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George VI in Hindsight

The King's Speech vs. History: an exchange. Plus much more.

3.21.11

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A LITTLE PERSPECTIVE
Re: Daniel Mandel's Appeasement's Oscar:

Your review of The King's Speech is unquestionable on its facts but highly informed by hindsight. The entire British establishment favored appeasing Germany until very late; and in 1939, nobody knew what was happening to the Jews inside the Reich, or what fate was planned for them. Even Churchill didn't find out until two brave escapees arrived to inform the West; horrified, he did what he could, but hundreds of thousands, as Martin Gilbert has pointed out, were already dead.

Churchill's political eclipse after his championing of Edward VIII was very brief, as events proved him right over Hitler; but so also was George VI's reputation as an appeaser. Churchill later admitted, "Thank God I was wrong" about Edward, while saying of George, "We couldn't have had a better King."

A little perspective is in order. King George VI was scarcely alone in supporting Chamberlain and appeasement. A whole generation had been wasted in World War I, as Alistair Cooke elegantly put it during the 1988 Churchill Conference: "The British people would do anything to stop Hitler, except fight him. And if you had been there, ladies and gentlemen -- if you had been alive and sentient and British in the mid-Thirties -- not one in ten of you would have been with Churchill." If anything, this magnifies Churchill's courage in persisting to tell the truth at his own political expense -- in those "wilderness years" that were perhaps his true "finest hour."

Best wishes,
-- Richard M. Langworth CBE
Eleuthera, Bahamas through 15 April
Editor, Finest Hour
www.winstonchurchill.org

Daniel Mandel replies:
I hold to the view I expressed that "The King's Speech is primarily a personal story which is under no obligation to rehearse George's record on appeasement beyond the little attention it devotes to the subject by way of necessary background. But it is under some obligation to provide a background that is truthful, not deliberately falsified." As it didn't, I wrote my piece.

Mr. Langworth correctly points out that George's views on propitiating the dictators were commonplace and indeed indistinguishable from that of much of the British establishment. But he also says, I think mistakenly, that only with hindsight was it obvious that these views were perilously defective. That might apply to the general British public. But it cannot apply so easily to the establishment -- if by this we mean the King, the government, the diplomats, the intelligence services and so on -- which suffered from no shortage of relevant information (much of it excluded from the press) even before 1939.

Contrary to Mr. Langworth's view that "in 1939, nobody knew what was happening to the Jews inside the Reich," a good deal was in fact known, even though the full-scale policy of extermination lay in the future. The Nuremburg racial laws; the expulsion of 15,000 Polish-born Jews en masse without their property or resources; the establishment of prison camps for Jews and political dissidents; the exclusion of Jews from commercial life and the professions and so on, all occurred before 1939. George's observation to Halifax approving the Chamberlain government's efforts to stem the flow of Jewish refugees to Palestine, to which I referred in my piece, was made after the nation-wide Kristallnacht pogrom of November 1938. I don't think George or anyone else by this point could have been in any doubt about the desperation of the situation.

Mr. Langworth says Churchill's eclipse as a result of his championship of Edward VIII during the abdication crisis was "very brief, as events proved him right over Hitler." Much might depend on how we define "very brief." As Churchill could not summon a substantial opposition to Munich and remained excluded from office until the actual outbreak of war, it seems to me fair to say, as I did, that his misjudgment over Edward helped cost him three vital years.

I don't think it can be said that George's partiality for appeasement was "brief," however defined, since it subsisted throughout the entire pre-war Nazi period and -- though I didn't dwell upon this -- into the war itself. As late as May 1940, when the possibility of coming to terms with Hitler was under discussion in Whitehall, George offered to intercede with the Labor Opposition Leader, Clement Attlee, to urge him to join the government in a bid to preserve Chamberlain in office. When Chamberlain resigned three days later, George "of course, suggested Halifax," the pro-appeasement Foreign Secretary, to succeed him. Had Halifax not refused, George would have handed him, not Churchill, the seals of office. "We couldn't have had a better King," said Churchill -- but only after the war, when George had changed his mind about Churchill's leadership and worked to assist him in preserving British morale.

But I certainly agree with Mr. Langworth that Churchill's courageous anti-appeasement, in a time of widespread delusion and blindness, "magnifies Churchill's courage in persisting to tell the truth at his own political expense -- in those 'wilderness years' that were perhaps his true 'finest hour.'"

TOO UPBEAT
Re: Ross Kaminsky's E.J.'s Broken Record:

I believe Ross Kaminsky is a bit too upbeat when he states: "the federal government won't technically go broke -- but it can sure seem like it has when exploding entitlements and interest payments consume 100% of tax revenue -- projected to happen within 30-40 years if we don't reform Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. "

If you check the current budget, you'll see that the future nightmare scenario has already come to pass: our taxes barely cover entitlement spending, and we are borrowing for everything else. Per Wikipedia (citing CBO Historical tables), 2010 budget outlays were 3.456T. If I subtract discretionary (.660T) and Defense (.689T), I get 2.107T for entitlements, mandatory, and interest. When compared to receipts of 2.162T, we are, for all intents and purposes broke today.

The future will arrive much earlier than most expect.
--
Marc Fleuette
Financial Advisor

Ross Kaminsky replies:
I've received a couple of comments about my being too optimistic and I certainly take the point. I do believe that the U.S. will always find a way to nominally pay its bills even if it means monetizing our debt and destroying our currency, though I hold some hope that it won't come to such a bad end for our nation.

I would also note that my intent with the article was not a discussion of how outrageous, ridiculous, even immoral our federal budget is. I and others have done that elsewhere and will do so again all too frequently, I assume. (Friday's news from the CBO is just the latest fodder.)  Instead my focus was on the left's view that America's various governments are not "broke" because America still has some rich people left. Indeed, I was trying to make a moral point almost as much as an economic one.

In the interest of keeping the attention on the outright theft which the left glibly proposes as rational economic policy, I may have come across as more optimistic about the federal budget than I actually am.

WELL-RESPECTED?
Re: Paul Chesser's Michael Mann Goes to the Zoo:

The latest contribution by Paul Chesser was a bit humorous, and cowardly.  In it, Paul included quotes from some of his "climate pals" who attacked a well-respected climate scientist (Mike Mann).

I am always struck with a bout of indigestion when someone prints quotes from their "pals" yet decides not to give the names of those "pals." Hey Paul, do they even exist? Are your friends courageous enough to make attacks but not courageous enough to have their names attached to those attacks?  Cloaking your "pals" in anonymity is embarrassing, and cowardly…. Sort of like a school-yard bully that challenges someone to a brawl but then doesn't show up at the appointed hour. 

Frankly, I expect higher standards from contributors at The American Spectator.

Oh… by the way… you can use my name.  I actually stand by my words.
--
Dr. John Abraham
Associate Professor
University of St. Thomas
School of Engineering

DEFUND NOW
Re: The Prowler's Hands Off the Obamacare Slush Fund:

Defunding Obamacare will not only be good politics, but it will help bring down the deficit now and save our health care system later.  Republicans promised to defund this abysmal policy and they must do it.  They should link it to legislation the Democrats desperately want and are afraid to kill. By appearing to be squeamish the House leadership is hurting itself in the polls which means it is hurting the Republican brand in the run up to 2012. Defund, repeal and replace.
-- Michael Tomlinson
Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan

UNDERSTANDING DANIELS
Re: Philip Klein's Scapegoating Mitch Daniels:

Your article on Mitch Daniels is right on the mark. I called Rush Limbaugh several weeks ago to defend Mitch Daniels because his "truce" is about priorities and realities not philosophy. Had I made it on air (held on for 1 hour and 45 minutes only to be told I would be called back the next day and wasn't), I would have pointed out President Reagan's switch from being a "pro-abortion" governor to being a "pro-life" President -- in words only.

Mitch Daniels may be a bit too honest to run for President but, if he won, we would have an honest, true conservative who would achieve more fiscally, socially, and from a national security standpoint all while paying the bills in the mean time. 

Too bad!
-- John L. Sorg
Indianapolis, Indiana

WISEACRES
Re: James B. Brinton's A Great White Fleet for the 21st Century:

This is a wonderful idea. If you want to have some fun with it, consider what would happen if you demilitarized a carrier and gave it to the UN to manage. It would be an object lesson in international cooperation and efficiency. For those of you who are irony impaired, it would be a complete disaster.
-- Roger

Great article! Well thought out. I've got a good source of money. We can take it out of the Peace Corps fund and eliminate the program.
-- Curt W.

THE ART OF COMPROMISE
Re: Peter Hannaford's It's Daylight Nuisance Time:

Make daylight savings time year-round or abolish it altogether?

I like the idea of splitting the difference, so as not to hurt anyone's feelings. Just set the clocks ahead half an hour one spring and make it permanent.  We'll call that "compromise time."
-- Karl Lembke

NEGATIVE VIBES:
Re: R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.'s Barbour Out On the Hustings:

Put the crack pipe down -- President Obama is a two termer. Have a great day!!
-- Noel Bourne

Rustlings on the hustings? Hmmm... I don't think so
--
Mimi Evans Winship

YES, BUT
Re: Quin Hillyer's Budget Battles Demand Perspective:

OK, Quin. If incrementalism will get us there, fine, but we don't have much time left to defund Obamacare before it's no longer a cub, but a bear. Just sayin'!
-- Mike Showalter
Austin, Texas

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