The Washington, D.C.-based Churchill Centre has just awarded the first Winston Churchill Award for Statesmanship to James A. Baker and Lee Hamilton.
This is the same James A. Baker who, as Secretary of State, when asked what the U.S. would do about aggression, ethnic cleansing, and mass murder in Bosnia-Herzegovina, replied: “We have no dog in that fight.” It is hard to say which was more Churchillian, the sentiment or the eloquence.
By this standard, Hamilton, former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was even more Churchillian. His reaction to the Bosnia debacle was described thus by Congressional Quarterly:
Hamilton was a well-modulated voice for cautious diplomacy…. Early in the Clinton administration, he agreed to a strategy under which Bosnia’s factions would agree to a partition of the republic…. But when Bosnia’s militarily dominant Serbs resisted, putting pressure on Clinton for U.S. military action…Hamilton suggested more time was needed to allow diplomacy and economic sanctions to work. To Hamilton’s many admirers, his caution as a foreign policy-maker is an aid in deterring the nation from rushing into foreign policy mistakes.
Other equally Churchillian moments in Hamilton’s legislative career include leading the opposition to military action against Iraq when it occupied Kuwait in 1990; opposition to aid to the Nicaraguan Contras in the 1980’s as well as to the besieged anti-Communist government in neighboring El Salvador; votes against a raft of weapons systems from the B-1 bomber to missile defense; and championing of the nuclear freeze.
Of course, the Churchill Centre was not honoring this pair for their past records but rather, as it explained, for their leadership of “the Iraq Study group, which resulted in critical policy recommendations.” The essence of those recommendations was to abandon hope of victory, begin to withdraw our soldiers, and cushion our defeat by appealing for help to the government of Iran (whose official slogan is “death to America”).
There’s a solution that would have done Churchill proud.
If you find the Baker-Hamilton legacy incongruent with that of Churchill, the Churchill Centre is out to reshape your memory of him, much as various academics lately have redefined Ronald Reagan as a liberal or moderate in noble contrast to the odious conservative, George W. Bush. The Centre explains: “The political precept that won Churchill respect from all sides was his belief that in difficult times the best results follow when people of differing beliefs and backgrounds come together, the greatest example of which was the ‘Grand Alliance’ of World War II.” In other words, Churchill’s great feat was not his resistance to Hitler but his embrace of Stalin.
Next, perhaps, the Centre will create a Churchill Award for Appeasement.