I heard a snippet of commentary today about some remarks that Mitt Romney recently made in London. He apparently said that, should he be elected president, the bust of Winston Churchill that Barack Obama notoriously removed from the Oval Office will return. The commentator thought it absurd and self-contradictory for Governor Romney to be praising Mr. Churchill when, apparently, in some book or book manuscript somewhere, Governor Romney has also said that it was only the English Channel that saved Britain from Nazi conquest.
But this objection is historically ignorant. There was a time when, effectively, only the English Channel saved Britain from Nazi conquest.
As I briefly noted in a blog post from England last week, the Battle of Dunkirk, fought between 26 May and 4 June 1940, was very nearly a total and essentially fatal military disaster for the United Kingdom. Winston Churchill had only become Prime Minister of Great Britain on 10 May, just slightly more than two weeks before the crisis began at Dunkirk. Had it become the utter catastrophe that it very nearly did, and which only a kind of miracle prevented it from being, Churchill — though beyond question a truly great wartime leader — would have had neither the opportunity nor the resources of men and materiel with which he ultimately worked his magic.
Thus, there is absolutely no contradiction in saying that the English Channel saved Great Britain from Nazi invasion and very probable conquest while, at the same time, praising Winston Churchill’s remarkable leadership.
It’s unfortunate that history is no longer taught in American schools.