Tag: Neville Chamberlain

Darkest Hour: Movie vs. War Cabinet Minutes

 

Winston Churchill once tossed off a line to the effect that history would be kind to him because he intended to write it. The prophecy has been largely borne out, due in no small part to those writings. Churchill’s six-volume history of World War II did much to create his reputation for defiant courage—but also the enduringly unflattering one of his immediate predecessor as Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain (nicknamed “Old Umbrella” by his colleagues).

The movie Darkest Hour, with Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Actor (Gary Oldman), is very much in the Churchillian tradition, with the protagonist presented as a lonely and unpopular voice for fighting on no matter what. Ironically, however, Churchill never publicly referred to the conflict in the War Cabinet that is at the heart of the movie—whether to carry on the war against Germany alone or seek terms for ending it.

Nonetheless, there certainly was such a conflict, which we know because detailed minutes of War Cabinet meetings were kept. The historian John Lukacs used them to write his fine book, Five Days in London: May 1940 (1999), and they can be found online (though not easily) in the United Kingdom National Archives. The minutes confirm the standard accounts of Churchill’s eloquence and courage, but they tell a story quite different from the movie, and more interesting. They show Churchill deftly maneuvering to avoid a breach in his government; and for another man, and an unlikely one at that, the minutes tell a tale of some redemption.

Obama and Britain in the 1930s, or, Obama Equals Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain — Tabula Rasa

 

One of the endlessly interesting exercises of the last five years has been the serial attempt to find historical parallels to the disaster that is the Obama Administration. Among the most prominent are the bumbling Carter Administration, the cynicism and dishonesty of the Clinton and Nixon Administrations, and the nanny state expansions perpetrated in the Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson Administrations.

I would like to suggest a new analogue, this one based on the Obama Administration’s unerringly consistent fecklessness in foreign policy combined with its attempts to diminish American military power by dramatically cutting military budgets (all  while China dramatically expands and Russia continues to think the term “Russian Empire” is not purely historical).