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How Character and Statecraft Shaped the Post-World War Order

Seventy-two years after the end of World War II, Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s leadership remains a shining example of statecraft for leaders in our own day.

It is this great British figure that historian and public intellectual Lewis E. Lehrman writes about in his latest book, “Churchill, Roosevelt & Company: Studies in Character and Statecraft.” The book provides Lehrman’s readers with the fruit of a lifetime of deep scholarship.

Many assume that American entry into World War II was inevitable. But in fact the U.S. only declared war on the Axis powers after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which was well into the war. American entry into World War II was by no means a given.

In his book, Lehrman reveals how Churchill skillfully and restlessly pursued American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to persuade him to intervene in the war. As Lehrman notes, on Dec. 7, 1941, that courtship “became a shotgun wedding.”

That Churchill could so persuade FDR is more impressive in light of U.S.-British relations at that time. As Lehrman notes in the preface:

At the onset of World War II, Anglophobia was commonplace among civilian and military leaders in Washington. Mutual distrust had resulted from decades of Anglo-American competition. Bad blood had followed World War I, not least because of Britain’s failure to pay its debts to the United States.

In addition to the endemic “Anglophobia,” America’s political leadership privately longed to dismantle the British empire. FDR even told his son, “America won’t help England in this war simply so that she will be able to continue to ride roughshod over colonial peoples.”

British imperialism was in stark contrast to anti-colonial sentiments among Americans. Moreover, America—very correctly—saw Great Britain as a rival for world power.

Churchill, fully cognizant of the circumstances, well understood that its survival required American military commitment. Lehrman reports how Churchill’s son overheard Churchill, while shaving, say, “I shall drag the United States in” to the war.

Luckily for the world, Churchill’s resolve, strength of character, and statesmanship made him a master of persuasion. Churchill succeeded, after long courtship, in his effort to persuade America to enter World War II.

>>> Purchase Lewis E. Lehrman’s book, “Churchill, Roosevelt & Company: Studies in Character and Statecraft.”

In an early meeting with FDR’s administration, Churchill stated, “Regardless of what Germany does to England and France … England will never give up.” Churchill was determined to make FDR aware of his resolve to defeat the Nazis at all costs, and he did.

Only five days after becoming prime minister, Churchill wrote to Roosevelt:

… we shall continue the war alone and we are not afraid of that. But I trust you realize, Mr. President, that the voice and the force of the United States may count for nothing if they are withheld too long.

The message to FDR was clear. Great Britain was prepared to fight till the end. Would America provide its crucial force in time?

Still unconvinced of Churchill’s determination to win the war, FDR’s administration later asked for assurances, “To be assured that if Britain were overrun the fleet would continue to fight for the empire overseas and would not either be surrendered or sunk.”

In response, Churchill wrote to Foreign Secretary Halifax, “The nation would not tolerate any discussion of what we should do if our island were overrun.” Defeat was never an option for Churchill, and Roosevelt was persuaded that his resolve was unwavering. This was to prove crucial.

Churchill was also able to confidently extend his charm offensive to those who were influential with FDR. FDR’s de facto national security adviser, Harry Hopkins, who the president relied on more “than any other adviser” during the war, was a recipient of Churchill’s charm.

When Hopkins went to Britain in January of 1941 to meet the British prime minister, Churchill engaged in a “deliberate, sustained effort to co-opt Hopkins to bring America into the war against the Nazis.”

Churchill and Hopkins hit it off so well that, at the conclusion of his stay, Hopkins wrote, “I shall never forget these days with you—your supreme confidence and will to victory—Britain I have ever liked—I like it more.”

He continued: “As I leave for America tonight I wish you great and good luck—confusion to your enemies—victory for Britain.”

By the time Churchill’s charm offensive was through, Lehrman notes, “Hopkins, an ardent gambler on horse races, had decided to bet on Britain.”

Pearl Harbor proved to be the decisive and pivotal factor in thrusting the United States into war. But Lehrman shows that prior to the attack, in March 1941, Churchill’s statesmanship had already borne some fruit—FDR decided to “expand U.S. assistance to an insolvent Britain, on credit.”

In addition to being historically compelling, Lehrman’s “Churchill, Roosevelt & Company: Studies in Character and Statecraft” is also fascinating as a spy novel, presenting some shocking and little-known facts about Soviet espionage within FDR’s own administration.

This book, the fruit of a lifetime of scholarship by a National Humanities Medal winner and longtime behind-the-scenes force for political integrity, distills a host of revelations drawn from extensive historical source documents. Lehrman weaves a captivating, fully documented story about the political leaders of the World War II era.

The leaders are by no means limited to Churchill and Roosevelt. Many figures, from Joseph Kennedy and Dwight David Eisenhower—many of the most important figures of the era—are presented as studies in character and statecraft.

Lehrman’s latest work of history will prove essential to understanding how and why America decided to enter World War II and how the seeds of the Cold War were sown.

Its greatest value is its magisterial exposition of what is required of our elected officials to ensure that America will prevail in our current foreign engagements—in particular, the war against terrorism. That fight will be a key factor in determining whether liberty will continue into future generations.

The reign of American values—values like liberty and justice for all—is never to be taken for granted. These values are the outcome of character and statecraft. Lehrman proves that to be the case.

Whether you simply love history, reading a great story, or are motivated by concern about America’s future, immerse yourself in the epic story contained in Lehrman’s “Churchill, Roosevelt & Company: Studies in Character and Statecraft.”

The post How Character and Statecraft Shaped the Post-World War Order appeared first on The Daily Signal.

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