June 4, 2013

Finest Hour 143, Summer 2009

Page 4

Despatch Box

Unintended Results

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David Jablonsky’s “The Churchill Experience and the Bush Doctrine” (FH 141) was a thoughful reminder of Churchill’s warning that war is full of unexpected turns and unpleasant surprises.

Don Corleone Vs. Stan And Ollie

Colonel Jablonsky’s piece on the use of force in Churchill’s context as opposed to the “Bush Doctrine” is like comparing “The Godfather” with “Laurel and Hardy.” Churchill was a student of the use of the military to attain political advantage. He never utilized a preemptive attack such as Bush did on the government of Iraq.

Jablonsky makes a stretch to argue that Churchill utilized a preemptive attack on the Vichy fleet at Oran. At this particular time of World War II, Great Britain was fighting for its very survival. Vichy France was a mere puppet state of Nazi Germany. Jablonsky states that the Vichy was “nominally independent.” His argument is weak and superfluous.

Jablonsky is correct in stating that Churchill expounded the virtues of military preparedness to make sure that the agreements of Versailles and Locarno were followed. How these prescient activities by Churchill during his wilderness years compare to anything President Bush advocated is beyond me.

As stated in the author’s conclusion, Churchill would have taken greater care in relations with Iraq. It was Churchill’s folly which created this dysfunctional entity. He knew that when going to war, one must examine all the consequences. Churchill was a soldier-statesman. In retrospect Bush was a man seeking statesmanship through war without the knowledge of a soldier.

Editor’s response: Ordinarily I would ask the author to respond, but since Col. Jablonsky is ill, I will reply for him. To label something a “Bush Doctrine” doesn’t necessarily mean one approves of it. It seems to me that Jablonsky’s piece, while sympathetic toward the former President’s dilemmas, was more critical than supportive: “the Iraq war…has raised doubts not only in U.S. claims to legitimacy in its use of force, but the efficacy of such efforts.” To say Vichy France was only “nominally independent” compared to Iraq is to struggle asymptotically towards truth. In Vichy France they had disagreement. By comparison Hussein’s Iraq was only “nominally independent,” and I’m not too sure it had a government, in the sense we understand it. None of which endorses or dismisses the Bush Doctrine.

“Churchill’s folly” in Iraq (the title of a recent book, which was not persuasive) is a judgment based on what we know now. David Freeman (“Churchill and the Making of Modern Iraq,” FH 132) explains that the factors governing WSC’s actions there ceased to apply almost as soon as they were taken. Yet his folly kept Iraq stable for nearly forty years, even as his folly in Ireland kept the peace for nearly fifty. Iraq today is less scary than it was, but it asks too much that Churchill (or Bush) should be held responsible decades later, after the factors have changed and others have had all that time to repair or extend whatever follies they committed.

As Churchill said in 1952: “It is always wise to look ahead, but difficult to look farther than you can see.”

Your book, Churchill by Himself, praised by Mary Soames and Martin Gilbert (FH 142: 53) sits tall and eclipses lesser compendiums. It reminds me of Churchill’s alleged reply to a taunt about Ireland being only a small, weak country: “Yes, but it is a mother country.”

I was twigged also by your contributions to the pages of Finest Hour. Having just rifled through some back issues, I was struck by your meticulousness and willingness, like Churchill, to recognize negatives while accentuating positives. Example: balanced treatment of the delicate issue of Churchill, Islam and race (FH 114:45)—a subject that might resurface over Kenya.

My enthusiasm derives in part from having served as chairman of the organization with the longest name, the Churchill Society for the Advancement of Parliamentary Democracy, and the privilege of talking with some of those who were closest to the great man.

Editor’s response: Mr. Little, meet Mr. Geschke. Continued success to your fine organization.

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