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ceeded. With no seat in the House of Commons, Churchill would have been
ineligible to become PM when the time came. And that time was not far off.
Only Churchill could compose these words to Chamberlain: “You had a
choice between shame and war. You chose shame. And you shall have war.”
The bitter cup was soon proffered by Hitler—a mere five months after
Munich. Hitler violated his promise by invading the remainder of Czechoslovakia,
exactly as Churchill had predicted.
Then, on September 1, 1939, Hitler invaded Poland. WWII was underway.
There can be no doubt, as William Manchester put it, that appeasement
of Hitler constitutes “the most disastrous foreign policy in the history
of Britain”.14 1933 to 1939 were the years the locusts had eaten, the period
when a massive change in the balance of power occurred between Germany,
on the one hand, and France and Britain, on the other.
Churchill’s warnings had been ignored. His predictions had become the
horrific reality. How is it that Churchill alone propounded the policies that,
if adopted, would have prevented the war? Manchester ascribes it to
Churchill’s “political genius which lies in seeing over the horizon, anticipating
a future invisible to others”.15 To be sure, Churchill was such a genius—
in 1946, at Fulton, Missouri, he was the first to warn of the Soviet threat in
his famous Iron Curtain speech. In a clear instance of déjà vu a motion to
censure Churchill was presented to Parliament by a large group of Labour
MPs. Stalin denounced Churchill as a “warmonger, just as Hitler had done”.16
Churchill’s genius stemmed in part from deep wisdom flowing from his
knowledge of history, which gave him unique insights into the behaviour of
tyrants and how they must be countered and defeated. Also, his
indomitable courage, towering above the weaklings in control of Britain’s
affairs, was a pivotal factor to his actions.
Churchill’s incomparable ability to marshal the English language into a
magnificent force, and soon into a powerful fighting machine, may not have
turned the tide against appeasement in the 1930s, but it marked him as the
man to whom the nation and the world must ultimately turn for deliverance.
On the commencement of WWII, Chamberlain reluctantly invited
Churchill into Cabinet, as First Lord of the Admiralty. The Wilderness Years
were over. The most important war in history was about to be fought. For
eight months the “men of Munich” remained in charge. The war effort did
not go well. On the morning of May 10, 1940 Hitler launched his blitzkrieg,
which, in a matter of 30 days, was to shred the vaunted French army like
papier-mâché. France capitulated, having put up very little resistance at all.
America was rigidly isolationist. Britain and the Empire faced Germany