Finest Hour 133, Winter 2006-07
By Winston S. Churchill
In 1940, a crucial juncture in the greatest war of history, it fell to Winston Churchill to provide the leadership that enabled Britain to hold out, though the rest of Europe had fallen beneath the Nazi jackboot.
You may say I’m biased—which of course I am—but I say without equivocation that, but for Churchill, the Swastika might to this day be flying over Buckingham Palace, and over the capitals of Europe as far East as Moscow. What a different world we would all be living in! Indeed, many of those alive today would not have survived, myself included.
Among Churchill’s many qualities, one of the most striking was his prescience. He had been the first, in the early 1930s, to warn of the dangers posed by Nazi Germany. Again, in 1946, he was first to warn of the Soviet threat, in his historic “Iron Curtain” speech at Fulton, Missouri—now sixty years ago.
Churchill’s purpose at Fulton was to urge the United States not to retreat into isolationism, but to take the lead in establishing an alliance of the Western democracies. That is exactly what came about just three years later when, in 1949, the NATO Alliance was founded. NATO was everything he had dared hope for. It was the bulwark against Soviet expansion, the guarantor of peace and, ultimately, the rock on which the Soviet Empire foundered.
Though he had done no more than state the realities of the situation, Churchill found after Fulton that he had stirred up a hornet’s nest. Indeed, I recall my father Randolph telling me how, on his return to New York a few days after his Fulton speech, Winston Churchill was besieged in his hotel, the Waldorf Astoria, by a large and hostile crowd that had to be held back by hundreds of police. Implausibly, the Soviets declared that Churchill’s Fulton speech was the cause of the Cold War. The truth, of course, is that the Cold War dates from the moment that the Red Army, in the guise of liberators, was ordered by the Kremlin to stay as enslavers.
Mercifully, after forty-five years of Cold War, we emerged unscathed from the Valley of the Shadow of Death. In my view great credit is due to Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, and to the electorates who put them in place in 1979-80.
I firmly believe—indeed I had the pleasure of telling President Reagan so to his face—that his Strategic Defense Initiative, dubbed “Star Wars” by foolish people who sought to made mock of him, will be seen by history to have been the final straw that broke the camel’s back.
Today we are confronted by a new challenge: radical Islamic fundamentalism. But how many of you know that Churchill also warned of its dangers too? Don’t worry—I didn’t either!
He did so 85 years ago on 14 June 1921, hard on the heels of the Cairo Conference, at which as British Colonial Secretary, he had presided over the reshaping of the Middle East, including modern-day Iraq: “A large number of [Saudi Arabia’s King] Bin Saud’s followers belong to the Wahabi sect, a form of Mohammedanism which bears, roughly speaking, the same relationship to orthodox Islam as the most militant form of Calvinism would have borne to Rome in the fiercest times of [Europe’s] religious wars.”
In Churchill’s day the viciousness and cruelty of the Wahabis was confined to the Arabian peninsula. But today they have exported their exceptionally intolerant practices from Mauritania and Morocco on Africa’s Atlantic shores, through more than three dozen countries including Bosnia, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East, to as far afield as the Philippines and East Timor in the Pacific.
This is the stark challenge, predicted by Winston Churchill, that today confronts the Western world. I fear it will be with us for a very long time to come. The Islamic threat comes in two forms: terrorist and demographic. What I am about to say may shock you— indeed I hope will shock you.
The writing is today on the wall for Judaeo-Christian Europe as we have known it over the past 2000 years. France has an Islamic population of approximately six million, 10% of the total. But draw a line at age twenty. Below it the figure jumps to 30%. When that generation comes of age, just one further generation will see France an Islamic country.
Nor are other EU countries far behind. Take for example Catholic Belgium: What do you imagine to be the single most popular name for a boy-child? If you haven’t guessed, I will tell you: Mohammed.
Now we have President Bush lecturing the European Union that it should fast-track Turkey’s accession to the EU. I am a great admirer of the Turks, but I have to say frankly: There could be no greater disaster for Europe than the admission of Turkey to the EU. Overnight Europe’s Islamic population would skyrocket from 20 to 100 million. If President Bush is so concerned to do something for Turkey, let him invite them to become the fifty-first state, multiplying fifteen fold the Islamic population of the United States!
As for the terrorist threat from fundamentalist Islam, let me say this is not America’s battle alone. It is a battle on behalf of the whole world, on behalf of generations yet unborn. Together we have overcome far more powerful enemies than those that assail us today. I have every confidence that, in confronting this new challenge, America and Britain, together with our allies, can prevail and shall prevail—just as together we have triumphed in the past.
What then is the essence of leadership? It comprises five key elements: Knowledge, Wisdom, Prescience, Honour, Courage. And as Winston Churchill declared in paraphrasing Dr. Johnson: “Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities…because it is the quality which guarantees all others.”
I conclude by quoting from my grandfather’s last speech, delivered by my father, Randolph, when accepting from President John F. Kennedy the award of Honorary U.S. Citizenship on his father’s behalf. It is more than forty years ago. I recall as if it were yesterday, standing by my late father in the Rose Garden of the White House, as he delivered his father’s reply, which was also his farewell to the American people:
“I am, as you know, half American by blood, and the story of my association with that mighty and benevolent nation goes back nearly ninety years to the day of my father’s marriage. In this century of storm and tragedy, I contemplate with high satisfaction the constant factor of the interwoven and upward progress of our peoples. Our comradeship and our brotherhood in war were unexampled. We stood together and, because of that fact, the free world now stands….”
I would only add, how thrilled he would be to know that today, two generations on, confronted by new and mortal perils, the British and American peoples still stand four-square together, confronting the danger of the hour, and that the Special Relationship is as close as it has ever been. Long may it be so. God bless America. !’