Turkey takes a dim view of Obama’s Syria policy

In an interview with Lally Weymouth of the Washington Post, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu offers a devastating critique of President Obama’s Syria policy. Turkey, of course, has its own interests, and on some matters they diverge sharply from America’s.

However, Turkey has a strong interest in (1) a stable Syria, or at least a Syria whose refugees don’t pour into Turkey by the tens of thousands, (2) a Syria not dominated by Iran, and (3) the defeat of ISIS, a revolutionary force that doesn’t recognize regional borders. There is, or at least should be, no divergence between these interests and those of the U.S.

Accordingly, Davutoglu’s critique is worthy of our attention. Here he is on how Obama’s longstanding unwillingness to institute a no-fly zone in Syria paved the way for the rise of ISIS:

In a potential crisis, if you don’t take necessary measures at the early stage, at a later stage you face much bigger problems. Yes, two years ago we were asking to have a no-fly zone . . . to allow the moderate Syrian opposition to have control in the north of Syria. If the opposition had been supported, there wouldn’t be the threat of ISIS.

Since we didn’t protect civilians or help the opposition, there was a tactical cooperation between the Assad regime and ISIS. When the Assad regime attacked opposition positions, [rebel] forces had to leave those towns and cities. The ISIS forces then occupied these towns. There was no fighting between the regime and ISIS until last summer. The presence of ISIS helped Assad to stay in power because everyone said there was a terrorist treat — it helped Assad legitimize himself in the eyes of the international community.

Here he is on Obama’s plan to train members of the moderate opposition to Assad and deploying them in the spring:

That is too late. We should not allow the Syrian people to be under two pressures — the regime and ISIS. A third option is needed — the moderate opposition.

Turkey has been criticized for its unwillingness to help in the fight against ISIS. It doesn’t even permit the U.S. to use its air bases. Davutogulu attributes this unwillingness to Obama’s failure to develop an integrated Syrian strategy — one that defends Syrians from Assad and robustly supports the moderate opposition, thereby depriving ISIS of its oxygen:

There was almost an agreement [with the U.S. on air bases], and there is still a possible agreement. What we want is simple — we don’t want to see any refugee flow or air bombardment by the Syrian regime. We don’t want to see the presence of terrorist groups. . . .

We say both threats should be taken care of simultaneously. We have to have a strategy to defend the Syrian people against ISIS and the Assad regime simultaneously.

When it comes to Obama’s refusal to enforce his “red line” on Assad’s use of chemical weapons, Davutoglu can barely conceal his contempt, a contempt that no doubt informs Turkey’s general approach to the U.S. under Obama:

Drawing a red line and not committing to it gives more courage to the aggressor. In those days when the U.S. administration requested our support to join the coalition of the willing against chemical weapons, we joined immediately.

But the Syrian regime misused good intentions. Still they have a chemical weapons capacity. Nothing has changed. They killed 300,000 people, and there are [millions of internally displaced people as well as millions of refugees].

Still, Assad is in power. There are people who think he may remain in power after so many crimes against humanity. This is unacceptable.

Unfortunately, it is acceptable to Obama.

The Middle East is the world’s toughest neighborhood. To survive in it, leaders must be clear-eyed and clear-headed.

Turkey’s leaders, for all of their many faults, answer to this description. So do the leaders of Israel, Saudi Arabia, and (now that the dust has cleared) Egypt.

All of these leaders are now at serious odds with Obama.

It’s conceivable that Obama, sitting in Washington, D.C. and relying on his his left-wing preconceptions, sees the Middle East more clearly than those whose survival depends on understanding the region. But it would take an extraordinarily prescient American president to pull that off.

The past six years teach us that, except as to matters of his own political survival, Barack Obama is not that president.

When Climate Heretics Speak. . .

. . . They usually mop the floor with the climatistas. That’s one reason why the climate campaign has resorted to rank conformism and outright bullying.

Matt Ridley offered his observations about the state of things in an article in the London Times a few days ago entitled “My Life as A Climate Lukewarmer.”

I am a climate lukewarmer. That means I think recent global warming is real, mostly man-made and will continue but I no longer think it is likely to be dangerous and I think its slow and erratic progress so far is what we should expect in the future. That last year was the warmest yet, in some data sets, but only by a smidgen more than 2005, is precisely in line with such lukewarm thinking.

This view annoys some sceptics who think all climate change is natural or imaginary, but it is even more infuriating to most publicly funded scientists and politicians, who insist climate change is a big risk. My middle-of-the-road position is considered not just wrong, but disgraceful, shameful, verging on scandalous. I am subjected to torrents of online abuse for holding it, very little of it from sceptics.

I was even kept off the shortlist for a part-time, unpaid public-sector appointment in a field unrelated to climate because of having this view, or so the headhunter thought. In the climate debate, paying obeisance to climate scaremongering is about as mandatory for a public appointment, or public funding, as being a Protestant was in 18th-century England.

Kind friends send me news almost weekly of whole blog posts devoted to nothing but analysing my intellectual and personal inadequacies, always in relation to my views on climate. Writing about climate change is a small part of my life but, to judge by some of the stuff that gets written about me, writing about me is a large part of the life of some of the more obsessive climate commentators. It’s all a bit strange.

Freeman Dyson

Freeman Dyson

There’s more; definitely worth reading the whole thing. Equally interesting is a back and forth exchange of public letters between the London Independent’s science editor, Steve Connor, and the legendary Princeton physicist Freeman Dyson, who has become one of the leading climate skeptics, much to the supreme annoyance of the climatistas. Because of Dyson’s eminence in science, he can’t be attacked or dismissed for supposedly bad motives or other low causes. Connor tries to corner him semi-politely, but Dyson won’t fall for it.

A few samples:

From: Freeman Dyson

To: Steve Connor

. . . The whole point of this discussion is that I am interested in a far wider range of questions, while you are trying to keep us talking about narrow technical questions that I consider unimportant.

You ask me where the extra trapped heat has gone, but I do not agree with the models that say the extra trapped heat exists. I cannot answer your question because I disagree with your assumptions.

From: Steve Connor

To: Freeman Dyson

Sorry you feel that way, I hope we can get back on track. I was only trying to find out where your problem lies with respect to the scientific consensus on global warming.

Connor’s use of “your problem” is very telling here, like an elementary school teacher correcting the math mistakes of an 8th grader. Anyway:

From: Freeman Dyson

To: Steve Connor

. . . The most I expect is that you might listen to what I am saying. I am saying that all predictions concerning climate are highly uncertain. On the other hand, the remedies proposed by the experts are enormously costly and damaging, especially to China and other developing countries. On a smaller scale, we have seen great harm done to poor people around the world by the conversion of maize from a food crop to an energy crop. This harm resulted directly from the political alliance between American farmers and global-warming politicians. Unfortunately the global warming hysteria, as I see it, is driven by politics more than by science. If it happens that I am wrong and the climate experts are right, it is still true that the remedies are far worse than the disease that they claim to cure.

I wish that The Independent would live up to its name and present a less one-sided view of the issues.


A Plea for Self-Defense in Great Britain

At American Thinker, Ciaran Brady eloquently makes the case for an effective right of self-defense in Europe, and in particular in Great Britain:

The threat of marauding gunmen in a city, so vividly illustrated at the offices of Charlie Hebdo and the Kosher supermarket, has been clearly apparent to western nations since the horrific Mumbai attacks in 2008. MI5 have confirmed that the Syrian arm of a resurgent al-Qaeda is planning similar attacks against the UK, possibly by British jihadists who have already returned from fighting in Syria or Iraq. They include plans to blow up a passenger jet, employ Mumbai style shootings in crowded places or even hit-and-run attacks using vehicles (an attack style employed in France in Christmas 2014). Andrew Parker (Director General of the security service MI5) said the number of random “crude and potentially deadly” plots from “lone wolf” extremists was increasing. In a stark warning, he said: “Although we and our partners try our utmost, we know we cannot hope to stop everything.”

This is where we find ourselves now. Every citizen in Europe and the UK faces the risk of an Islamic attack merely while going about normal day-to-day business. UK citizens in particular face this risk whilst being denied weapons of self defense.

It is illegal in the U.K. for civilians to own handguns, and difficult to own any other firearms. The civil right of armed self-defense, as enshrined in our Second Amendment, may have originated in England, but it is not now recognized there. The result can be grim:

In the past I have fully and enthusiastically supported the UK’s complete ban on hand guns. But immediately after the killing of Lee Rigby I began to reconsider the wisdom of that ban and I now utterly oppose it. As things stand in the UK, hand guns are illegal. For those shotguns you could own, extremely strict licensing specifically disallows self defense as a motive for ownership and so the old adage “In countries where guns are illegal, only the criminals have guns” is the frankly mad situation we now have in the UK.

There is no place in the world where it is particularly difficult for criminals, let alone terrorists, to obtain weapons. Even if those weapons are only knives, they may be sufficient for the purpose when the populace has been disarmed.

Once illegal guns are used in anger, you then have to consider how long it takes armed police to respond. The three sprees most responsible for framing the gun laws we now have in the UK reveal a rather worrying problem, given it took 2 hours for armed police to arrive on the scene in Cumbria in 2010, by which time Bird had killed himself and 18 others. In Hungerford in 1987, Ryan had 6 hours to kill himself and 16 others before armed police arrived. In Dunblane in 1996, armed police again never made it to the scene before Hamilton killed himself and 17 people.

The reality is that small crack teams of armed police can never be relied upon to make it to the scene of a crime until after some undefined but inevitably critical delay.

Glenn Reynolds: When seconds count, the police are only minutes away. At best.

In London on the 22nd May 2013, it took over 15 minutes for armed police to arrive when the soldier Lee Rigby was killed by two supporters of Islam who first ran him down with their car and then hacked him to death with knives and a meat cleaver. When these events occur in the UK, members of the public armed with nothing more than smiles and harsh language will inevitably be the first responders. In the Cumbrian shooting spree Bird encountered literally dozens of people on his route, all of whom were unarmed and many of who died as a result. The same applied in the case of Ryan and Hamilton. In the Lee Rigby killing all of us in the UK watched videos showing Ingrid Loyau-Kennett take on this first responder role… but seeing the killers’ hands literally dripping with blood left me aghast at just how vulnerable and utterly defenceless she and all the citizens in the vicinity actually were.

Mr. Brady recounts another incident in Great Britain where an armed National Crime Officer happened to be at the scene of a would-be mass murder, and stopped it. Firearms, as Mr. Brady says, are well known as effective tools of self-defense:

It is for this reason that UK authorities routinely protect politicians and dignitaries with armed escorts, but when it comes to us ordinary citizens, the state appears to consider our defense rights as almost irrelevant and then goes on to reinforce that policy by removing any and all tools that the law abiding citizen could realistically use to that end.

So the state not only fails to protect the citizen, it deliberately renders him defenseless. The result in the United Kingdom has been a steady increase in violent crime, even as violent crime continues to drop in the much better-armed United States. The violent crime rate in the traditionally peaceful U.K. now far exceeds that in the U.S.

Other European voices are being raised in favor of allowing threatened citizens to protect themselves. It is about time: the right of self-defense is the most fundamental law of nature. It is not a privilege bestowed by the state on those happy few who hold office or can afford armed security.

Most liberals scoff at the idea that citizens are competent to defend themselves. But the reality is that a great many of us are willing to take our chances. I went to a rifle range this afternoon–in Minnesota in January, you can’t shoot outdoors. I shot this group at 40 yards with my Bison Armory AR-15:


Is that especially good shooting, at 40 yards with an upper-end AR and a high-quality scope? No. Real shooters would probably consider it laughable. But from the perspective of a potential perpetrator who could be in the vicinity of the target, it’s not to be taken lightly.

Realistically, handguns are more likely to be used in self-defense than semiautomatic rifles. A very ordinary citizen can make pretty good use of a handgun, too. I shot this group with my Armalite AR-24 9 mm. pistol last weekend, at 20 feet:


There are many readers of this site who can shoot better than that. But my point is that an ordinary citizen with no particular talent–worse, a middle-aged lawyer–can, with a reasonable amount of practice, become a pretty good shot. Plenty good enough to make self-defense a realistic option.

Here in America, our frontier tradition and the Second Amendment, combined with effective advocacy by our country’s most effective civil rights organization, the NRA, have kept the right of armed self-defense strong, vital and growing. Increasingly, Europeans are looking enviously at America as a model for a freer, more self-reliant, and perhaps safer society.

2014 Was One of the 3% Coldest Years in the Last 10,000

Climate alarmists play a number of tricks to try to make their catastrophic anthropogenic global warming theory seem plausible. One of the most important is that they focus on a ridiculously short period of time, beginning either in the late 19th century or at the beginning of the 20th. This is, of course, not even the blink of an eye in geologic time. Given that the Earth began emerging from the Little Ice Age in the mid to late 19th Century, it is hardly surprising–and a very good thing–that from then until now, temperatures have tended to rise.

Alarmists shriek that 2014 was the warmest year ever! But that claim is absurd if put in the context of the Earth’s recent history. As Dr. Tim Ball writes:

In fact, 2014 was among the coldest 3 percent of years of the last 10,000, but that doesn’t suit the political agenda.

This chart shows Northern Hemisphere temperature changes over the last 10,000 years, based on ice core data. Dr. Ball explains: “The red line, added to the original diagram, imposes the approximate 20th century temperatures (right side) against those of the last 10,000 years.”


If the Earth continues to be warm, temperatures will be more nearly aligned with what they have generally been over the last 10,000 years.

There are many other problems with global warming alarmism, of course, and Dr. Ball touches on several of them. For one, the quality of the surface temperature record is terrible, nowhere near good enough to support the alarmists’ claims of precision. For another, the surface temperature record has been corrupted. The records are maintained by alarmist organizations, which have repeatedly “adjusted” historical data to make the past look cooler and the present warmer. This is one of many examples; it relates to New Zealand, where historical temperature records have been “adjusted” by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research:


Typically these adjustments are carried out surreptitiously, and only come to light when someone comes across contemporaneous temperature records from, say, the 1930s, and finds that the temperatures reported at the time are different from the ones now claimed by the same agencies. If you are willing to spend many billions of dollars, as the world’s governments are, you can buy a lot of rewriting of history.

So next time one of your liberal friends tells you that 2014 was the hottest year on record, and therefore we must turn what is left of our economy over to the Obama administration, you can tell him that actually, 2014 was one of the 3% coldest years of the last 10,000.

Who killed Alberto Nisman? part 3

The death of Alberto Nisman in his Buenos Aires apartment continues to give rise to troubling revelations something other than the suicide that appeared to be the cause of his death. Nisman was of course the Argentine prosecutor who charged the Iranian regime with the bombing of the 1994 Jewish community center; 85 Argentinians were killed in the bombing, the worst terror attack in the country’s history.

Nisman was killed on the eve of explosive testimony he was to give on the government’s collusion with Iran to shield Iranian suspects and therefore suppress his investigation into the 1994 bombing. The circumstances of Nisman’s death are, to say the least, highly suspicious.

The Washington Post recaps the story to date in the editorial “An independent probe must investigate a prosecutor’s death in Argentina.” Picking up where I left off in part 2, the Post editors write:

THAT THE mysterious death of an Argentine prosecutor has rattled President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is all too evident from the president’s own postings on her Facebook page. Last Tuesday, Ms. Kirchner claimed in a rambling, 2,000-word post that Alberto Nisman, who was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head the night before he was due to publicly charge Ms. Kirchner with illicit dealings with Iran, had killed himself. On Thursday, she maintained in an even longer Facebook post that Mr. Nisman had been murdered as part of an elaborate plot against her government.

In fact, Mr. Nisman appears to have compiled considerable evidence that Ms. Kirchner and several other top officials attempted to strike a deal between 2011 and 2013 under which Iran would supply Argentina with oil in exchange for food, and Ms. Kirchner’s government would seek the removal from an Interpol arrest list of eight Iranians wanted in connection with the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. Both the charges and the prosecutor’s death call out for an independent, internationally-backed investigation.

The stakes of the case extend well beyond Argentina. Mr. Nisman has alleged that senior Iranian officials were involved in planning or approving the community center bombing. According to Andres Oppenheimer of the Miami Herald, Mr. Nisman said he had testimony that now-president Hassan Rouhani was one of the members of a committee that signed off on the attack. He told Mr. Oppenheimer, as well as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, that he was looking forward to testifying to the Argentine Congress last Monday about a 280-page report he had delivered to a judge outlining the secret dealings between the two governments. No suicide note was found in his apartment following his sudden death last Sunday.

The evidence Mr. Nisman compiled included transcripts of phone conversations between Argentine and Iranian representatives. The sanctions-busting deal they were trying to arrange, the prosecutor charged, broke down when Argentine Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman was unable to persuade Interpol to remove the Iranians from its arrest list.

Ms. Kirchner’s claim that this case was fabricated by rogue intelligence officials is undermined by the fact that her government subsequently announced an accord with Iran under which the 1994 bombing would be investigated by a joint commission — which would have neutered the judicial process. This travesty did not go forward only because the Argentine Supreme Court declared it illegal.

Ms. Kirchner, whose populist, quasi-autocratic rule has badly damaged Argentina’s economy and soured its relations with the United States and other democracies, is a political lame duck who is due to leave office following an election later this year. However, she, Mr. Timerman and other close associates should be held accountable for their dealings with Iran. The cause of Mr. Nisman’s death must also be established. Only a probe with international sponsorship or participation is likely to produce a credible result. If Ms. Kirchner really believes herself to be the innocent target of a conspiracy, she should welcome it.

In the latest news emerging from the investigation of Nisman’s death, it is reported that Nisman “was killed by a bullet fired from point-blank range into his forehead[.]” The AFP report continues:

Prosecutor Viviana Fein who is leading the investigation said staff were waiting for ballistics analysis, including a DNA comparison, and to see whether the bullet taken from the body matched the .22-calibre weapon found at the scene.

Ms Fein told local television the shot was fired “from a distance no greater than a centimetre” while repeating her view that there was no evidence third parties took part in the actual shooting itself.

“We are still awaiting the toxicological and tissue testing, which can take a bit longer,” she said.

And then we have this:

The journalist of the daily Buenos Aires Herald, Damian Pachter, who last Sunday announced on his Twitter account the death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman, left Argentina Saturday in fear after finding that he was being followed, the Argentine Journalism Forum, or Fopea, said.

“Fopea reports that journalist Damian Pacter left the country because he feared for his safety,” the journalism association said on the social network Twitter.

“Pacter told Fopea yesterday, Friday, that he was being followed and thought he had better leave the country,” it said.

* * * * *

“I’m leaving because my life is in danger,” the journalist said on the Infobae Web site, minutes before leaving the country on Saturday.

“Since all this began, someone who has been a close, trustworthy source for years and who knows how to move in the world of intelligence, has been sending me hints,” he said.

“I don’t known when they started following me” Pachter said on Infobae, but from a tweet he received from within the government, “today it was all confirmed. ‘Leave because they’re looking for you.’”

“I never imagined that after that tweet, in five days I’d have to leave the country on the basis of real evidence,” the journalist said.

“I don’t believe this solves Nisman’s death. Power covers its tracks,” he said.

After the news was made public, in a communique posted on the Web site of the daily Ambito, which belongs to the same media group as the Buenos Aires Herald, the company said that the journalist “at no time” expressed his fears to his superiors.

As Alice cried in Wonderland, “Curiouser and curiouser!”

Lessons of the Risen case

We have written several times here about the case of James Risen. Called to testify in the government’s prosecution of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling for violation of the Espionage Act, Risen declined to testify; Sterling had laundered his exposure of a Bush-era operation intended to undermine Iran’s nuclear program (I rashly infer from the circumstances, under a promise of confidentiality) through Risen in one of his recent books. The Times itself had acceded to the imprecations of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice not to let Risen blow the program in its pages.

Risen challenged the subpoena compelling his testimony in Sterling’s prosecution. He asserted a privilege not to testify to Sterling’s role in disclosing the program reported in Risen’s book. Risen pursued his claim of privilege in proceedings up to the Supreme Court. When the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Risen’s claim of privilege, the Supreme Court declined to review the ruling. The New York Times story on the Supreme Court’s order declining review is here.

Risen presented the government with a choice: force Risen to testify or be held in contempt if he refused, or abandon its claim to his testimony. Rather than putting Risen to the test, the government has now abandoned its efforts to secure Risen’s testimony. You (I) could see the surrender coming from a mile away; I predicted it this past June in “James Risen would prefer not to.”

Now come the editors of the New York Times to celebrate and to offer the presumed “Lessons of the James Risen case.” The lessons are about what you would expect in the sodden style of the Times’s narcoleptic effusions: “First, dedicated journalists like Mr. Risen are willing to stand up to protect the identity of their sources. The second is the need for a strong federal shield law broadly protective of reporters who do that under the pressure of a high-profile leak investigation.”

The Times omits to mention in this editorial look back on the Risen case that it passed on Risen’s story. Times editors found the public harm it would do by publication to outweigh any good disclosure might entail. In fact, Risen’s story accomplished no discernible public good and likely did serious damage to the national security of the United States. See, e.g., my recurring footnote below.

Note also that the Times’s point 2 purports to limit the desired federal shield law to “high-profile leak investigation[s].” As formulated by the Times, the shield law is inane. The editors prefer not to say what they meaan; they want a shield law according reporters with a privilege against disclosing confidential sources, period. (Let’s leave the definition of “reporters” for another day.)

Here are a few unstated lessons that a reader can infer from the Times editorial. Reporters are citizens subject to the same rights and obligations as other citizens of the United States. Risen and the Times have no more immunity to disclose confidential matters of national security protected by the Espionage Act than Jeffrey Sterling does. They are subject not only to the same criminal laws as the rest of us, they are subject to the same testimonial obligations.

The Times characterizes the Fourth Circuit ruling rejecting Risen’s claim of privilege as “an atrocious legal precedent[.]” The Times implies that the Fourth Circuit ruling is some kind of outlier, but it comports with precedent. The Supreme Court has never recognized “any reporter’s privilege in the First Amendment or common law[,]” as the Times editorial puts it. That is most likely why the Supreme Court declined to review the Fourth Circuit ruling in Risen’s case.

NOTE: I wrote about the legal issues in the Times’s publication of national security information protected under the Espionage Act in the Weekly Standard column “Exposure,” but Gabriel Schoenfeld owns this story. For a full understanding of what Risen has wrought here I urge interested readers to read Schoenfeld’s Weekly Standard articles “Not every leak is fit to print” (2008), “What gives?” (2010), and “A privileged press?” (2014) as well as Schoenfeld’s Power Line post “A Risen in the sun.”

When Hitler didn’t meet Churchill

Our observation of the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Winston Churchill yesterday put me in mind of Winston Churchill’s failed meeting with Adolf Hitler. It’s a story I’ve mentioned here before and ask your indulgence in mentioning again as the occasion warrants.

Among the many qualities that made Churchill a man out of joint with his times was this one: he frequently wrote and spoke favorably of the Jews and in support of the creation of a Jewish homeland. In his book Eminent Churchillians, the prominent historian Andrew Roberts pauses in his chapter on Churchill’s politically incorrect statements on race to observe:

Not all Churchill’s racial characterizations were negative…He believed the Jews to be “the most formidable and the most remarkable race which has ever appeared in the world.” He felt an instinctive affinity for their genius as well as a historian’s respect for their trials, and he supported Jewish aspirations wherever they did not clash with those of the Empire. He may have inherited his philo-Semitism from his father, but he certainly gave it new lustre in his own life.

(Roberts’s quote derives from Churchill’s famous essay “Zionism versus Bolshevism.”)

One striking example of Churchill’s sympathy for the Jews derives from Churchill’s work on his monumental biography of the Duke of Marlborough during Churchill’s “wilderness years.” In 1932 Churchill’s research on the Marlborough biography took him to the European battlefields on which his ancestor had staked his claim to greatness. Churchill continued to Munich and a possible meeting with Adolf Hitler. Gilbert retells this story in Churchill and the Jews: A Lifelong Friendship, prefaced with this revelation:

Every biographer tries to find the key to his subject’s personality, and above all the flaws and weaknesses which are an indispensable part of any biographical presentation. I remember how pleased, actually thrilled, I was some twenty-five years ago, talking to one of those who had been close to Churchill in the Twenties, Thirties, Forties and Fifties. He said to me: “You have to understand, Gilbert, that Winston did have one serious fault.” As a biographer, my ears pricked up and my pen was poised to record and then to follow this up. This gentleman continued, “He was too fond of Jews.” Whether this was a serious fault for some of his contemporaries, for his biographer it was an extraordinary window into his life.

Then the story:

When in November 1932, shortly before Hitler came to power, and Churchill was in Munich doing some historical research about the First Duke of Marlborough,…an intermediary [Putzi Hanfstaengl] tried to get him to meet Hitler, who was in Munich at the time and had high hopes of coming to power within months. Churchill agreed to meet Hitler, who was going to come to see him in his hotel in Munich, and said to the intermediary: “There are a few questions you might like to put to him, which can be the basis of our discussion when we meet.” Among them was the following question: “What is the sense of being against a man simply because of his birth? How can any man help how he is born?”

Gilbert comments:

This may seem a simple sentiment to us now, but how many people, distinguished people from Britain, the United States and other countries, who met or might have met Hitler, raised that question with him? So surprised, and possibly angered, was Hitler by this question that he declined to come to the hotel and see Churchill.

Churchill relates this story himself as “a personal digression in a lighter vein” over two pages in The Gathering Storm, concluding with this characteristically Churchillian flourish: “Thus Hitler lost his only chance of meet­ing me.”