Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lincoln, Churchill and Syria

1864, America Re-Elects Lincoln


In the fall of 1864, during the height of the US Civil War, the United States held an election (  This was the first election held during wartime since the War of 1812.  Abraham Lincoln, denounced by many revisionist historians as a tyrant (see earlier post Lincoln in London, Revisionist History and the Ron Paul Campaign 3/17/12), upheld the constitution by NOT declaring martial law and foregoing an election.  This act, ignored by Spielberg's Lincoln film (see earlier post Spielberg's Lincoln, 2/6/13), set the best precedent for subsequent crises that the nation would face.

Lincoln was opposed by Democrat George McClellan.  General McClellan ran as a "peace candidate" though he did not personally accept his party's platform position on the war.  There were many "Copperhead" Democrats who supported an immediate cessation of hostilities.  Had the Democratic party prevailed, the Confederacy and then institution of slavery would likely have survived;  the 13th amendment would have been doomed in a McClellan administration.

Instead, the American electorate chose Lincoln by a 55 to 45 per cent margin over McClellan.  The American people, therefore, chose to see the war through to its victorious conclusion -- the preservation of the Union and the elimination of the scourge of slavery.

The prosecution of the war to its bitter end was the humanitarian choice and the wise choice of the American people.

Churchill steps out

Queen's House, Tower of London
Hess spent four days here in 1941
In May of 1941 Rudolph Hess, the Deputy Fuhrer of the Nazi Reich, flew a BF 110 to Scotland in a bid to negotiate a peace between Germany and the British Empire (see earlier posts, Rudolph Hess 1/7/13 and Rudolph Hess: Peace-monger 1/13/13).  At that point in the war, prior to the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa commences 6/22/41), the Nazis had known only victory and the British had tasted only defeat.  Churchill, however, responded by clapping Hess into the Tower of London.  He would not accept a negotiated peace with the fascists.  The war would be fought on to its conclusion regardless of its murkiness at that time.

Commander K. and his "Special Relationship" buddies, London
When Britain stood alone against Nazi Germany the President of the United States, FDR, wanted desperately to support Britain in every way he could short of war.  FDR approved the 'Destroyers for bases' deal ( by Executive order; this weakened the US Navy but strengthened the Royal Navy against the U-boat menace.  Isolationists warned at this time that these ships might be used against the United States if Britain were to be successfully invaded by the Nazis.

FDR also cultivated a relationship with King George VI (see earlier post, Hyde Park on the Hudson, 1/19/13) even before the war broke out.

Churchill's refusal to parlay with Hitler and FDR's support for Churchill were the best and most prudent   choices to be made at the time.  Continuation of the war was the only humanitarian and principled choice.

Obama says: "Not today"

As I write today, over 60,000 people have been killed in Syria by the ruthless dictator Bashar al-Assad (See earlier posts Syria Burning 10/12/12, Are Syrian Babies not as Cute as British Babies? 11/18/12).  Over 400,000 refugees have been driven into neighbouring countries.  Assad's forces have lobbed mortar shells into Turkey killing civilians in a NATO ally.  Assad is the greatest regional ally of the Mullahs in Iran, where the centrifuges continue to spin as they labor to develop nuclear weapons.  US inaction on Syria sends precisely the wrong message to Iran.

Understandably, after years of conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq, neither Presidential candidate was eager last year to speak out in favour of supporting the Syrian Rebels.  The focus group testing, no doubt, proved that humanitarian intervention in Syria was a losing gambit with the American electorate.  After the election, however, many expected things to change.

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton supported the concept of sending arms and aid to the Syrian rebels on humanitarian grounds.   So did Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta.  So did General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.  So did former CIA Director David Petraeus -- remember him?

It has been President Obama himself who has refused to support the Syrian revolution  Those who oppose arming the rebels have suggested that weapons could be turned against Western interests -- exactly the same argument that FDR and Congress rejected in the 'Destroyers for bases' deal with Britain in 1940  (

Needless to say, principled intervention in Syria need not require direct US military involvement or deployment.  Simply providing arms to the rebels should be sufficient to topple the Assad regime.

Syria continues to burn and President Obama continues to dither.  Obama professes great admiration for Lincoln, but he refuses to follow his principled humanitarian example.  Nor does he emulate either Churchill or FDR.

Last fall American voters chose between Obama and Romney.  On the question of Syria, however, it seems that the wackiest policy programs of Ron Paul seem to have prevailed in the Obama White House.

Senator John McCain asked, "How many more have to die before you recommend military action?"


Jim Hooper said...

Did I tell you about my former barber in West Hampstead? He was a Syrian immigrant and he was always interested in my "American" opinion of events there. His hatred for Assad was such, I generally only got a word-or two into the conversation. He was a nice enough guy, but he could become a bit worked-up over the topic. On more than one occasion I had to refocus his attention to the haircut in process, lest I end up with a buzz-cut. That was late in 2011, in early 2012 he was no longer working at the shop - I still wonder if he returned to Syria to fight.

Commander Kelly said...

There have now been over 70,000 killed in the Syrian conflict. Moreover, there is now proof that Assad has utilized chemical weapons against his own people.

Still no action from the Obama administration.

How many must die before we finally act?