ourselves today from a potentially very real fifth column of domestic jihadists. Similarly, we must not let our Constitution’s First Amendment protect those who advocate Islamic sedition. (18)
I hope it isn’t too late before we begin to believe the Iranians when they chant “Death to America,” because Iran is ruled by Mahdaviats, an especially dangerous Islamic sect. A strong case can be made that these people want nuclear weapons so they can use them.
Obama may have brokered a “peace for our time” deal, but with the release of over $100 billion in Iranian assets as part of that deal, he has guaranteed there will be plenty of terrorist war for our time. Ted Cruz was right when he said, “If this deal is consummated, it will make the Obama administration the world’s leading financier of radical Islamic terrorism.”(19)
At the heart of the problem, Obama is an Islamophile. He has made appallingly ignorant statements about Islam. His exchange of five Taliban terrorists for the return of the turncoat Sgt. “Bowe” Bergdahl shows he is clueless to the threat Islam presents. He was so proud of himself he had a press conference with Bergdahl‘s parents. Did he think the jihadists would be mollified by releasing five of their brethren?
He couldn’t be more delusional if he were on LSD.
Recently released details about the Iranian agreement indicate some others on our side are also ingesting LSD. Incredible as it may seem, the AP reported that the U.N. agency responsible for inspecting Iran’s nuclear sites has a secret agreement allowing Iran to do the inspections themselves at one of their sites, a very important site. Let’s hope there is an explanation for what appears to be breathtaking stupidity.
When Iran does get its nuclear arsenal in place, they will have the ability to trigger a nuclear Armageddon, which they believe will hasten the return of the 12th Imam, also known as the Mahdi or the Hidden Imam. They’ve been praying for this for over a thousand years.
The Mahdaviats are marching into the Rhineland. It’s long past time to study our enemy. It’s long past time to understand their motivations.
We need another Churchill. Now.
(1) See: Move Over, Neville Chamberlain 4/6/15 silvercityburro.com
(2) A ridiculously large URL. Just Google: Churchill jingoist. Should be quicker than typing in the following:
(3) Winston Churchill, The Gathering Storm, Houghton Mifflin, 1946 p. 292.
(4) ibid p. 236
(5) ibid p. 286
(6) Parliamentary Debates, Vol. 272, November 23, 1932, p. 87.
(7) Churchill, ibid p. 288
(8) ibid p. xiv
(9) ibid p. 288
(10) ibid p. 288
(11) ibid p. 305
(13) Lander, Mark: “Clinton Sees an Opportunity for Iran to Return to Diplomacy.” New York Times 1/27/09.
(14) See: Monsters From The Id, silvercityburro.com 2/25/14
(15) Churchill, ibid p. 50
(17) I’ve written ten articles about Islam. Go to silvercityburro.com and see:
Monsters From The Id, 2/25/14
Groucho, Chico and Islams’s Useful Idiots 12/4/14
Islam 101, Part One 12/18/14
Islam 101, Part Two 12/27/14
Islam 101 Part Three 1/6/15
Islam For Smart Dummies 1/11/15
Islam 101 Part Four 1/18/15
Move Over, Neville Chamberlain 4/6/15
Slandering The Prophet 4/26/15
The Deadly and Suicidal Effects of the First Amendmentm7/19/15
(18) See: The Deadly and Suicidal Side Effects of the First Amendment, silvercityburro.com 7/19/15