I’m in the middle of the third part of The Last Lion:Winston Spencer Churchill. Midway, actually. Get it? Ok, never mind.
Anyway, the third part is riveting. No, seriously, I’m completely engrossed with the story of WWII. I am my father’s daughter. This part starts after Britain declares war on Germany and makes Churchill prime minister. Churchill rallies the country with inspirational speeches and vows that Britain will not go down like Czechoslovakia, Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway and France. Wait, was that everyone? No, indeed, there was much more to come. The Brits looked across the channel at all the carnage and slavery and starvation and brutality and decided they were going to gird their loins and tough it out. Then came the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain, The Blitz, the destruction of Coventry. Thousands of British lives were lost in incendiary bombs during nights of terror while the country waited for the invasion they knew Germany was planning. And then there was the British navy, number one in the world, being picked off boat by boat, ship by ship, in the north Atlantic by German U-boats, battleships and bombers. The carnage was horrific.
Meanwhile, Churchill was on his own. No other European country was going to come to his rescue. After years of appeasement, the ability of the military to respond to German aggression was very weak. The RAF had far fewer planes, the navy’s ships were old, the army’s tanks couldn’t compete with the German panzers. Churchill begged the US to send whatever was mothballed from WWI. He turned British bases in the Atlantic over to America in exchange for some old rust buckets. It wasn’t enough. He pleaded with Roosevelt for help. Britain was having trouble feeding itself. He warned FDR that America was next, that Germany and Italy would come for them eventually. But FDR had his own band of isolationists to deal with. They held our country hostage and prevented any useful aid from reaching Britain. Lend-Lease was only partially successful and Britain nearly bankrupted itself trying to purchase food and materials to ramp up weapons production.
Then came a series of British military disasters. They initially had success in North Africa, but lost momentum to Rommel in Libya. The Brits promised to defend Greece but after Yugoslavia signed the Tripartite agreement with Germany and Italy, then had a coup in protest, it was invaded by Germany, which rolled right on thru to occupy Greece. Once again, the Brits had to evacuate – to Crete. In Crete, German paratroopers captured a British airbase. The RAF didn’t have the means to defend itself. It didn’t have any arms. The Brits evacuated to Egypt. It was one retreat after another. Pearl Harbor came as a blessing. Finally, another country was going to share the misery. But once the US got involved, it quickly found that it was no better off than the British. With decades of appeasers running the show, the US military also didn’t have the ships, arms or aircraft to put up much of a fight. If the Japanese hadn’t thought they were so far ahead of the game that they could afford to take a break refit their ships, the US might have lost all of the ships we had in the Pacific.
In the first months of 1942, Churchill was called by the House of Commons to account for all the military disasters. Crete and Greece were particularly grating. The Greek campaign was seen as unnecessary, especially because it was a voluntary action and it was a total loss. But Churchill pointed out that the purpose of the campaign was to show the world that Britain was not just a sitting duck, it would resist assimilation. Also, there was that whole business of the eastern Mediterranean. If the area wasn’t secured for sea traffic, oil from the Persian Gulf and other goods, would have to go around Africa to get to England. THAT’s why the British were in Egypt, to keep an eye on the Suez Canal. That’s why they wanted to keep Tobruk in Libya. It was the safest natural harbor in the area for the British fleet. That’s why the Germans were bombing the shit out of Malta. That’s why Churchill was hoping that Stalin was ready to fight Hitler in Russia, so Germany wouldn’t capture Iraqi and Iranian oil fields. By the way, how many of us knew that when the Japanese declared war on us, it effectively cut off our rubber supply from Malaysia and that our cars and other vehicles were impacted by the Japanese navy threatening the trade routes? I didn’t know that until yesterday.
And he was pissed off that he had to report this crap to the House of Commons because all they needed to do was look at a fricking map for the past decade to see that these areas needed reinforcement and military strength. But while he spent a decade as a ridiculed back bencher, running around with his hair on fire about the evil brewing in Germany, he had to put up with a lot of snooty appeasers who thought keeping the peace so commerce could proceed without interruption was more important than a raving lunatic and his band of thugs in Berlin.
The House of Commons still couldn’t understand the Greek thing though. Why pursue a battle if you aren’t sure you’re going to win? He replied that if you have to know in advance that a win is a certainty, you never get off your ass to become a real threat.
So, now we come to our own Libya. And I look at the map of all of the choke points in the world now for international shipments of oil and grain and all kinds of stuff and it’s really not all that different today than it was in WWII.
It’s still the Straits of Hormuz, the Suez Canal, the Panama Canal, Singapore and the South China Sea, the Dardanelles. We may all divinely wish that the world didn’t run on oil. I certainly wish it. But the powers that be are determined to keep us addicted and, let’s not kid ourselves, we haven’t really had a choice of president since 1996. The election was stolen in 2000, probably 2004, certainly something went terribly wrong in 2008 and that led to 2012. George Bush was a disaster for us. The Iraq War was a disaster for us. Afghanistan? It started off well but quickly devolved. We needed to go to Afghanistan.
And now we come to Libya. Libya, the same damn place that was such a mess for the Brits in 1941. There were probably a couple of reasons to do air strikes in Libya a couple of years ago. The first may have been the oil. I won’t deny it but I don’t know. Yeah, oil is evil. I think I’ve already mentioned that. The second was to avoid a humanitarian crisis. Qaddafi was going to scorch the earth. And no, we can’t save the world. It isn’t our jahb. But I will remind the reader that in this case, the pre-WWII hypothesis of the military specialists was that air bombers were king. You get your best bang for your buck with a bomber. That’s not necessarily the whole story. It did eventually require a massive number of bodies thrown at Normandy to finally take Europe back. But that was then and this is now. Air strikes are incredibly effective and in Libya’s most recent case, it finished Qaddafi off.
Should we have not done it because there is now a bunch of Libyans fighting amongst themselves? Should we only get involved if we know that people are going to not misbehave when we have our backs turned? I don’t know but I suspect that crazy dictators do not take you seriously if you don’t at least put up a fight to show that you mean business. That doesn’t mean we should have gone to Iraq. We shouldn’t have gone to Iraq because there was no reason besides greed to go to Iraq. Saddam Hussein had no WMDs. And apparently, we learned our lesson back in 1941 and we are no longer lacking in military prowess. No one is going to catch us without enough armament to turn any offending country into a glass parking lot if that’s what we want. I just hope we don’t want.
Now our biggest problem is we are waging a different kind of war in the US. The bad guys are so clever they ask us to disarm ourselves in completely different ways. They are using our own safeguards against us. I guess we can debate whether Libya was worth it or not. Or we can pay better attention to the new dictators who are slipping in and taking over our country without shedding any blood at all. Well, not yet anyway.
Our finest hour is coming.