Trou­ble­some young men

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Suzanne Fields

Who will stand up to chal­lenge the peace mob? His­tory re­peats it­self, but rarely ex­actly. Ex­am­ples of both cow­ardice and courage have lessons to teach, and so do com­par­isons with the past.

The oft-drawn anal­ogy be­tween abrupt with­drawal from Iraq and Neville Cham­ber­lain’s ap­pease­ment of Hitler in 1938 is in­ex­act, but ir­re­sistible. Cham­ber­lain, like some of the loud­est voices cry­ing now for tak­ing the last plane out of Bagh­dad, was re­garded by his col­leagues and the news­pa­pers as “a hero for peace.” Though many English­men knew bet­ter, few politi­cians were brave enough to speak up when Cham­ber­lain re­turned from meet­ing Hitler in Mu­nich in 1938, pro­claim­ing “peace in our time.”

Sen­ti­ment pre­vailed, emo­tion ruled. Grat­i­fi­ca­tion of the mo­ment trumped ap­peals to the longer view. A cool as­sess­ment of harsh and un­for­giv­ing re­al­ity gave way to a rose-col­ored view of an imag­ined world at peace and play.

Those who knew in their hearts that Cham­ber­lain had be­trayed Cze­choslo­vakia nev­er­the­less felt re­lief, re­as­sur­ing them­selves that af­ter all, ap­pease­ment is al­ways bet­ter than war. Francis Wil­liams, the ed­i­tor of the Daily Her­ald, a La­bor news­pa­per, was typ­i­cal. He might be a peace blog­ger to­day. Re­fus­ing to con­sider warn­ings that Hitler would ex­ploit Cham­ber­lain’s re­treat to make mat­ters worse, he fo­cused on images of chil­dren, in­clud­ing his own, do­ing hand­stands in city streets and rid­ing their bi­cy­cles through bu­colic coun­try lanes: “Such things — and a hun­dred oth­ers — came be­tween in­tel­lect and will,” he said, “and cried out that it was worth do­ing any­thing to avoid war.”

In her book, “Trou­ble­some Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save Eng­land,” Lynne Olson cap­tures the spirit of the time and shows how dif­fi­cult it was to ar­gue against the pre­vail­ing anti-war at­mos­phere. Who, af­ter all, wants war? Who doesn’t pre­fer peace to tur­moil? Nev­er­the­less, when Hitler marched into Poland, Eng­land de­clared war — but did noth­ing else. Mock­ing Teddy Roo­sevelt’s fa­mous maxim, Cham­ber­lain spoke loudly and car­ried a small stick.

It took a few trou­ble­some young Tories to defy Cham­ber­lain’s pol­icy of de­feat, putting their ca­reers at risk (and most of them paid a price) to oust Cham­ber­lain and bring in Win­ston Churchill. What’s clear only in ret­ro­spect is how hard it is to in­voke com­mon sense against the peace mob.

If we’re lucky there will be a trou­ble­some young man to make trou­ble. Duff Cooper was the first lord of the ad­mi­ralty in 1938. He liked his job and wanted to keep it, but re­signed in protest. “It was ‘peace with honor’ that I couldn’t stom­ach,” he said. “If [Cham­ber­lain] had come back from Mu­nich say­ing ‘peace with ter­ri­ble, un­mit­i­gated, un­par­al­leled dis­honor,’ per­haps I would have stayed. But peace with honor!”

Words like th­ese re­ver­ber­ate now in Wash­ing­ton. Even be­fore we get the ea­gerly awaited Septem­ber progress re­port from Gen. David Pe­traeus, the U.S. com­man­der in Iraq, the peace mob can’t wait to de­clare peace. Honor has noth­ing to do with it. The peace mob al­ready knows all it wants to know.

Ter­ror­ism is not fas­cism, but the ter­ror­ists have the familiar lust for blood. Osama bin laden is not Adolf Hitler, but like Hitler he rec­og­nized weak­ness when acts of ter­ror against Amer­i­can em­bassies in Africa, the USS Cole and the first bomb­ing of the World Trade Cen­ter went unan­swered. The plot­ters of al Qaeda sim­i­larly rec­og­nize faint hearts in the West. Friends as well as en­e­mies are mea­sur­ing how de­pend­able as al­lies Amer­ica and Bri­tain re­ally are. Evil men in Afghanistan and Iraq can’t in­vade the West, but the first line of de­fense runs through those mis­er­able places.

Ge­orge W. Bush is no Win­ston Churchill, but he can learn from him. Churchill of­fered his peo­ple a deep un­der­stand­ing of why war was both nec­es­sary and in­evitable. He asked for their help, and got it. Three days af­ter he re­placed Cham­ber­lain he replied to his skep­tics: “What is our aim? I can an­swer in one word: vic­tory.”

Gor­don Brown, the new Bri­tish prime min­is­ter, is no Churchill, ei­ther. He de­scribes the war in the dullest of dull lan­guage: “In Iraq we have du­ties to dis­charge and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to keep.” No ring­ing call to arms there, but the right sen­ti­ment is there.

The Iraq war is un­pop­u­lar, but los­ing it would be dis­as­trous. Ru­dolph Gi­u­liani got it right in the Repub­li­can de­bate in Iowa: “The re­al­ity is that you do not achieve peace through weak­ness and ap­pease­ment. We should seek a vic­tory in Iraq and in Bagh­dad, and we should de­fine the vic­tory.” Look­ing re­al­ity in the eye is the work of trou­ble­some young men — and women. Is there one now among us?

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.