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Winston Churchill

Tag Archives | Winston Churchill

On Timing and Political Leadership

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Winston Churchill with FDR at the White House in the 1940s

“Men at some time are masters of their fates.” – Julius Caesar

Winston Churchill with FDR at the White House in the 1940s

Amid the worsening economic picture, political leaders across the globe are under attack for their lack of leadership and failure to inspire confidence in their constituencies in the face of mounting global problems. President Obama especially has been criticized as too aloof and lacking direction, particularly from rightwing commentators. During the recent CNN Tea Party debate, Mitt Romney stated that, if elected president, he would have a bust of Winston Churchill in the White House. The message Mitt Romney attempted to send was clear: strong political leadership could overcome even the most severe political crisis, and that he, Romney, would follow in Churchill’s footsteps. We often forget, however, that it not only takes charisma and extraordinary ability to inspire greatness in a leader, but more importantly, the right timing.

References to Winston Churchill are nothing new. Every U.S. President post-1945 is bound to be compared to him. Churchill, however, did not do very well during peace times. A great wartime leader, Churchill pursued a disastrous anti-independence policy vis-à-vis India in the 1930s and had an insignificant second premiership in the 1950s—not to mention his mediocre term as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the 1920s. Nevertheless, Winston Churchill is considered the greatest Briton of the 20th century. He became Prime Minister in June 1940, when Britain alone stood defiant against the Nazi war machine, and in the words of Isaiah Berlin, mobilized the English language for war. He was the right man in the right spot at the right time.

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H.G. Wells and Defending the “Restoration Doctrine”

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Pete Souza/White House
Pete Souza/White House

Pete Souza/White House

Michael Singh’s parochial critique in Foreign Policy Magazine entitled “Restoration’ is Not an Option: Why America Can’t Afford to Lead From Behind,” attacks Richard N. Haass’s idea of a “Restoration Doctrine,” which in essence is “a U.S. foreign policy based on restoring this country’s strength and replenishing its resources—economic, human and physical.”

Singh’s reproach is reminiscent of Winston Churchill’s response to an H.G. Wells’ article penned in 1923, in which he argues for an end of the British Empire and a system of world federal government. A staunch defender of the political status quo, Churchill dismissively replied to the suggestion. “We see him (Wells) airily discarding, or melting down, all those props and guard rails on which the population of this crowded and precariously conditioned island have been accustomed to rely…We can almost hear him smacking his lips at every symptom or upheaval in India or in Africa.” In a sense, this is also Singh’s main point of critique. He attributes a certain naiveté, fit for an unrealistic dreamer – not a policy expert – to Haass’s “Restoration Doctrine.”

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