24 November 2008
Re-re-thinking Churchill

Ralph Raico wrote an article attacking Churchill’s reputation.  I thought I’d enjoy reading it as I think Churchill’s reputation probably deserves to be attacked.  But I didn’t enjoy the article.  To be frank I thought it was rubbish and wrote a comment to that effect.  This is what I said:

I’m not very happy with this. Not because of any particular reverence for Churchill but because if his reputation is to be taken down a peg or two then it has to be done well. That means that criticisms have to be consistent and well-justified.

For instance, one criticism is that the Second World War allowed the creation of the Welfare State. But earlier on in the essay we have the criticism that Churchill helped create the Welfare State before the First World War. Well, which is it?

Another criticism is that Churchill helped destroy the British Empire. I thought libertarians were generally-speaking against empires. Or did I miss that memo?

Then there’s the complaint that Churchill was an opportunist. Well, golly, an opportunistic politician, who’d have thought it.

Then there is the whole issue of responsibility. Churchill is responsible for Churchill’s actions. Fine. But who is responsible for Hitler’s? Because the suggestion is made that Chuchill forced Hitler into starting the Holocaust. What god has walked among us? Exactly the same mistake is made when referring to the Blockade of Germany in the First World War - the claim being made that this led to the deaths of 800,000 civilians. OK, but what does that say about the Kaiser? If he had cared about his citizens he could have surrendered at any point. But he didn’t. And if the Kaiser didn’t care for the citizens of Germany why should Churchill have?

There is also the whole excursion into the “If Only” school of history. If only this one decision here had been different then all that nastiness could have been avoided. Maybe but equally, maybe not. Sometimes shit is going to happen no matter where you stand. Actually, not a bad metaphor for the 20th Century.

But really Churchill’s reputation rests on two questions: was he right to continue the war in 1940? and was he right to warn of the Soviet threat in 1946?

The latter should be fairly simple as throughout this essay the complaint is made that for most of the wartime years Churchill was being too soft on Russia. So, how he gets criticised when he sees the light in 1946 I just don’t understand.

On the question of the War there is, I believe, a reasonably respectable view that Britain should never have gone to war in 1939 and should have sought terms in 1940. It is possible that (uniquely) Hitler didn’t mean what he wrote about the United States in the Second Book and it is possible that alone among agreements he would have kept those he made with the UK. But what were the chances?

I think the author takes the pacifist view that all war and even self-defence is wrong. Maybe, but it’s a controversial view and I think has to be thoroughly justified every time it is aired.

I notice that Major-General J F C Fuller (member of the British Union of Fascists) and David Irving (Holocaust Denier) get a mention. You know, if I were going to mention either of these two I would do so with a health warning.

As I said, I think Churchill’s reputation deserves to be taken down a peg or two but this inconsistent scattergun approach riddled with inconsistencies is not the way to do it.

So I start off believing X, the article also makes the case for X but does it so badly I end up believing -X.  That’s quite an achievement.

PermalinkFeedback (0)Warfare


Commenting is not available in this channel entry.