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Troublesome Young Men:

I just finished reading Lynne Olson's terrific book Troublesome Young Men. The book tells the tale of the group of Tories who courageously stood up to Neville Chamberlain and his appeasement policy, and eventually drove him from power. Many of these maverick Tories bore a huge personal price for following their consciences. Chamberlain and other Tory leaders attacked them as disloyal traitors to their party. Chamberlain himself comes off as a petty, thin-skinned, bullying, and self-absorbed man who turned all criticisms of his policies into a test of personal loyalty to himself.

The great climax of the historical events was Leo Amery's historic speech in the House of Commons where he exclaimed to Chamberlain (quoting Cromwell): "You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing! Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!"

Occasionally life tests you to follow your principles and to do the right thing to support an institution in the face of opposition by powerful, yet petty and and narrow-minded people (although never with the stakes faced by pre-War Britain). I personally found the book to be a great inspiration to do the right thing in those situations and act to do the right thing, even when it may mean a setback or cost to yourself or even seemingly to your cause in the short run. Others will just follow the party line in order to gain personal advantage and essentially knowingly sell out the institution they are supposed to serve, thereby getting ahead in the short run. As Olson notes, some of the "Troublesome Young Men" such as MacMillan later went on to great successes, but many of them did not. She indicates that Churchill was pretty disloyal to those who helped topple Chamberlain and make Churchill Prime Minister, keeping Chamberlain around in a senior role after he was driven out of the Prime Minister spot. An especially striking section was when Chamberlain used the invasion of France as an excuse to try to retain power even after Parliament had made it clear that it was time for him to go. As I saw commented recently in a different context, "Desperate people do desperate things."

A well-written, interesting, and inspiring book. I've read a fair amount of World War II history and Churchill biography, but this was a story about man characters that I had never really heard before.

bergo (mail):

petty, thin-skinned, bullying, and self-absorbed man who turned all criticisms of his policies into a test of personal loyalty to himself.


That doesn't sound familiar at all...
9.11.2007 12:42am
Hewart:
Occasionally life tests you to follow your principles and to do the right thing to support an institution in the face of opposition by powerful, yet petty and and narrow-minded people...

That's a very interesting spin on this. In fact, the "troublesome young men" were doing the right thing by standing up to an institution, i.e., their party, because it had become a vehicle for the wrong thing.

Institutions such as political parties often have plenty of support, by virtue of their being institutionalized. Status quo, tradition and inertia help promote them. It's often much more difficult to go against a political party of which you are a member when the party has embraced the wrong path, and thus much more deserving of exhortation to "troublesome young men" to rail against such party errors, even when doing so may cost them dearly.

In Chamberlain's case, the petty, powerful, narrow-minded people were promoting their institution (i.e., party). The noble dissenters who risked much were the ones railing against the party.

Interesting parallels to today's context, I'd say.
9.11.2007 12:44am
rlb:
It's pretty ironic that Churchill's botched invasion of Norway was what finally did Chamberlain in.

Also, in the context of this story, that Chamberlain died, what, six months after being forced out?

Oh, and it's ironic that after taking office, Churchill refused generous German peace offers, and instead kept Britain in a war that would cost tens of millions of lives, and would ruin Britain (along with many other countries)-- and still fail to liberate Poland or Czechoslovakia, which had been the whole reason for the war in the first place.
9.11.2007 12:46am
Anderson (mail):
Churchill refused generous German peace offers

Hate how the war turned out, eh, rlb?

Just think how Britain could have thrived by allying itself with Hitler!

(Haven't read the book under review; does it add anything much to Five Days in London by Lukacs?)
9.11.2007 1:01am
mistermark:
Chamberlain himself comes off as a petty, thin-skinned, bullying, and self-absorbed man who turned all criticisms of his policies into a test of personal loyalty to himself.

Thank heaven someone with those qualities would never become the leader of this country. That can't happen here. Once again, New World 1, Old World 0.
9.11.2007 1:06am
ras (mail):
petty, thin-skinned, bullying, and self-absorbed man who turned all criticisms of his policies into a test of personal loyalty to himself.

The word for that is narcissist. Next test: did he start out w/people who might be useful to him by turning on the charm and flattery, only to flip like a light switch later on to the polar opposite? Not much diff between the way such pols treat others and the way an abusive person treats their spouse.

p.s. bergo, your allusion doesn't hold, you're reasoning from a conclusion.

p.s. rlb, Nazi Germany could be trusted, could it? You must be a more trusting soul than I, then.
9.11.2007 1:14am
happy lee:
rlb makes a good point and no one has suggested a reason why his point might lack merit. Churchill was a bloodthirsty fellow who fed on the glory of dead young boys and men. At least Chamberlain was reluctant to get kids killed.
9.11.2007 1:20am
Cornellian (mail):
I suppose Churchill could have accepted one of those "generous German peace offers." After all, it would have guaranteed peace in our time, right?
9.11.2007 1:34am
Perseus (mail):
I can only assume that rlb's comment that "it's ironic that after taking office, Churchill refused generous German peace offers, and instead kept Britain in a war that would cost tens of millions of lives" is itself intended to be ironic.
9.11.2007 1:55am
Anderson (mail):
Churchill was a bloodthirsty fellow who fed on the glory of dead young boys and men

Wow .. it *is* a big internet.
9.11.2007 2:31am
Harry Eagar (mail):
Amery wasn't all that young in 1940, and he was never going anywhere, since the Tories and even the Liberals thought of him as a pushy Jew.

The men who really stood by Churchill were not all young. In the early '30s, when W.C. was lost in the wilderness, about 50 backbenchers decided to stand with him in opposition to the India Bill. That truly was politically suicidal, and everyone thought that Churchill was the dead one. But they stuck by their imperialist principles, kept Churchill from total exclusion and stood with him in the adjournment debates in the late '30s.

Ironic, huh? A bunch of Colonel Blimps kept Churchill available for duty when he was needed.
9.11.2007 2:40am
rlb:
Hate how the war turned out, eh, rlb?
I hate that 50,000,000 people died with the result being that the evil totalitarian state that invaded Poland in 1939 ended up occupying all of Eastern Europe, and could go on to sponsor "revolutions" that would kill tens of millions more and destabilize the world to this day.
9.11.2007 3:36am
Josh644 (mail):
I hate that 50,000,000 people died with the result being that the one of the evil totalitarian states that invaded Poland in 1939

I'm sure the Nazis would have been much gentler. Perhaps the British would benefit from having a crystal ball AND some way of definitively knowing what might have been. Or they could deal with the monster on their doorstep instead of waffling.
9.11.2007 4:03am
BGates (www):
The noble dissenters who risked much were the ones railing against the party.

Interesting parallels to today's context, I'd say.


Agreed. This story has 'Joe Lieberman' written all over it.
9.11.2007 5:38am
David M. Nieporent (www):
I hate that 50,000,000 people died with the result being that the evil totalitarian state that invaded Poland in 1939 ended up occupying all of Eastern Europe, and could go on to sponsor "revolutions" that would kill tens of millions more and destabilize the world to this day.
Uh, those people didn't die because of the British war with Germany -- you know, the evil totalitarian state that invaded Poland in 1939? Most deaths occurred in Eastern Europe. Had Britain accepted the Nazi offer, that would have freed up some German forces to allow Hitler to prosecute his war on the Eastern Front. Which would have either resulted in a German victory or a Soviet one; either way, there'd be an evil totalitarian state that invaded Poland in 1939 occupying all of Eastern Europe. And France.
9.11.2007 6:38am
Gaius Marius:
Churchill played the cards he was handed by Chamberlain the best he could. Folks like RLB forget that in 1938, while Chamberlain was being universally celebrated for achieving "peace in our time" by selling out Czechoslavakia to the Nazis, Churchill was making a lone speech in the House of Commons (notwithstanding a lot of boos and jeers) about how the Allies had "suffered a total and unmitigated defeat" by selling out the Czechs to Hitler.

Also, Chamberlain kept his illness a relative secret from his peers and certainly from Churchill. Therefore, the fact that Chamberlain died six months after Churchill was handed the keys to the PM office by HRM is a red herring.

In addition, refusing "generous" German peace offers (assuming arguendo they were officially communicated to Churchill) was the right thing to do. If everyone will recall, it was the acceptance of "generous" German peace offers at the end of WWI that allowed Hitler to rise to power making the claim that the political leadership had stabbed the German Army in the back while it was still fighting the Allies.

Finally, I am going to take a contrarian view and state that allowing the Soviets to occupy Eastern Europe was not entirely meritless. Although my heart goes out to the millions that suffered under communism for forty years (my wife is half-Polish), the foregoing experience taught the peoples of Eastern Europe, and the entire world for that matter, that communism is a fraud and a farce. When I traveled through Eastern Europe a few years ago, I rarely heard of anyone pining away for the return of Soviet occupation and/or unfettered communism.
9.11.2007 8:07am
Hmm:
You know, I went to a college that felt an awful lot like that.
9.11.2007 8:53am
Lloyd George:
Too many parallels between Chamberlain and Bush in mismanaging a war and accelerating their nation's slide into decline.
9.11.2007 10:08am
Happyshooter:
You cannot trust a traitor. Parties since the early 1900s have come to be as strong and as important as the Roman parties.

Who could ever trust them?

These men gave their word and their loyalty to their party, which rewarded them with positions. Then they were very disloyal and disobeyed their leader over an important issue, and attacked him in public over and over.

The fact that they were right does not wipe away the fact that they are traitors, in fact it makes them more likely to betray again.
9.11.2007 10:19am
Tim Worstall (mail) (www):
Interesting footnote. One of Amery's sons (John) became a Nazi, well, at least sympathizer, and was hung for treason in late 1945.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Amery
The other son, Julian, was a Cabinet Minister in the 60s and 70s.
9.11.2007 10:48am
Grateful '89:
I think many commenters do not understand the context of this post, but thank you, Todd. I don't know where it will all go from here, but you did what you could and what you thought was best.
9.11.2007 10:49am
Lugo:
Too many parallels between Chamberlain and Bush in mismanaging a war and accelerating their nation's slide into decline.

These parallels exist only in the mind of the deranged.
9.11.2007 11:06am
Strick:
She indicates that Churchill was pretty disloyal to those who helped topple Chamberlain and make Churchill Prime Minister, keeping Chamberlain around in a senior role after he was driven out of the Prime Minister spot.


I'm reading Five Days in London: May 1940 about the crucial period after Churchill first came to power during the one of the worst crisis of the war. It talks both about how generous Churchill was to Chamberlain during that period and how critical Chamberlain's support of Churchill was at a time when it was all but certain that Churchill was going to be prime minister long enough to accomplish anything.

Can't really say whether Churhill's behavior toward Chamberlain was calculated or due to knowning personally what Chamberlain was going through (or both), but it was essential to the healing process that let the coalition government go forward and fight the war.

That says nothing about the men who are the subject of this book, of course, but Churchill's treatment of Chamberlain had to do with a great deal beyond them.

BTW, I'll join in the shock at the claim that Hitler's terms to Britain were "generous". They would have been if Britain had been defeated, assuming you believe that Hitler would have abided by his promises. But they would have turned Britain into a fiefdom of Nazi Germany and left the rest of Europe enslaved. A perfect leason on how the easy choice can be the wrong one.

There are few moments of courage that equal Churchill's refusal to discuss terms with German during the bleak days leading up to Dunkirk. Whether or not he treated these men unfairly later, Churchill deeserves to be remembered for what he did during those days.
9.11.2007 11:07am
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
happy lee writes: "At least Chamberlain was reluctant to get kids killed." That's not necessarily a compliment.

I thought it was the general opinion of historians (or at least the opinion of many respectable historians) that Hitler could have been stopped at the cost of a few dozen or a few hundred lives if Britain and France had gone to war over (e.g.) the remilitarization of the Rhineland in 1936. Sometimes the reluctance to get a few hundred "kids" (actually adult soldiers) killed in the short run can lead to the loss of tens of millions of soldiers and civilians just a few years later.
9.11.2007 11:21am
Randy R. (mail):
Some have commented about the parallels between now and then. Who are the brave Republicans in congress who are standing up to Bush and telling him that he must go? And are willing to risk their livilihoods and standing by saying such?

Don't see any.
9.11.2007 12:04pm
ChrisIowa (mail):

Who are the brave Republicans in congress who are standing up to Bush and telling him that he must go?


Perhaps the ones with courage are the ones standing with Bush.
9.11.2007 12:24pm
Gaius Marius:
Churchill not only kept Chamberlain around but he also included members of the other two parties (Labor and Liberals) to participate in his war cabinet thereby creating a unified coalition government, which England required to withstand to repel the greatest invasion since the Normans in 1066. In hindsight, Churchill made the right decision. BTW, the foregoing is probably the greatest distinction between Churchill and President Bush who has failed to achieve and sustain a unified war effort with the Democrats in Congress by failing to go to Congress to obtain approval for various actions that have been discussed at length elsewhere on this Board.
9.11.2007 1:25pm
happylee:

Sometimes the reluctance to get a few hundred "kids" (actually adult soldiers) killed in the short run can lead to the loss of tens of millions of soldiers and civilians just a few years later.



It was Great Britain's entirely elitist imperial powerlust that compelled it to sacrifice millions of young men for the greater glory of empire in WWI, and it was a similar elitist imperial self-righteous powerlust that compelled it to sacrifice millions more in WWII. It is an error to think that any nation fighting booboo Hitler in 1941 was doing so for any other reason than power. Sure, after the war some of the darker evils of der Fuhrer were discovered, but at the outset of the war it was about containing a rival. FDR, Churchill, Stalin, Mussolini, Franco, Chiang Kai-shek, Emperor Hirohito, and everyone else was commie, socialist or fascist. Human rights (read: freedom, property rights, etc.) had long since been reduced to minor platitudes uttered on occasion to motivate the masses into ever more suicidal missions, whether on the home front or "over there."

Just like Lincoln the Northern Imperialist and Puppet of Industry gave stirring speeches about freeing slaves to cover up a naked power grab, so Churchill, Stalin and FDR gave stirring speeches about this or that while really only caring about power. The RING, baby; the RING!
9.11.2007 1:31pm
happylee:
This little Goering quote sums it up nicely:

"Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."
-- Herman Goering at the Nuremberg trials
9.11.2007 1:36pm
George Smith (mail):
Good Heavens!
9.11.2007 1:39pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
gaius, Chamberlain's government was a coalition government, too, with the largest majorities in the history of Parliament. That did not make England strong, because the Cabinet was filled with weak men.

I agree that the events of the late '30s, early '40s seem like unknown territory to a lot of posters here. But, unless he is being very subtly ironic, especially one of them, who wrote:

'Too many parallels between Chamberlain and Bush in mismanaging a war and accelerating their nation's slide into decline.'

And signed himself 'lloyd george.' How many know that in 1942 -- after the US and USSR were in -- the original Lloyd George made a speech in Parliament demanding a negotiated peace with Hitler?
9.11.2007 1:42pm
Tyrone Slothrop (mail) (www):

I second the recommendation of Five Days In London, a terrific book.
9.11.2007 1:53pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Sure, after the war some of the darker evils of der Fuhrer were discovered

Now there is the understatement of the day. I guess happylee is referring to Hitler's rather peculiar dietary habits.

Oh and btw Britain did not lose "millions" in either of the world wars (it came close in WWI, but nowhere near in WWII).

As much as I dislike Churchill (I dislike his imperialism and his ability to weasel out of his own military blunders and blame them on others), to try and place the blame for WWII on him as some in this thread are trying to do is truly abhorrent.
9.11.2007 2:21pm
happylee:

As much as I dislike Churchill (I dislike his imperialism and his ability to weasel out of his own military blunders and blame them on others), to try and place the blame for WWII on him as some in this thread are trying to do is truly abhorrent.



Churchill was no more and no less than his neighbor in hell, Lincoln. Just as Lincoln was simply a tool of powerful Northern industrial and railroad groups, so Churchill was merely a useful tool of the british imperialist merchant class. Period.
9.11.2007 2:33pm
Randolph Carter (mail):
Randy R.,

Ron Paul! He continues to fight against the war in Iraq while staying away from Democratic party lunacy on financial issues.
9.11.2007 2:44pm
happylee:

Oh and btw Britain did not lose "millions" in either of the world wars (it came close in WWI, but nowhere near in WWII).




You are right. Thanks for the correction.
9.11.2007 2:46pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Just like Lincoln the Northern Imperialist and Puppet of Industry

Yeah right, and the south were the defenders of freedom all that was just and pure in the world.
9.11.2007 3:06pm
Zywicki (mail):
Grateful '89:
Thanks for the kind words--it does mean a lot to me after some discouraging times.
9.11.2007 3:45pm
Randy R. (mail):
Thanks, Mr. Carter! That's one brave person. Perhaps that's why he is getting traction on the web, but not inside the beltway.

Still, he hasn't called for Bush to go, i.e., resign so that we can get a better policy. But I might be wrong....
9.11.2007 4:17pm
Randy R. (mail):
ChrisIowas: "Perhaps the ones with courage are the ones standing with Bush."

yes, it takes so much courage to stand up and say, Fox News, you are totally spot on! George Bush, do what you will!

In other words, perhaps it takes no courage at all to stand with the most powerful man in the free world.
9.11.2007 4:20pm
Alex B:
It's tough when parents go dotty. The times may have been discouraging, but you shouldn't be. When people look back and wonder if everyone was crazy back then, you four will prove that we weren't; we were just in the minority. Thank you.
9.11.2007 4:28pm
Buckland (mail):
Chamberlain did the right thing, possibly for the wrong reasons.

One thing that's lost is that Britain's economy was twice the size of Germany's by the early 30's. However Germany was faster to start building the machinery of war. By 1935 Germany had large leads in virtually all categories of war machinery.

The strategic move at that point wasn't to engage an opponent, but to delay. Every day that Chamberlain delayed conflict the larger British economy could make up ground. Virtually all of the prewar preparation was done under Chamberlain's watch -- building the HMS Hood and other large ships, rolling out the Hurricane and the Spitfire, quadrupling the size of the armed forces, even the outline of the Destroyers for bases deal (thought not consummated until 3 months after he left office).

When one has a superior economy but a lesser military delaying a conflict is a good thing. Every day Chamberlain delayed Britain got stronger relative to Germany. By the time the real fighting began in 1940 Britain was stronger than it would have been had they challenged Germany's might 5 years earlier.

Two things that Chamberlain didn't do well. Hitler knew he wasn't ready to fight so Chamberlain wasn't able to sell Hitler into stopping his expansion through words alone. The second was that he had to be dragged into building the relationship with Roosevelt that would prove so valuable to Churchhill (who was a natural at hobnobbing with other leaders). Although Britain's economy was double the size of Germany, the US economy was double Britain's. That would prove valuable when the assembly lines started producting planes and tanks.
9.11.2007 5:31pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Buckland's got it exactly right. Chamberlain's Munich deal bought time for Britain to ramp up its military. Even thereafter, Britain needed the fighting forces of the US and the USSR to win the war. (I shudder to think what would have happened if Hitler had kept to his pact with Stalin.)

Churchill turned out to be right about the German threat, but he was dead wrong in his hawkishness. If he had been prime minister at the time, Britain's decision to go to war too early might have spelled its end.
9.11.2007 5:52pm
Frog Leg (mail):
Regardless of whether the delay helped or hurt the British, it shouldn't have mattered--the French had a huge army, and if their commander Gamelin had had the cajones he could have invaded Germany immediately after the war started. There would only have been token resistance in west Germany (since all the decent troops had been moved to Poland), and there likely would have been a military rebellion. General Jodl expected Germany to collapse then, but he overestimated the guts of the French.
9.11.2007 6:14pm
BGates (www):
Randy R, why it not courageous to stand with Bush and, sigh, Fox News, but it is courageous to stand with the leadership of both houses of Congress, the NY Times, Washington Post, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, the Democratic party, the Iranian and Syrian governments, and Osama bin Laden, all of whom want Bush gone because of their shared opposition to America's role in Iraq?
9.11.2007 7:12pm
Randy R. (mail):
"Chamberlain's Munich deal bought time for Britain to ramp up its military."

This is an amazing argument. The ONLY reason Britian was in fact ramping up its military is because Churchill conducted meetings at his home in Chartwell and had informants keep him informed of how advanced the German army had become. Against all odds, and the advice of just about everybody, he forced Britain to rearm.

Yes, as an absolute statement, it is true -- time was better for Britain. But to credit Chamberlain is a tremendous disservice to what Churchill did.
9.11.2007 7:59pm
Randy R. (mail):
BGAtes: Very simple. The question was whether it is courageous for REPUBLICANS to voice opposition to Bush. All the other media don't matter simply because any republican is, as you intimate, against them anyway. No courage to stand against parties and media that you stand against every day on most every issue, AND you have the backing of the White House, Fox News etc.

No one says that Hilary is courageous for standing against Bush. that's what gains her support, in fact. But if she stood against her husband, that's a totally different issue, or if she took on the Democratic estabslishment, that would be courageous.

So: We are looking for a small pool of people: Republicans. Then we are looking for a smaller pool: Rebpulicans who stand against Bush and Fox News on the war. Except for Ron Paul, not many. And the example of Ron Paul is perfect, because he is running for president, and yet the entire Republican establishment is trying to rout him out. His stance only hurts him and his career within the party, so we assume that he is against the war not for political reason, not for personal gain, or because he didn't know what else to say. He is against it on principle. That's courage.

Get it?
9.11.2007 8:06pm
k parker (mail):
Buckland and Dilan Esper are spot on--umm, that is, except for that pesky little thing about the German general staff--who weren't traitors to the Fatherland but might have known a thing or two about their own preparedness, or lack thereof--planning to mount a coup against Hitler in case England and France stood with Czechoslovakia.
9.11.2007 8:08pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
It's been years and I don't recall the source, but I do recall reading two facts about Munich:

1. The Czechoslovakian army was 30 divisions, the German army 40 divisions, and the Czechs had fortified their border. It wouldn't have taken much help from the French and British to more than even up the odds, but there was no point in Czechoslovakia fighting alone, since the huge German advantage in population and wealth would have made a German victory inevitable in a one-on-one match, and the German army was rapidly expanding from year to year.

2. When the Germans conquered France two years later, roughly half their tanks were Czech models, captured without firing a shot.

Would World War II really have been bloodier if it had started in 1938 over Czechoslovakia rather than 1939 over Poland?

Also, I have read that after Dunkirk, Churchill had to send an entire battalion of troops to keep an angry mob from sacking Stanley Baldwin's house. (With him in it? I don't recall.) As I recall, Baldwin was the P.M. who refused to rearm, and his successor Chamberlain rearmed as rapidly as possible while avoiding war, so the people naturally blamed Baldwin for the pitiful results of the first year of war.

Yes, I should probably use the Internet to check these remembered facts (or 'facts') but I'm too lazy.
9.11.2007 10:36pm
juris_imprudent (mail):
Lloyd George opines

Too many parallels between Chamberlain and Bush in mismanaging a war and accelerating their nation's slide into decline.

You sly old Welsh fox, eliding your role in Britain's demise from your own folly during WWI. Not to mention your single-handed demolition of the Liberal Party; GW might just match you in that accomplishment yet.
9.11.2007 11:55pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
For the record:

HMS Hood was launched in the early '20s.

Baldwin was dead in 1940. I doubt he was still in his house. I think they buried him.
9.12.2007 3:06am
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
You're right (against Buckland) about the Hood. However, according to this site, which certainly ought to know, Baldwin died in 1947.
9.12.2007 9:28am
Lloyd George:
I'm pleased that a lot of posters recognized my nom de guerre. The historical Lloyd George, along with a large portion of the British political establishment, demanded peace at almost any price in large part due to the horrors of WWI. He, along with many others, sought to reach an accommodation with Hitler. However, as the 1930s progressed, Lloyd George had enough of Chamberlain's appeasement policies and Hitler's apparently insatiable appetites and made a speech in Commons which supported Churchill in 1940 around the time of the Norway debacle.

If people are going to conflate Chamberlain with Bush, then, I suppose it must be appropriate to consider Bill Clinton an American version of Stanley Baldwin? Baldwin was enormously popular in the 1920s and early 1930s, but, was rapidly outshone first by Chamberlain and then by Churchill. Baldwin (later the Earl of Bewdley) considered rearmament to be a waste of time. For example, he did not think that fighting airplanes were worth the investment since bombers would inevitably break through to devastate the country. Obviously, his military choices were shown to be incorrect by subsequent events.

Chamberlain was the sort of leader that didn't brook opposition from anyone and surrounded himself by "Yes" men, and displayed little thought or interest in peoples in "far away countries." Yes, the amazing parallels are too abundant for me to catalogue so, I, the sly Welsh fox, will leave it to others to point out (or disagree if you will).
9.12.2007 2:03pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Thanks, Dr., that'll teach me to check my memory.

So, lloyd, what about the first Lloyd's change of heart in 1942? I'll grant he was a very old man by then; still, demanding a settlement with Hitler when he occupied most of Europe and North Africa doesn't strike me as very stalwart.

Chamberlain was, in my opinion, fundamentally unserious. During the tense week leading up to the Nazi-Soviet pact, he found time to send a letter to The Times about an unusual bird he had noticed in one of the gated parks (St. James's, I think). He went into considerable detail to show that he understood the difference between this bird and a similar species.

Too bad he couldn't distinguish between a Hitler and a Benes.
9.12.2007 2:48pm
Lloyd George:
I am not defending Lloyd George's weathervane approach when it came to Hitler and WWII. He did demand concessions to Hitler in 1942. I can only ascribe old age and mental decay as a reason for it. He died in 1945.

The Lloyd George I was recalling was more in line of the wartime leadership during WWI and Prime Minister in 1916 through 1922. At the end of the war in 1918, his reputation was very high. From all accounts, he was a fabulous orator. If I remember correctly, he wanted to squeeze Germany until the pips squeaked in terms of war reparations.
9.12.2007 4:32pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
And he was a corruptionist the likes of which English politics had not seen since the 18th century.

After the Honours scandals, nobody ever trusted him again, so he was useless during the Hitler crises.

Again, fundamentally an unserious man, except about personal advantage.

I've just been reading 'Appeasement and All Souls,' which is supposed to be about Englishmen who opposed appeasement. Maybe they did, but they were afraid to say so outside the quads of an Oxford college. What a feckless bunch.

If anybody wants to start drawing parallels between the '30s and right now, there's a place to start. I agree there are many.

Out of umpteen candidates for president today, the only one who can be matched up with the Churchill of 1937 is Romney. At least, so far as I've followed it, he is the only one calling for an increase in the size of the Army.
9.12.2007 9:33pm
Ralph Ruben Emmers (mail) (www):
I just started reading Churchill's "The River War," and I must say it is riveting. That someone like Churchill lead the British Empire in its final, and finest, hours is truly an amazing "accident" of history. The presidential candidates in the USA are a big joke compared to Churchill.

Leaders of the West should always think on a global, civilizational scale instead of being Clintonesque domestic squanderers of scarce "peace-time" dividends available to us in history.
9.13.2007 3:30am
Lloyd George:
Harry, thanks for the summation on the original Lloyd George, but that can equally be said of a lot of politicians.

The Churchill of today is Romney? You'll have to do a lot more convincing than that example. A large army is useless if its leaders commit strategic and tactical blunders on the gross order of invading the wrong country. In any other country, that would be grounds for dismissal, but in this one, its grounds for reelection.

There is something wrong with the system and I assign a large portion of the blame on the consolidation of the media into a few large megacorps which, I think, accounts for the growing distrust of the news media ("who are you going to believe, me or your eyes?") and the supercharged growth of the bloggers on the Internet.
9.13.2007 12:14pm
juris imprudent (mail):

There is something wrong with the system and I assign a large portion of the blame on the consolidation of the media

That's rather laughable compared to the media of WWI-era England, wouldn't you say? The media that were willing accomplices to govt propaganda, high (perhaps "wide") legged cheerleaders for the war? The media that denounced the 'traitorous' Siegfried Sassoon - a man Churchill openly admired and supported during his court martial. At least our media, owned by corporations are only concerned with profit, and not with carrying partisan water.
9.14.2007 9:20pm