Churchill’s lesson for a modern world

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The Article

Geopolitics is a simple yet slippery notion about understanding politics in terms of the power capabilities of states on the global stage. It is a notion that has earned suspicion in English-speaking countries of the West for being associated with the politics of colonial-imperial age.

Politics in general, and international politics in particular, is about power that can never be fixed permanently.

Power is fluid and it is an amalgam of tangible and intangible resources. It is both the hardware and software of a state and its people and it needs to be harnessed and mobilized in securing and pursuing interests states set for themselves.

Just about everyone in a democracy has an opinion about politics. Yet rare is an individual who grasps ahead of others politics in terms of power at a particular time in history, understands the geopolitical setting, and is alert to the changes wrought by science and technology to the nature of power. When such power is possessed by demonic leaders, they might do immense harm to others.

Churchill was such a politician, statesman and historian. Seventy years after that heroic period in British and Commonwealth history when Churchill defiantly inspired and led the free world to eventually defeat Nazi Germany, remembering him is also thinking geopolitically about politics.

Thinking geopolitically means assessing global politics in terms of culture, economy, sociology, demography, history, ideology and personality type in reference to individual leaders.

It is to penetrate the fog of politically correct speech and dare to be vigilant about freedom. In the post-9/11 world, the threat to freedom emanates from tyrants and closed societies armed — or seeking to be armed — with weapons of mass destruction while colluding with terrorists.

But for democracies in the West, the strategic urgency to think geopolitically is greatly undermined by the politics of multiculturalism.

The practitioners of the politics of appeasement jeered Churchill in his time as he warned his country about the impending peril from Hitler’s Germany.

In our time, it is multiculturalism greased by liberal guilt of past wrongs and excessive faith in the workings of the UN that increasingly place democracies and freedom-loving people at a disadvantage against the forces of tyranny and terror.

It is an irony, and Churchill understood this well, that dictators running closed societies think geopolitically and exploit differences among free people and societies in their quests for greater power.

We now know, as we should have known, how misplaced was the widely shared hope that, with the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, sunny promises of peace and amity among people and states would be fulfilled in the new century ahead.

Our misplaced hope would have been familiar to Churchill as his generation, while recovering from the disaster of the First World War, hoped that peace would be assured with the founding of the League of Nations. On the contrary, the workings of the League deluded democracies and paved the way for another even more terrible war.

The timeless lesson from Churchill for free people in a democracy is to remain wary of political correctness, to be vigilant about those who envy or threaten freedom, and to think about politics geopolitically.

Salim Mansur
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