Winston Churchill: Father of the Anglosphere
by DANIEL HANNAN
June 13, 2012
In many conservative circles, particularly in the United States, Winston Churchill is beyond criticism. Mention his errors - the Gallipoli debacle, the return to gold at the pre-1914 rate, the contracting out of domestic policy to the Left after 1940, the second premiership - and you provoke a Bateman cartoon scene.
Fair enough. Winnie got the big calls right. His popularity on the other side of the Atlantic is appropriate, for he is perhaps the supreme Anglosphere politician - apostle, champion, exemplar and historian of English-speaking unity.
What makes the Anglosphere special? I'm taken with Mark Steyn's observation that the list of countries on the right side in both the world wars and the cold war is short, but it contains the main English-speaking democracies. What made them all pile in? Was it linguistic solidarity, anidentification with kith-and-kin? Yes, partly. But that's not all it was. Those mighty struggles were not simply ethnic conflicts, bloodier versions of the Hutu-Tutsi wars. The Anglosphere peoples believed, because their institutions had taught them to believe, that individual liberty, limited government and the rule of law were worth preserving - with force of arms if necessary.
Churchill played a brave role in all three great twentieth century conflicts, fighting in the first, leading the democracies to victory in the second and defining the third. The transition from victorious leader to Cold Warrior can be traced to one speech, delivered on 5 March 1946 at Fulton, Missouri. That speech, the subject of a newly published book by Philip White, is remembered for this sentence:
From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.
White conjures atmosphere beautifully. Here is a detailed account of the place where the speech was given, and the timbre of the times. The USSR, so recently an ally, had occupied the countries for which Britain had gone to war in the first place, and any hope that the United Nations would be a guarantor of a peaceful post-fascist world had been dashed.
Books of this kind depend upon prose and pacing, and White has produced a gloriously readable account. What struck me most, though, at this distance, was that Churchill's chief preoccupation was not with the Soviet menace, but with the unity of the English-speaking peoples. It would be another half century before the term Anglosphere was coined, but he put the idea before his audience without restraint:
I come now to the crux of what I have travelled here to say. Neither the sure prevention of war, nor the continuous rise of world organisation will be gained without what I have called the fraternal association of the English-speaking peoples. This means a special relationship between the British Commonwealth and Empire and the United States of America. Ladies and gentlemen, this is no time for generality, and I will venture to the precise. Fraternal association requires not only the growing friendship and mutual understanding between our two vast but kindred systems of society, but the continuance of the intimate relations between our military advisers, leading to common study of potential dangers, the similarity of weapons and manuals of instructions, and to the interchange of officers and cadets at technical colleges. It should carry with it the continuance of the present facilities for mutual security by the joint use of all Naval and Air Force bases in the possession of either country all over the world. This would perhaps double the mobility of the American Navy and Air Force. It would greatly expand that of the British Empire forces and it might well lead, if and as the world calms down, to important financial savings. Already we use together a large number of islands; more may well be entrusted to our joint care in the near future.
The United States has already a Permanent Defence Agreement with the Dominion of Canada, which is so devotedly attached to the British Commonwealth and the Empire. This Agreement is more effective than many of those which have been made under formal alliances. This principle should be extended to all the British Commonwealths with full reciprocity. Thus, whatever happens, and thus only, shall we be secure ourselves and able to work together for the high and simple causes that are dear to us and bode no ill to any. Eventually there may come - I feel eventually there will come - the principle of common citizenship, but that we may be content to leave to destiny, whose outstretched arm many of us can already clearly see.
Winston Churchill: patriot, hero, Anglospherist avant la lettre. Read the book. You'll enjoy it.
Daniel Hannan is a British writer and journalist, and has been Conservative MEP for South East England since 1999. He speaks French and Spanish and loves Europe, but believes that the EU is making its constituent nations poorer, less democratic and less free. He is the winner of the Bastiat Award for online journalism.