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A World Without Leaders

- Abstract

The late Lord Beaverbrook, owner of the London Daily Express and other successful newspapers, had a habit of calling the office late in the evening and, if not immediately able to track down the editor-in-chief, bellowing: “Who’s in charge of the clattering train?” Beaverbrook had a fearful image of his entire organization charging at full speed through the night, lights ablaze in every car, but with no engineer at the controls. This image often recurs to me as I contemplate the present state of the West, indeed, the whole of the civilized world. The lights are all on, there is riotous eating and drinking in the dining car, there are frantic games of poker, the darkened countryside hurtles past as we head for the millennium, but in the engineer’s cab there is a collection of second-rate men holding futile arguments.

I do not recall any point in my lifetime when leadership has been so lacking right across the international democratic spectrum. Even during the “phony war” of 1939-40, when Chamberlain and Daladier, two bewildered and exhausted men, were languidly trying to organize a reluctant Britain and France to face the overwhelming reality of totalitarian power, at least there was the formidable presence of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the White House and, at Admiralty House in London, the incomparable Winston Churchill restlessly awaiting his cue to march center stage and start issuing commands.

About the Author

Paul Johnson is the author of Modern Times, A History of Christianity, and A History of the Jews, among many other books.