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Dr. Larry Arnn on the 50th Anniversary of the Passing of Winston Spencer Churchill

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HH: The Washington, D.C. edition of the Hugh Hewitt Show from the studios in the Heritage Foundation, across the street from the Kirby Center of Hillsdale College, so it’s only appropriate that I spend my Friday evening talking here on the East Coast, not the West Coast, this time with Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College. It’s our Hillsdale Dialogue, which is unique this week, because it’s coming on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the passing of the century’s great man, the last century’s greatest man, Winston Churchill. Dr. Arnn, how are you tonight?

LA: Very well. How are you, Hugh?

HH: I’m terrific. I’m wondering, did the British have anything like the State of the Union address? We watched the President and I just can’t imagine Churchill going on for an hour and having nothing memorable left behind him.

LA: (laughing) Well, of course, they had something much more common, but not quite like that. The Constitution says there’s to be an annual message to the Congress. And you know, George Washington delivered the first of those in person, but then after that, he just sent them a letter. And so, but what they have is, the prime minister is a member of the House of Commons. And they have question time every Tuesday when the House is in session. And the whole opposition, and many backbenchers in his own government ask him questions all the time. This is very different than that, right, because he just stands up and gives a whacking, old, big, old, national televised speech, and they’ve all got to sit there and listen.

HH: You know, I don’t want to take much time away from Churchill, but I do have to ask you. It was just boring and silly, because nothing that he asked for has got a remote chance of passage.

LA: Well, I think he, here’s what I thinks, and I think there’s ground for him to think it. He has seized the day, and he’s got a lot of things in place. And they can’t be removed unless the presidency and both houses of Congress are in opposition hands, and he thinks that’s unlikely to happen. And so why not spend the rest of the time sounding clarion calls for more of the same? And why not do the ones he can do by executive action? In other words, I think he thinks he’s revolutionized the country, and he’s keeping it up, and he doesn’t care that the polls are against him, or that the people in most parts, the vast overwhelming majority of the parts of the country dislike what he’s doing and vote against him. He’s going to keep it up, and I think it’s, you know, just looking at it coldly, it’s a tall order to keep the Senate in 2016, and it’s a tall order, I think, for both parties, by the way, to win the presidency. In other words, it’s going to be close. And so from his point of view, he’s just got to win one of those.

HH: Yes, you’re right. And I’m going to, I’m in D.C. in order to be on the Meet The Press panel this weekend.

LA: Oh, good.

HH: And we’re going to be talking about Iowa, and we’re going to be talking about all of the variety of candidates we have coming at us. I’m curious, Dr. Arnn, you’re an expert on Lincoln as well as Churchill. Lincoln was nominated in a brokered convention. I look at the rules, I look at the number of candidates, and I think to myself maybe the unicorn is among us. Maybe the actual brokered convention is over the horizon. What do you think of that?

LA: Well, of course, you know, arithmetically, it can happen. And what lies between that, us and then, is the debate and the races. And so it’s going to be hard for anybody to separate themselves from the pack. But hard is not the same thing as impossible. And so right now, it looks like, you know, you’ve got two, you know, what we call establishment candidates, Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney. And to some extent, they will keep one another from nominating. And then there’s a bunch of people who’ve got similar credentials, and it’ll be hard for them to break away from each other, so it’s possible.

HH: You know, I look at Governor Perry and Governor Jindal and Governor Walker, and I look at Senators Rubio and Cruz, and I look at Governor Huckabee and Senator Santorum, and I see seven people who want the same votes in Iowa. What do you think?

LA: Well, Rand Paul, you’ve got to put him in there, too, right?

HH: Well, I guess he’s Evangelical. These are the explicitly Western Iowa, Evangelical-courting traditionalists.

LA: Yeah, so they’ll divide it up, and you know, these races have a way of breaking, right? The Republicans like the heir apparent. That’s why Bush and Romney are strong candidates, or one of the reasons why. And then, you know, it could be, you know, the pressure of Obama changes things. And what nobody has been able to do, and this is, by the way, and this is, in my opinion, how somebody will break away. Somebody has to show that they represent the great principles and Constitutional methods of the country, and they understand them, and they can show what they will do to get them back.

HH: Very well said.

LA: And that’s, I think if somebody can put that argument together and make it powerful, that somebody can win over this whole field.

HH: Now here is my elegant transition. Some complaints about Romney and Bush is that they’ve been around too long, and we don’t go for dynasties. The man we’re talking about, who died 50 years ago tomorrow on January 24th, 1965, dominated his party, I believe, from 1939-1955. Would you say he got it in ’38? But that’s a long run, whether it’s ’38 or ’39. That’s a very long time to own a party, isn’t it?

LA: Yeah, yeah, well, of course, there were, you know, so Churchill was in politics from 1900 until, and he was a very well-known young man and highly-published author and war hero before he was in politics. So he went into politics in 1900, and he was right away an important man. He was a cabinet member, sub-cabinet member. He was a cabinet member by 1908. And so it looked like he was going to roll, and then there was a long time when he didn’t quite, and didn’t quite get there. He got to the number two place in the cabinet in the 20s, but then he was disgraced during the First World War, recovered from that. And then in the 30s, he was a backbencher. And then it took something amazing for him to become the greatest man in Britain, which he did very much become, and that was the prediction of a terrible war and the suggestions of the means of preventing it, and then his being proved right, especially about the Munich Agreement, which let Hitler have Czechoslovakia, or part of it, and then he took the rest of it. And so now, he’s got all that credibility behind him, and then he took charge of that war, and he was really good at it. And you know, they were in trouble. They could have been destroyed, as France was destroyed. And he performed. And so whoever got a chance like that? And that made him the ruler of the Conservative Party.

HH: So he became prime minister on May 10, 1940, and then he ends his prime ministership, his second prime ministership, in 1955. So it’s a 15 year run at the top, but arguably, even before that, given his opposition to Hitler and his entry into the cabinet under Chamberlain, he was the guy. And so is there any argument to be educed from Churchill’s durability that the Republicans ought not to be dismissive of durability?

LA: No, not at all. And I’m not, you know, I’m not trying to say that I’m against Bush and Romney. They’re different kinds of candidates than the guys who, than the others, because they come from famous families, one of them, and the other one has tried twice, and been the nominee once. And you know, we’re going to have an argument here. And we should have it. and I know personally and well three of the people on your list, and I know they’re very capable, and I know they’re going to put up a heck of a deal.

HH: It’s going to be fun.

LA: Yeah.

HH: It’s actually going to be fascinating. So tell me 50 years ago tomorrow, how did the world react to the news that Winston Churchill had died?

LA: Well, it was international mourning. The funeral was a tremendous thing. He lay in state in Westminster Hall. The Parliament, you know, where Big Ben is, the House of Commons meets right there by, with, or on the end where Big Ben is, and then at the opposite end of that long part of the building, it’s a T-shaped building with a short down stroke, is the House of Lords. And the oldest part of the building is Westminster Hall. That’s where Thomas More was tried, for example. And that’s a really great place, and it’s a beautiful place, too. And Churchill lie in state there. And the funeral was in St. Paul’s, that great cathedral that survived the war by Christopher Wren, and there were, he went down the river in state on a barge, and the cranes in East London on the dock side dipped in unison in respect. And there were planes, and there were warships, and it was very grand. And you know, John Kennedy was very taken with Churchill and wrote a book, published a book, with a paraphrase of a title of one of Churchill’s books. And so he paid a lot of attention to it, had recently given Churchill an honorary citizen, at that time, the second ever person to receive one.

HH: Of course, Kennedy is dead by ’65, but he had paid attention to him prior to his passing.

LA: Yeah, that’s right.

— – – — – –

HH: It’s Hugh Hewitt with Dr. Larry Arnn of Hillsdale College, where he is the president, helping me set up the stage for tomorrow, and I hope a number of newspapers and media outlets spend some time tomorrow noting that it is the 50th anniversary of the passing of the greatest man of the 20th Century, Winston Spencer Churchill. Dr. Arnn is president of Hillsdale College. Hillsdale has a special relationship with Churchill by virtue of its relationship with his papers. Dr. Arnn, what is that?

LA: Well, so a long time ago when I was a graduate student, I went to England on a Rotary fellowship, and I met Martin Gilbert, and I went to work for him, and I helped him write, you know, edit and annotate and do the research for the official biography, a lot of that work on these document volumes that are now being published by the college. It’s also a very important fact in my life that I met my wife working in the man’s house, and as Churchill paraphrased, Churchill – and lived happily ever after.

HH: Yeah, very good.

LA: The document volumes, there are now 17 of them in print, and the 18th is to come out in a few days.

HH: Wow.

LA: They’re 1,400 pages books. The recently one coming out next, they’re all over a thousand. And they contain all of the important correspondence and memos and articles and stuff that Winston Churchill wrote in his life. And they’re exhaustive, and they don’t, they’re not just his part of the conversation. It’s people writing to him, too, and his cabinet memos, the important ones, all that. And so it’s a tremendous tool for scholars, and it’s been since 1962 that this official biography, which has eight volumes of narrative that were finished in 1988, so they took 26 years, and the document volumes are not finished, yet. The one that’s coming out in a few days goes up to August, the end of August, 1943.

HH: Oh, my gosh.

LA: Then there will be one more for ’43, rest of ’43 and ’44, and one for ’45, and two more after that. And Sir Martin Gilbert, for a little over two years now, has been incapacitated by his health. And so we at the college had long since negotiated three rights. One is we purchased Sir Martin’s personal historical archive, which has the papers in it and other things about Churchill that let one do this work, and that’s here at the college now, and then we published, we purchased and negotiated the right to publish all of this and keep it in print, and you can order it from the college, all of it. And then we had an agreement with Sir Martin that we later extended to the Churchill family through the trust through which they act that we would continue the work if something happened to Sir Martin, and it has. And so now I’m finishing them with a team of excellent people who are helping me.

HH: Now has everything been declassified? For example, right now, the Oscars are considering the wonderful movie, The Imitation Game. And of course, that takes some liberties with the narrative as it actually happened, but it’s a great telling of Bletchley and the Enigma Code. But a lot of that stuff was classified. Is it all out now?

LA: Well, the answer is as far as we know. Britain has a 30 year rule, and they’ve since shortened it some, and I can’t remember how long. But Churchill died, since Churchill died 50 years ago, there’s nothing that happens in his life that’s in the Public Record office that hasn’t been declassified except super secret stuff, and I’ll give you an example. There’s a thing called the Global Strategy Paper of 1952. And that’s the first big strategic paper published after Churchill became prime minister the second time. And in the, you know, I’ve looked for it many times, but not in the last ten years. And you couldn’t get a copy of it. But there’s all kinds of papers that talk about it in there, you know, because it was a very fundamental document. and I think that probably part of it is still classified, and I’ll be money that has to do with targeting plans for the Soviet Union.

HH: Oh.

LA: Where specifically were they going to bomb? And I know you couldn’t find that a long time ago when I was looking. And but for all I know, it has been declassified. But that’s the kind of thing that might be kept back and not even be told about.

HH: Now the next thing I want to ask because of the headlines, Yemen, or what passes for the government in Yemen, collapsed yesterday.

LA: Yeah.

HH: And very few people know that Winston Spencer Churchill spent part of his amazing career drawing the lines for some of the states in the Middle East. Did he happen to have drawn the line for Yemen? I’m just curious.

LA: No, he did not.

HH: Okay, so he can’t be blamed for Yemen not having actually been there. When it comes back around and he’s defeated in the summer of 1945 and he’s turned out, he doesn’t get back in for a while. And I wanted to focus a little bit, we talked about this last year when we spent a number of weeks on Churchill, and perhaps you’ll be talking about it, you have a new book on Churchill coming out in the fall, correct?

LA: October 15th.

HH: October 15th, the title of which is?

LA: Churchill’s Trial: Winston Churchill and the Salvation of Free Government.

HH: Terrific. When he was, will that deal with his last tenure as prime minister?

LA: Uh-huh. Well, the book is divided into parts. It’s maybe worth saying in this context, because we talked about the State of the Union message. I think Churchill is important for two reasons. One of them is fundamental. The kind of virtue that statesmen show, according to the classics, is choosing. And choosing has to do with both the ultimate good and with the circumstances around you. And so in order to know whether a statesmen did a good thing or not, you have to know a lot about the circumstances and about what he was thinking during the circumstances. And the record about Winston Churchill is, I believe, the richest of any statesman who ever lived. Churchill wrote 50 books. He wrote 8,000-some pages of speeches. He wrote all these documents that are in these 18 volumes, eventually 22 or 23 volumes. So you can know a lot more about him. That’s the first reason, and I regard him as great and think he’s worth knowing about. The second reason is Churchill lived in our time, decisively, in a way that earlier statesmen did not so much, because Churchill believed these two things. He believed that because of the power of modern science and the attitude to modern science, and to power in general, and to nature that we have today, Churchill believed, war had become much more dangerous, potentially ending of civilization. Churchill is famous for being a warrior. He was a great warrior on the battlefield, and a great warrior in the cabinet room. He was also frightened of war, and tried very hard to avoid it, and explains in eloquent terms how dangerous it is. But he thinks this attitude about science and power and nature that has transformed war has also transformed politics in peace. And so the great modern tyrannies – the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, they’re examples of that, but they’re only extreme examples of something that’s also going on in the great democratic countries. Socialism was his lifelong enemy. It came into Parliament the same year he did in 1900. And the bureaucracy that socialism fostered was his lifelong enemy, and he thought that it was a scientific approach to the administration of things that treated people like tools.

HH: When we come back from break, we’re going to talk about whether his premonitions and worries about the future when he passed on in 1965 have come true.

— – — –

HH: Dr. Arnn, in theaters right now is Selma, which commemorates the 50th anniversary coming up in March of the Selma to Montgomery march led by Dr. Martin Luther King, another great man. Did Churchill ever meet King?

LA: No.

HH: And did he, did Churchill have pronounced views on the race issue in America at that time?

LA: No.

HH: When he withdrew into his retirement, was he cloistered? And did he connect much with people? Did he continue to travel, post ’55?

LA: Oh, yeah. So Churchill gave a few small speeches, and finished the English-Speaking Peoples. Churchill attended Parliament until about 1961, although he said very little. After about 1962, his health was, you know, he was impaired. He’d had strokes. There’s a really plaintive and lovely letter to his wife, I think, from 1964, in which he says I used to write to you in such a strong and clear hand, and now I can only scratch out these few lines to my beloved. And so he was weaker, and also, he observed the proprieties. Anthony Eden, who succeeded him, was a failure. And he was careful about what he said about that. Harold MacMillan, who was also a protégé of Churchill’s, who succeeded Eden, was a great success. So Churchill, he wrote some interesting things, and letters, especially, but he was an old man now. And he was really an old man in the almost three years that he was prime minister the second time. And there wasn’t much time, and that’s too bad.

HH: Was there fulfillment of his predictions?

LA: Well, sure. He gave the speech that started the Cold War, or that signaled that we understood that there was one, in Fulton, Missouri in 1946, the Iron Curtain speech. There hasn’t been another great world war, and that has something to do, in my opinion, with this, with the strategies that he help devise of nuclear deterrence. But he worried very much that the, that the individual human being was not going to have room to live his life, because the government was going to become so comprehensive and so meddlesome that it would be too big for people to control it, and that they would, that the details of their private doings would be regulated. And he was afraid of that, and I am afraid of that very much. And you know, why can’t we just run our little college here? We don’t take any money from the government. Why should the government have the powers that it has to regulate so many things that it does in every private business, including ours?

HH: He also had quite a view of the world, and yesterday, Mark Steyn, your friend and mind, a friend of Hillsdale College was on, and Mark has often argued that the division of Pakistan and India was the greatest catastrophe to befall the world. And you know, it will eventually be, if it is not already, it was the source of millions dying and being dislocated back when the partition occurred. What did Churchill think of the partition?

LA: Well, Churchill, I’ve just been finished writing about that. My book is basically done now. And the last thing that I wrote about was about the empire. And Churchill is of course very heavily criticized about that. And he fought about India for much of his life, and in especially 1931-1935 when they passed the first act that led to, well, that recognized that there would be some sovereignty in India. And Churchill fought it tooth and nail. And he fought it against his own party, and all the other parties. And he delayed it, and he made some predictions. And his predictions, his argument was this. India is several hundred princely states, and they speak several dozen languages. Most Indians, the great majority at that time, do not read and write. The Muslims are fewer and more warlike, and the Hindus are divided into castes that make sharp divisions in the society so much that it’s blasphemous to touch a member of the lower caste.

— – — –

HH: When we went to break, and I wanted to follow, find out his three predictions, Larry, on India, on the Soviet Union, and on Islam, since he spent so much time on all three subjects.

LA: Well, he thought, so about India, I’ll finish that, he thought that India is not a country. He thought that the people of India are as fully capable of governing themselves as any, every human being is, than any human being is, any group of human beings, but they’re not a people. They’re not, the conditions will not let it happen. And so the Muslims will be at the Hindus, and the upper, the Brahman Hindus will be the at the Dalits, who are untouchables. And he thought that there will be widespread bloodshed and chaos, and there was. And you named the numbers. The conservative estimates are, and he might even call them middling estimates of how many were killed is 750,000.

HH: Right.

LA: It might have been much more than that. And there’s a very good book called India After Gandhi that’s recently published, and it’s a good book. It’s fun to read, and the man is of course an Indian loyalist. He’s a journalist from India who writes a lot in the Western press. And he says that the number displaced was in excess of ten million.

HH: Yeah, that’s what, some of the numbers, the estimates, it’s like the old Soviet Union. You can never figure out until conquest came along just how great a butchery it was.

LA: And India and Pakistan split, and there was, and you know, Gandhi himself, who Churchill admired Gandhi for this, Gandhi and Nehru both worked very hard to heal the divisions between Muslim and Hindu. The partition happened just before independence in 1947. And he went, Gandhi moved and went and lived among a bunch of Muslims for a time, and he was the great national hero. And he was shot by a Hindu, not a Muslim extremist, for doing this. There were several attempts on his life, and the last one was successful And they partitioned, and they’re at war. Now India itself, and you know, in 1947, 53 and 14 is 67 years later, India itself has a galvanizing prime minister, and shows enormous promise for the world. And that, too, does not belie any of Churchill’s predictions. He just said it would be a very hard road, and it has been.

HH: And the partition gave birth to A.Q. Khan, who went from India to Pakistan, and then from Pakistan to Europe where he stole and made possible the Muslim bomb.

LA: That’s right.

HH: There’s so many consequences of that, that I’m sure you’ll be pondering in Churchill’s Trial. What about the Soviet Union and Islam, since he had such a deep engagement with the former, and obviously drew a lot of the boundaries that govern today’s Islamic world?

LA: Well, Churchill said about the Soviet Union that, in one of the gloomiest passages that he ever wrote, he said that there’s no principle that has not been conceived and carried into effect in Bolshevism that is not already present in the society of the white ant, and that it treats people like white ants. And he said that that is only the extreme form of the doctrines that are coming into the Western countries. And he said that it would be, when the Bolshevik revolution first started and began to have, and began to solidify its hold on Russia, and then the satellite countries, he said the hairy paw of the baboon is stretching out across Europe. And in the Second World War, Churchill wanted steps taken to move east as fast as possible, south and east, to take as much land before Russia got it, the Soviet Union got it. And he didn’t get all the cooperation he might have gotten from the United States in that. And then the Iron Curtain fell. And Churchill predicted that that would be very dangerous. And he helped to invent the policy by which it was contained and deterred. And eventually, it fell. But that, you know, he predicted that that would be very bad. And he started predicting that in, and you know, Churchill was an anti-socialist in 1899, is the first evidence I know of it, when he was 25 years old.

HH: Smart, young man.

LA: He was an anti-Bolshevik from the moment he learned of it.

HH: And from his time in the Middle East, what did he foresee from the collapse of Ottoman?

LA: Well, Churchill was, so he did, he was secretary of state for the colonies, and had direct administration of Iraq under him. His second in command was T.E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia. And neither one of them intended to stay there. The British had Egypt, and it thought that it was crucial, and Churchill was a supporter of Israel. But Churchill didn’t want those territories. He wanted, for Britain at least, he didn’t want to expand the British Empire. He wanted to keep what they had, including India. And he didn’t think that it was likely to go very well. But he didn’t think that the Europeans, or that Britain, could make it go well. And he hoped for it. And with Iraq, he got out, he cut the cost of administration, and the British got out of there. They had a mandate to take care of it after the First World War from the League of Nations. And they got out of there as quick as they could, and Churchill wanted that. So he didn’t have high hopes, and he wrote some hard things about the influence of Islam, you know, when he fought in two Islamic countries when he was a young man – Afghanistan and in the Sudan. And in the Sudan, he was in a war with the current grandfather of the current ruler Sudan, sorry he was at war with the grandfather.

HH: Huh, the grandfather of the current…

LA: And this man had formed the first real Islamic state.

HH: Yeah, the Mahdi.

LA: And the current ruler of Sudan, and a grand-nephew of that man that Churchill fought against, were the teachers of Osama bin Laden.

HH: Isn’t that, it’s just absolutely remarkable. Larry Arnn, do you believe that tomorrow, people will notice it’s been 50 years since Churchill died? We have less than a minute.

LA: I hope so, and they should, because as I say, if you want to learn greatness in anything, you have to read history. And when you study statesmanship, you need to find great ones about which you can learn a lot about them. And Churchill’s writing is delightful. Nobody writes as well about Churchill as Churchill writes, including me. And he had massive impact on the world we live in today, and in my opinion, for the good.

HH: Very near Blenheim Palace where he was born 90 years later, 91 years later, 50 years ago tomorrow, Winston Churchill died. Dr. Larry Arnn of Hillsdale College, always a pleasure.

End of interview.


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