The Gathering Storm


Those three words may be the best book title ever and, of course, they were written by Winston Churchill.

If you have not read it, I urge you to do so now. It is as relevant today as the day it was first published.

It is my purpose, as one who lived and acted in these days, to show how easily the tragedy of the Second World War could have been prevented; how the malice of the wicked was reinforced by the weakness of the virtuous; how the structure and habits of democratic States, unless they are welded into larger organisms, lack those elements of persistence and conviction which can alone give security to humble masses; how, even in matters of self-preservation, no policy is pursued for even ten or fifteen years at a time.”

We shall see how absolute is the need of a broad path of international action pursued by many States in common across the years, irrespective of the flow of national politics.

In their loss of purpose, in their abandonment even of the themes they most sincerely espoused, Britain, France, and most of all, because of their immense power and impartiality, the United States, allowed conditions to be gradually built up which led to the very climax they dreaded most. They have only to repeat the same well-meaning, short-sighted behaviour towards the new problems which in singular resemblance confront us to-day to bring about a third convulsion from which none may live to tell the tale.

Nor can the United States escape the censure of history. Absorbed in their own affairs…they simply gaped at the vast changes that were taking place in Europe, and imagined they were no concern of theirs.

The seizure of the Rhineland…was the greatest gamble of all. It had succeeded brilliantly. (Hitler’s) opponents were too irresolute to call his bluff.”

How short our memories are.

Today’s Hitler is Vladamir Putin.

Putin invaded and annexed Crimea, part of Ukraine, in February, 2014 under the guise of protecting Russians who lived there and when he wasn’t challenged by the power of NATO, “too irresolute to call his bluff, he launched a full scale invasion of Ukraine 26 months ago, claiming it as Russian territory.

Putin – and most of the world’s military experts – believed Russia would quickly seize all of Ukraine and install it’s own Russia-friendly government.

The United States offered to evacuate the democratically elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

His response? “The fight is here. I need ammunition, not a ride.”

His courage and the courage of ordinary Ukrainian citizens has inspired much of the world. The last time we saw that kind of courage? February 9, 1941 when Winston Churchill, standing alone against Hitler and fascism, asked for America’s help, in a BBC broadcast, “We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire…Give us the tools and we will finish the job.

For whatever reasons, for whatever purpose, there is a “Putin Wing” within the Republican Party today. There are loud calls from within Congress to stop sending aid to Ukraine. The presumptive Republican Presidential candidate, Donald Trump, has a well known bromance with Russia’s murderous dictator.

But – and thank God for this – there are also important Republican leaders who understand what’s happening – again – in Europe. They understand the stakes of this conflict are not limited to the borders of Ukraine, just as Hitler’s thirst for blood and territory would not end at the borders of the Rhineland, and then the Sudentenland.

Our adversaries are watching us here today, and history will judge us on our actions here today. So as we deliberate on this vote, you have to ask yourself: ‘Am I Chamberlain or am I Churchill?’” 

That is Representative Michael McCaul, a Republican and chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, who has said publicly that many in his Party have “fallen prey to Russian propaganda.

Once again, we live in dangerous times. The rise of authoritarians and dictators in Russia, in Hungary, in China, North Korea and Iran threaten our world, and even in the United States democracy is under attack.

Once again, the world our children and grandchildren will inherit depends upon our resolve and courage right now, in this moment.

Our moment.

Let us hope Churchill was wrong when he wrote: “Not one of the lessons of the past has been learned, not one of them has been applied, and the situation is incomparably more dangerous.

So, it’s a question worth considering…

Are you Chamberlain or are you Churchill?