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Trump’s Churchillian Moment

Tuesday, August 16, 2016 11:10
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I do hate to compare Trump to Churchill

One devoted his life to his country and was perennially in a precarious state of debt. The other devoted his life to himself and making money and, near the end of it, decided to try do something for the nation.

One viewed the English language as a palette with which to sketch art and wisdom, both in speech and in print. The other sees the language as a carcass onto which he can pound his cleaver and sever it into bloody lumps.

Donald Trump seems tethered to few ethics at all and will drop any lie and deploy and means to achieve his ends. Winston Churchill was a man of honor and would no doubt rather stay home feed and his geese than venture out anywhere to shame himself. I’m not aware of a time he was said to have seriously dissimulated.

But there are similarities. Churchill, like Trump, was perceived as a little unstable, unpredictable, and potentially dangerous with the responsibilities of power. Churchill was also supremely self-centered and self-confident, and often showed his critics no rhetorical mercy, though in person he could be magnanimous and forgiving.

And both were warriors, Churchill in spirit and on the battlefield, and Trump, so far, in spirit alone. And each are men of action, with original ideas that shock the “sensible” establishment thinking.

The “nativism” some find in Trump would have been attached to Churchill as “jingoism.”

With his speech Monday in Youngstown, Ohio about how he would go about defeating ISIS, Trump echoed the Churchill, a man who understood the great threat of his time – Nazi Germany – and was willing to say unpopular things to try to stop it.

Like Britons in the 1930s, Americans today are only vaguely aware of the threat they face and that they are, in fact, already in a de facto war, even if they are not yet ready to accept it or fight it.

Trump recognizes that the battle against Islamism is the great contest of our time, comparable to the Cold War struggle against the Soviet Union and the World War II fight against fascism. Americans do not yet quite understand that there is a war between civilizations afoot, and they are, willy-nilly, part of it. Most Muslims aren’t Islamists, but enough are that the fundamentalists have the money, the manpower and soon —once Iran has its bomb or ISIS steals one — the means to completely destroy us and our way of life.

And enough Muslims are Islamists that, yes, we must perform Trump’s “extreme vetting” to discern “any hostile attitude towards our country or its principles, or who believed sharia law should supplant American law,” as he said. Trump will ensure those regions of the world where Islamists are ensconced and even popular don’t send their foot soldiers here.

This is not, as the New York Times sniffed, a McCarthyite “ideological test on newcomers” that would undermine “American values of tolerance and equal treatment.” The test is on foreigners, not Americans, and we have used such examinations routinely to weed out fifth columnists of all types. You know, in the interest of self-preservation.

Like the supposedly reasonable men who ran Great Britain before World War II, the smooth, reasonable toaking memebers of the Washington establishment have politiely delivered us into an unholy mess, whether it involved ISIS or the accelerating national debt that threatens to cripple the country w ith unpayable financial burdens. Trump, like Churchill, stands against the catastrophes gradually sown by well-meaing, but ultimatley weak and unimaginative men and women.

Have a listen to these remarks below by Churchill, given in November 1934, a full five years before Hitler invaded Poland. See if you don’t notice some parallels to today and Trump’s warning to Americans.

For example, Churchill’s the reference to ruthless leaders teaching their children the glory of death in battle, minus the virgins, of course.

After all, my friends, only a few hours away by air there dwell a nation of nearly seventy millions of the most educated, industrious, scientific, disciplined people in the world, who are being taught from childhood to think of war as a glorious exercise and death in battle as the noblest fate for man.

Here Churchill references a weapon — in this case Germany’s air power — that could provide the kind of terror particularly disruptive to civilized societies.

Worse still, for with the new weapon has come a new method, or rather has come back the most British method of ancient barbarism, namely, the possibility of compelling the submission of nations by terrorizing their civil population; and, worst of all, the more civilized the country is, the larger and more splendid its cities, the more intricate the structure of its civil and economic life, the more is it vulnerable and at the mercy of those who may make it their prey.

It brings clearly to mind the Islamists’ weapon of choice, mass casualty attacks.

Make no mistake. Many who support Trump think he is hostile toward the interventionism of the Bush years. He is not. “My administration will aggressively pursue joint and coalition military operations to crush and destroy ISIS,” Trump said. In addition to boots on the ground, he will seek “International cooperation to cut off their funding, expanded intelligence sharing and cyberwarfare to disrupt and disable their propaganda and recruiting . . . It’s got to be stopped.” Sounds pretty damn reasonable, for someone so often cast as unstable.

Americans will, finally, understand that we are at war when there is a large-scale attack in this country, as even Obama administration officials have warned is practically inevitable. What Trump, like Churchill, is trying to do is to convince his compatriots of the stakes and get us on a war footing, before it is too late.


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