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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

We *are* at war, after all...

An excellent comparison

In January 1942, after two-and-a-half years of fighting, there were politicians in the Conservative, Labor and Liberal parties all clamoring that Churchill had mismanaged the war. There was no end in sight, and there had been many avoidable losses: battles had “turned out differently from what was foreseen.”

Churchill also faced a hostile press, with every critic “free to point out the many errors which had been made” and newspapers offering “well-informed and airily detached criticism” -- all of which had created an “unhappy, baffled public opinion.”

Faced with mounting opposition, Churchill called for a three-day debate in the House of Commons -- which was “in a querulous temper” -- to be followed by a vote of confidence, knowing the debate would be one in which “the Government would no doubt be lustily belabored by some of those who have lighter burdens to carry.”

The speech turned the tide, and after three days, Churchill won the vote 484-1. He noted dryly in his book that “[t]he naggers in the Press . . . spun around with the alacrity of squirrels. How unnecessary it had been to ask for a Vote of Confidence? Who had ever dreamed of challenging the National Government?”

Unknown to everyone in that debate, there were still more than three years to go in the war, with many more horrendous losses before victory.

Churchill is remembered in the popular imagination as someone who rallied a nation, vowed never to give up, and took his country to victory. Few remember that Churchill faced a crisis of confidence two-and-a-half years into the war, exploited by those “with lesser burdens to carry.”

And fewer still remember the names of the politicians and media critics who created a crisis of confidence in the midst of a war.

Hat tip to Free Lebanon


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