The term “warlord” usually conjures an image of a long-bearded fellow with opulent adornments sitting in a large tent in the desert, filled with enthralled servants, plush oriental rugs, sipping tea (or other beverage), and combing through his war booty. Indeed, the term is most usually applied in relation to places like Afghanistan or certain parts of Africa, where the societal order has broken down and any semblance of authority rests in the hands of a supreme, militaristic leader. Yet, in Britain’s darkest period—the Second World War—for all intents-and-purposes,they had a kind of democratic warlord in the form of Prime Minister Winston Churchill. After the recent London terror attacks (and the pitiful response of the British government to those attacks), what Britain needs today is another Churchillian warlord.
Churchill’s career in military service and British politics was already extensive when he entered the period for which he most remembered—the years leading up to and including World War II. Churchill was coming back from failure, this being his second serious go at politics after a mixed record as the First Lord of the Admiralty during the World War I. Of course, the 1930s saw the dawn of Nazism in Europe. In Churchill’s view, Britain was being pulled inexorably toward war by Germany’s actions, for the second time in 20 years.
The British Empire had spent the interwar period looking inward. Britain was a declining world power that was losing its empire and, so it seemed, its moral purpose for being. Its military was hamstrung by the debilitating losses in the killing fields of the Great War (in spite of having been on the victorious side); its people were tired of foreign entanglements (in spite of still possessing many global colonies and a fearsome Navy); and the Great Depression had racked the British economy. Thus, the British turned toward the stagnant policies and empty, utopian promises of lackadaisical Left-wing leaders, such as Neville Chamberlain who promised peace without sacrifice. Churchill was the only man in government of note who was sounding the warning bell about Nazism and the existential dangers it posed to Great Britain and the West.
Speaking on November 16, 1934, four years before Chamberlain signed the ill-fated Munich Agreement with Hitler, Churchill said:
Many people think that the best way to escape war is to dwell upon its horrors and to imprint them vividly upon the minds of the younger generation. They flaunt the grisly photographs before their eyes. They fill their ears with tales of carnage […] Now, all of this teaching ought to be very useful in preventing us from attacking or invading any other country, if anyone outside a madhouse wished to do so, but how could it help us if we were attacked ourselves? That is the question we have to ask.
Since the 1960s, the most radical tenets of Leftist ideology—specifically, Critical Theory—increasingly are incorporated into the educational systems of Western countries. Critical Theory is a Marxist school of thought created by a group of intellectuals from Central Europe who had fled the Nazis and ended up teaching in prestigious universities in the United States. Beginning as but a small, fringe movement in the postwar era, by the 1960s Critical Theory has today come to influence every major college and most of our other cultural institutions.
In the years that followed, as Michael Walsh documents in his fantastic book, The Devil’s Pleasure Palace, Critical Theory would soon dominate “the high ground of academe and the arts” with the intention of “dissolving the bedrock of the country, from patriotism to the family to military service.” At its core, according to Walsh, is the notion that “everything could be questioned, nothing could be real, and the muscular, confident empiricism that had just won the war gave way, in less than a generation, to a fashionable Central European nihilism that was celebrated on college campuses across the United States.” Inevitably, this European intellectual import is more advanced on its continent of origin than it is here, in spite of its aggressive invasive properties. Given the European origins of the “Cult of Critical Theory” (as Walsh dubs it), one can see just how destructive such beliefs have been to Western culture writ large. It should be a cautionary tale for us.
align=”left” When the Nazis began their Blitz on Great Britain, Churchill defiantly took to the press and insisted that the British would fight on, no matter the cost, and “never, never, never surrender!”
Today, the mayor of London, Saddiq Khan, insists that terrorism is simply a natural outgrowth of city living, and British Prime Minister Theresa May, begrudgingly refers to the recent attacks in Manchester and London as “extremism.”
An unintended outgrowth of these teachings has been the increasing isolation, alienation, and radicalization of many young people—particularly second-generation citizens (in other words, citizens with immigrant parents)—in the West. Despite having spent most, or a significant, part of their lives in places like Britain; speaking the language, going to the schools, and engaging in the pop cultural narrative that unites the West, many young British Muslims are abandoning Western culture and adopting the most extreme versions of Islam. After all, what young person looking for meaning wants to swear allegiance to a Western civilization undergoing an identity crisis?
To be sure, these terrorists know what they were doing (in much the same way that Kim Philby understood that his treasonous behavior would result in the deaths of loyal Westerners fighting Soviet oppression behind the Iron Curtain), and are therefore responsible for their evil acts. But we cannot discount the powerful narrative that jihadist groups, like ISIS, are having on these disenchanted youths from immigrant backgrounds; particularly in the face of the weak and angst-ridden counter-narrative of secular nihilism that is the current disposition of the West.
The results not just for Great Britain, but for Europe and the West more generally, have been devastating. Though the body count in these many terrorist attacks is nowhere near the body counts of the Battle of Britain, the political impact has been similar: sheer, bloody, paralyzing terror. During the Battle of Britain, Churchill was known to walk the rubble-strewn streets of London, giving moral support to his besieged citizens. When the Nazis began their Blitz on Great Britain, Churchill defiantly took to the press and insisted that the British would fight on, no matter the cost, and “never, never, never surrender!”
Today, the mayor of London, Saddiq Khan, insists that terrorism is simply a natural outgrowth of city living, and British Prime Minister Theresa May, begrudgingly refers to the recent attacks in Manchester and London as “extremism.” This sort of enemy threat denial is yet another example of just how morally rotten the West has become, thanks in no small part to Critical Theory. We’ve questioned everything so much and become so morally obtuse, that we can no longer properly identify existential threats.
During the most recent London attack, the majority of the police units who responded were unarmed, since law enforcement officers in Britain are barred from carrying weapons. As a handful of terrorists shut down one of the world’s most vibrant cities, British troops were deployed to guard the streets. While the attack unfolded, hundreds of Londoners were evacuated to areas of the city deemed safer. As they walked—with the heavily armed British military looking on—the Londoners put their hands over their heads. These citizens had not been ordered to do this by the London authorities, rather, they did so of their own accord, to prove (they said) that were unarmed. But in this act they looked more like captured prisoners of war being marched through the streets by captors than like manful British citizens under the protection of a serious fighting force (this is not a knock on the British military who, no doubt, are doing the best they can do within a highly restrictive political environment).
Speaking of the Nazis, Churchill said in 1934 that they, “are being taught from childhood to think of war as a glorious exercise and death in battle as the noblest fate for man.” Churchill added that the Nazis were evil because they used an “ancient weapon” of “compelling the submission of races by terrorizing and torturing their civil population.” The Nazis did not flinch as they terrorized the people of Britain with the blitz and buzz bombs, hoping to force them to surrender. But thanks to Churchill, this modern warlord, the British people did not flinch, either. They stood up in equal measure to the threats leveled against them.
align=”right” As they walked—with the heavily armed British military looking on—the Londoners put their hands over their heads. These citizens had not been ordered to do this by the London authorities, rather, they did so of their own accord, to prove (they said) that were unarmed. But in this act they looked more like captured prisoners of war being marched through the streets by captors than like manful British citizens under the protection of a serious fighting force (this is not a knock on the British military who, no doubt, are doing the best they can do within a highly restrictive political environment).
Today, jihadists living in (or emigrating to) Great Britain hope to do the same thing that the Nazis did, this time through stealth invasion. Yet, they are being allowed to conduct their holy war with relative ease, as the British authorities, hamstrung as they are by the morally relative, politically correct policies of the British government, wrings their hands and worry more about an outsized backlash against the invasive culture than they do about defending the freedom of their island. It cannot summon a full-throated defense of the West or even of their own right to exist.
This kind of moral bankruptcy is the result of the corrupting influence of a decades-long spread of the rot that is at the heart of the Cult of Critical Theory. This theory has taught generations of Westerners to hate their own culture and to pay undue deference toward the cultures of the world’s so-called“oppressed”—Islam notably among that lot. Entire generations of Westerners have been shamed into submission by this pernicious theory, simply because they are Westerners.
Similarly, Churchill noted an earlier strand of Western self-loathing and doubt in Neville Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement with respect to Hitler. Churchill warned that the appeasers’ hope of reasoning with Hitler was flawed; that instead of deterring the Nazis from further aggression, such attempts at “reasoned debate” would actually induce Hitler to aspire to greater aggrandizement. Churchill worried that the Nazis might say, “‘You are rich; we are poor. You seem well fed; we are hungry. You have been victorious; we have been defeated […] You have had the past; let us have the future.’” He worried most that they would say, “you are weak and we are strong.” So he set about reminding the British people that they and their way of life is stronger when they believe in it.
Churchill was right. Today, the jihadists say the same thing about the West. Before 9/11, Osama Bin Laden was fond of calling himself the “strong horse” compared to the “weak horse” that is the West. Clearly, today’s jihadists in ISIS—both in the Mideast and in the West—believe that they are fighting on the stronger side. The political status quo of Britain is insufficient to combating the scourge of jihadism; it will only lead to greater weakness.
Britain needs another Churchillian warlord to lead them out of this existential crisis. Churchill was a rare figure, even for his time. After 47 years of radical Leftism dominating the culture, is there anyone left in Great Britain with the gumption and stamina to resist and roll back the ceaseless tide of jihadism? Only time will tell. And time is not on the West’s side.
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