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Hitchens contends Churchill wrong on almost everything but right about what mattered

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  • Hitchens contends Churchill wrong on almost everything but right about what mattered

    I am lodestar. The rest of you are not. Thus the universe balances itself.
    It pleases me to catch the 9.30 bus to town one day and the 10.00 bus the next (I care not one jot that anyone might object to this - I am a free entity).
    It pleases me to post this thread.
    Part of ……the way of lodestar

    Further to my earlier post on the Christopher Hitchens article in the Apr 2002 Atlantic Monthly article on Churchill I present the following:

    To start with, it needs to be understood the article, while contrary and designed to ‘stir’ if you will, IS NOT a demolition job on Churchill.

    Hitchens simply points out that there is most definitely another side of the Churchillian ledger and challenges certain aspects of the legend Churchill.
    However he says that the essence of what Churchill was about can be distilled into one absolute which is summarised on the cover of the magazine.
    The heading is “Churchill Takes a Fall”. Followed by the sub-text:

    “The revisionist verdict: ruthless, boorish, manipulative alcoholic, myopic and wrong about almost everything. But he was right about the thing that mattered most”

    As many Hitchens and many other commentators have pointed out over the years he most surely was wrong about so many things.

    Wrong about for example: Gallipoli, the gold standard/currency, intervention against a nascent Soviet union, Indian independence, early support for Nationalist Spain, the inherent virtue of simple ‘Britishness’, The French High Command, Norway, the Bombing campaign, waging war by a peripheral/indirect approach and opposing an early re-entry onto the continent.

    However despite all the above when it finally came to the crunch Churchill towers above all his contemporaries on the British late 1930’s political scene for one simple reason.
    Towards the end of the essay Hitchens sums this up thusly:

    “I find that I cannot rerun the tape of 1940, for example, and make it come out, or wish it to come out, any other way. This is for one purely subjective reason: I don't care about the loss of the British Empire, and feel that the United States did Britain—but not itself—a large favor by helping to dispossess the British of their colonies.

    But alone among his contemporaries, Churchill did not denounce the Nazi empire merely as a threat, actual or potential, to the British one. Nor did he speak of it as a depraved but possibly useful ally. He excoriated it as a wicked and nihilistic thing. That appears facile now, but was exceedingly uncommon then.

    In what was perhaps his best ever speech, delivered to the Commons five days after the Munich agreement, on October 5, 1938, Churchill gave voice to the idea that even a "peace-loving" coexistence with Hitler had something rotten about it.

    "What I find unendurable is the sense of our country falling into the power, into the orbit and influence of Nazi Germany, and of our existence becoming dependent upon their good will or pleasure."

    Those who write mournfully today about the loss of the British Empire must perforce admit that the Tory majority of 1938 proposed to preserve that empire on just those terms.

    Some saving intuition prompted Churchill to recognize, and to name out loud, the pornographic and catastrophically destructive nature of the foe. Only this redeeming x factor justifies all the rest-the paradoxes and inconsistencies, to be sure, and even the hypocrisy.”

    I short Nazi Germany needed to be opposed for what it was….period.

    You may not agree with all Hitchens has to say but tip your hat to him as a great writer.

    More on this terrific essay later.
    I know a poster has thoughtfully provided a link (a feature of the Forum which when overused, I believe encourages laziness) to the article. But the article is rather long and lodstarian highlights of the essay would I believe be more instructive. In short I prefer summaries to links.

    Finally speaking of things Churchillian…..I feel one of my taglines would be appropriate at this point:

    The first five of a planned fifteen volume set covering the life of lodestar are now available from this publisher:
    Vol.1 The Stars Beget a Son
    Vol. 2 Anvil of Destiny.
    Vol. 3 The Hammer of Power
    Vol 4. Road to Greatness
    Vol 5. The High School Years

    Regards lodestar

  • #2
    I'm quite sympathetic to Hitchens' writings (as anyone who read my signature will know) - excoriating, witty and biting. Plus, even if I disagree with his ideas on some views, I definitely respect the way he broke party tradition to make a moral stance following 9/11.

    I agree with him here. Churchill may have been a flawed figure, but he was a great moral leader who truly recognized Nazism for what it was and the need to confront it. History has proven him right here. Plus, he was a funny guy too.
    You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace, after having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.

    -- Ataturk

    Comment


    • #3
      WSC was wrong about a number of things, as was FDR (and Eisenhower, maybe even Truman). Sometimes they yielded to their advisors, sometimes bucked them.

      But another way to look at the question is to ask, "Who would have done better in that office at that time?" Atlee? Dewey?
      "There are only two professions in the world in which the amateur excels the professional. One, military strategy, and, two, prostitution."
      -- Maj. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower

      (Avatar: Commodore Edwin Ward Moore, Republic of Texas Navy)

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Jon Jordan View Post
        WSC was wrong about a number of things, as was FDR (and Eisenhower, maybe even Truman). Sometimes they yielded to their advisors, sometimes bucked them.

        But another way to look at the question is to ask, "Who would have done better in that office at that time?" Atlee? Dewey?
        Neither,he was the man for the job and he did it. As the saying goes,'it was a hard job but someone had to do it,thankfully for us it was WSC!! lcm1
        'By Horse by Tram'.


        I was in when they needed 'em,not feeded 'em.
        " Youuu 'Orrible Lot!"

        Comment


        • #5
          From what I have read about the Dardenelles campaign, it appears to have been plagued with poor intelligence gathering, poor execution, and poor littoral naval capabilities. Of course, strategists of the time should have understood these shortcomings before starting the campaign. But given that shortcomings generally exist because one is unaware of them, maybe the idea for the entire operation was not as unforgiveable as it would appear in 20-20 hindsight.

          Saying that the operation was a failure and therefore an obviously bad idea would be like saying somebody who misses the 9:30 bus to town must be a lazy lump of lard -- it overlooks the possibility that there was an intervening event which could not be reasonably foreseen at the time of the planning to catch the 9:30 bus to town.

          I am unconvinced that the Dardenelles campaign was "wrong" from the start. With better command decisions, better minesweeping, better intelligence about enemy forces ashore, it could have been a great victory.
          O Lord, bless this thy hand grenade, that with it thou mayst blow thine enemies to tiny bits, in thy mercy. And the Lord did grin. And the people did feast upon the lambs, sloths, carp, anchovies, orangutans, breakfast cereals, fruit bats

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by lodestar View Post
            ...As many Hitchens and many other commentators have pointed out over the years he most surely was wrong about so many things.

            Wrong about for example: Gallipoli, the gold standard/currency, intervention against a nascent Soviet union, Indian independence, early support for Nationalist Spain, the inherent virtue of simple ‘Britishness’, The French High Command, Norway, the Bombing campaign, waging war by a peripheral/indirect approach and opposing an early re-entry onto the continent.
            Much of what Churchill was wrong about was on the military strategy side of things. Sometimes the idea was correct but the execution was horrible and because WSC suggested the idea, he is crucified for it. WSC was not a general and though he liked to think he could be one, that was not his strong suit.

            IMO, the quality of WSC that makes him great is his unwillingness to despair when things were bleak, but to keep on inspiring his people and prod them to do better day after day. He believed in Britain and its way of life and even though that way of life was fading, it was worth fighting for and his vision of a world dominated by Nazi Germany was worth fighting against.

            Comment


            • #7
              lodestar buses and the Dardenelles

              Originally posted by Blair Maynard View Post
              From what I have read about the Dardenelles campaign, it appears to have been plagued with poor intelligence gathering, poor execution, and poor littoral naval capabilities. Of course, strategists of the time should have understood these shortcomings before starting the campaign.

              Saying that the operation was a failure and therefore an obviously bad idea would be like saying somebody who misses the 9:30 bus to town must be a lazy lump of lard -- it overlooks the possibility that there was an intervening event which could not be reasonably foreseen at the time of the planning to catch the 9:30 bus to town.

              I am unconvinced that the Dardenelles campaign was "wrong" from the start. With better command decisions, better minesweeping, better intelligence about enemy forces ashore, it could have been a great victory.
              The Darenelles campaign compared to lodestar's bus schedule(s).
              I like it I like it a lot!

              Regards lodestar

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Jon Jordan View Post
                WSC was wrong about a number of things, as was FDR (and Eisenhower, maybe even Truman). Sometimes they yielded to their advisors, sometimes bucked them.

                But another way to look at the question is to ask, "Who would have done better in that office at that time?" Atlee? Dewey?
                Taking nothing away from WSC, but it should be noted that Atlee was Churchill's strongest supporter in the cabinet discussions during May 1940.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by lodestar View Post
                  “The revisionist verdict: ruthless, boorish, manipulative alcoholic, myopic and wrong about almost everything. But he was right about the thing that mattered most”
                  This isn't really a revisionist verdict, its the view that has been held by a substantial number of the British public for years

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by redcoat View Post
                    This isn't really a revisionist verdict, its the view that has been held by a substantial number of the British public for years
                    I usually accept Lodestar as being a bit 'Tongue in cheek' and as such, find him amusing.On this particular subject though I find him spiteful, unnecesarily so. Come to think of it I do not entirely agree with you either.I am sure that a high percentage of that 'substantial number' that you refer to did not live through that period of time.He was accepted as a human being with faults but loved and respected for what he was,the ONLY man in the British Government capable of seeing us through the dark days! So what if he did steal a few comments in his speeches? He used them with good effect and when he stopped speaking he left his audience feeling good and encouraged about things and ready to face whatever was to come. As such he does not deserve after death the vultures that appear to enjoy tearing him to shreads. lcm1
                    'By Horse by Tram'.


                    I was in when they needed 'em,not feeded 'em.
                    " Youuu 'Orrible Lot!"

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      lodestar on Churchill and Hitchens

                      Originally posted by lcm1 View Post
                      I usually accept Lodestar as being a bit 'Tongue in cheek' and as such, find him amusing.On this particular subject though I find him spiteful, unnecesarily so. Come to think of it I do not entirely agree with you either.I am sure that a high percentage of that 'substantial number' that you refer to did not live through that period of time.He was accepted as a human being with faults but loved and respected for what he was,the ONLY man in the British Government capable of seeing us through the dark days! So what if he did steal a few comments in his speeches? He used them with good effect and when he stopped speaking he left his audience feeling good and encouraged about things and ready to face whatever was to come. As such he does not deserve after death the vultures that appear to enjoy tearing him to shreads. lcm1
                      Whoa! Steady on lcm1!! I'm not a Churchill hater mate.
                      The opinions on these thread are direct quotes from Hitchens article as I've pointed out.
                      As mentioned earlier I'm reviewing all my old magazines and books now I'm retired and I thought this article was of interest - that's all.
                      I don't just ignore or dismiss material I may not entirely agree with.

                      I greatly admire his and his nation's stand in the summer of 1940 and I'm sure Hitchens does as well. That's why I highlighted the following:

                      "But alone among his contemporaries, Churchill did not denounce the
                      Nazi empire merely as a threat, actual or potential, to the British one. Nor did he speak of it as a depraved but possibly useful ally. He excoriated it as a wicked and nihilistic thing. That appears facile now, but was exceedingly uncommon then.""


                      He just thinks there are other issues to be raised, which if you're looking at the man honestly, need to be considered.

                      The article is an 'overview'of the man if you will.

                      Regards lodestar

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by lodestar View Post
                        Whoa! Steady on lcm1!! I'm not a Churchill hater mate.
                        The opinions on these thread are direct quotes from Hitchens article as I've pointed out.
                        As mentioned earlier I'm reviewing all my old magazines and books now I'm retired and I thought this article was of interest - that's all.
                        I don't just ignore or dismiss material I may not entirely agree with.

                        I greatly admire his and his nation's stand in the summer of 1940 and I'm sure Hitchens does as well. That's why I highlighted the following:

                        "But alone among his contemporaries, Churchill did not denounce the
                        Nazi empire merely as a threat, actual or potential, to the British one. Nor did he speak of it as a depraved but possibly useful ally. He excoriated it as a wicked and nihilistic thing. That appears facile now, but was exceedingly uncommon then.""


                        He just thinks there are other issues to be raised, which if you're looking at the man honestly, need to be considered.

                        The article is an 'overview'of the man if you will.

                        Regards lodestar
                        Perhaps you could have improved on your original wording? lcm1
                        'By Horse by Tram'.


                        I was in when they needed 'em,not feeded 'em.
                        " Youuu 'Orrible Lot!"

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by redcoat View Post
                          Taking nothing away from WSC, but it should be noted that Atlee was Churchill's strongest supporter in the cabinet discussions during May 1940.
                          Indeed he did, and Attlee carries a lot of weight- with me anyway.

                          My mother, Welsh, and a life-long Labour voter,had inherited bitter memories from her family of how Churchill reputedly sent in the Army to crush striking coalminers at Tonypandy in 1910.

                          Whether he actually gave the order has been disputed, but the fact remains that Churchill was wildly unpopular with large sections of the working population for many years.

                          Still, when I asked her about Churchill, her reply was," Old Windbag- but he had the right Spirit !"

                          Which, I think ,is a good a summary as any.
                          "I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinions and sentiments I find delight".
                          Samuel Johnson.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by lodestar View Post
                            Whoa! Steady on lcm1!! I'm not a Churchill hater mate.
                            The opinions on these thread are direct quotes from Hitchens article as I've pointed out.
                            As mentioned earlier I'm reviewing all my old magazines and books now I'm retired and I thought this article was of interest - that's all.
                            I don't just ignore or dismiss material I may not entirely agree with.

                            I greatly admire his and his nation's stand in the summer of 1940 and I'm sure Hitchens does as well. That's why I highlighted the following:

                            "But alone among his contemporaries, Churchill did not denounce the
                            Nazi empire merely as a threat, actual or potential, to the British one. Nor did he speak of it as a depraved but possibly useful ally. He excoriated it as a wicked and nihilistic thing. That appears facile now, but was exceedingly uncommon then.""


                            He just thinks there are other issues to be raised, which if you're looking at the man honestly, need to be considered.

                            The article is an 'overview'of the man if you will.

                            Regards lodestar
                            Further more I would like to point out that despite my admiration of Churchill in the war years I have never voted Conservative or Liberal.When I came out of the Marines in 1946 my big brother said to me 'What are you going to vote Ken?'.....'Dunno George I haven't thought about it'...........'Then think about it,you are working class,so you vote Labour'!!! Ever since that conversation I have voted Labour, because he was right. The only trouble nowadays,England or Australia, the Labour parties are just watered down Liberals! lcm1
                            'By Horse by Tram'.


                            I was in when they needed 'em,not feeded 'em.
                            " Youuu 'Orrible Lot!"

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Ken..... A Communist?

                              Originally posted by lcm1 View Post
                              I have never voted Conservative.When I came out of the Marines in 1946 my big brother said to me 'What are you going to vote Ken?'....'Then think about it,you are working class,so you vote Labour'!!! Ever since that conversation I have voted Labour,lcm1
                              Never voted conservative!!
                              You Vote Labour!!
                              And you admit it on THIS WEBSITE!!

                              Well now we all know where you stand...............Ken (always thought you'd be an Ken or a Geoff or maybe a an Oliver or a James).

                              I have one question?
                              Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?

                              Answer sir you are on the judging stand of history.

                              Regards lodestar

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