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Commentary from the Free Enterprise Foundation, Issue #08-5-- More Thought Provoking Commentary!
February 26, 2008
You are invited to read the latest commentary from the Free Enterprise Foundation. It will make you think!
By Robert E. Freer, Jr., President of The Free Enterprise Foundation
For that rare politician’s who serves his nation in peril, the hum drum of budgets, yearly appropriations, kissing babies and the chicken and peas circuit of speeches and outstretched hands is replaced by a challenge that tests the leader’s mettle. Scorched by the cauldron’s fire, it is with perseverance, faith and a steady hand, the politician is transformed to statesman. It is the leader’s assumption of his nation’s pain, the withstanding of unceasing blows, while continuing to fight his nation’s woes and make light of life’s adversity that ennobles and endears.
Who amongst today’s candidates rises to such heights? Would we elect him or her if we knew? Winston Churchill picked in a national poll in the fall of 2004 as the greatest Briton ever, was brought into office at England’s nadir by the failure of his predecessor and his nation to heed his calls throughout the 1930s of the growing menace of German arms and voracious expansionist goals. Half a decade later, upon the Nazi’s defeat, he was frog- marched from office before Europe’s embers had cooled.
While that is hardly a fitting reward, Churchill knew that democracy is as fickle as the breeze, and once commented that democracy, although a terrible form of government was still far superior to all others. At the beginning of World War II, having been embroiled in statecraft for almost 40 years, he was no neophyte. Churchill understood the whims of his chosen arena, yet persisted in the love of his native land and its form of government.
What would we do to our president if, following a devastating defeat with our troops just on the verge of limping home in disarray, he told us in his first major speech, “I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government, I have nothing to offer but blood, toil tears and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many long months of toil and struggle” “…You ask what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory. Victory at all costs; Victory in spite of all terror; Victory however long and hard the road may be. For without victory there is no survival.”
Throughout England’s terrible ordeal, despite early calls to negotiate with Hitler, and warnings that Britain could not survive, he held his Island home together by sheer willpower. In place of appeasement he gave them: “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.”
John Kennedy once noted as to Churchill that he “mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.” During the darkest days of the war, he steadied his nation and stiffened their spines. Fifteen months after the excerpts above, he was able to say, “We are still masters of our fate. We still are captain of our souls.” And at Harrow, his old school, “This is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never, never - in nothing, great or small, large or petty- never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
Now that is a leader! As The African Campaign became a reality in 1942, he was able to report, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
I leave you to supply your own subtext as to whether any of our candidates today would be up to the task Churchill faced. There are those who will tell you no such person is required in our present political climes. I am here to disabuse you of that notion. For many, we blundered into our present situation in the Middle East and have only to pull on our forelock and back calmly but expeditiously out of the region to be restored to good reputation and renewed prosperity at home.
I wonder if it is that easy. Columns such as mine on our energy dependence have had very little effect on the bleak prospects for short term relief from the energy dependence on Mideast crude we all lament. Surely precipitous removal of our troops, in the midst of achieving real gains in stability within Iraq won’t make that situation better and increases the leverage of evil forces indent on achieving either our demise or acceptance of their dogma.
In the most volatile region of the world, we will be proven untrustworthy to the thousands who have trusted in our honor and the might they assumed backed our words. They will conclude we are fickle, shortsighted, spoiled and not worthy to lead. They will be faced with renewed violence by a virulent pestilence which together we must overcome where it was born, or it will enflame the world. There are half a dozen possible scenarios that would follow our departure from Iraq; not one of them would be good for our national interests
If there were a Churchill, he would compare our fatigue to the deafness of America and Europe alike during the 1930’s to the Nazi menace growing stronger daily across the English Channel, unopposed by those who should have known better. We do know better and dare not shrink from our responsibility.
Copyright © 2008 by Robert E. Freer, Jr. All rights reserved
About the author: Robert E. Freer, Jr. is President of The Free Enterprise Foundation. He is a Visiting Professor, at The Citadel and elected in 2005 to be their first John S. Grinalds Leader in Residence. A regular contributor to the Mercury, He can be reached by E-mail at The Citadel . Copies of his earlier columns can be found The Free Enterprise Foundation.
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