The Weekly Winston

Power Line reader Bill Befort brings to my attention these two marvelous paragraphs from Chapter X, “A Political Interlude”, in Part III of The World Crisis:

There is an extraordinary contrast between the processes of thought and methods of management required in War and those which serve in Peace.  Much is gained in Peace by ignoring or putting off disagreeable or awkward questions, and avoiding clear-cut decisions which if they please some, offend others.  It is often better in Peace to persist for a time patiently in an obscure and indeterminate course of action rather than break up or dangerously strain a political combination.  Under a popular and democratic form of government, where enormous numbers of people have a right to be consulted, and all sorts of personalities, forces and interests have their legitimate interplay upon the course of public affairs, compromise is very often not merely necessary but actually beneficial.  The object in time of Peace is often to keep the Nation undisturbed by violent passions, and able to move forward in a steady progress through the free working of its native energies and virtues.  Many an apparently insoluble political problem solves itself or sinks to an altogether lower range if time, patience and phlegm are used.  British politicians and Parliamentarians, particularly those called upon to lead great parties, are masters in all these arts, and if after four or five years of power they have succeeded, without provoking crises in the State or divisions among their supporters, in achieving large national objects and enabling public opinion to carry in its own way and its own time important social or political reforms, they justly deserve their place in history.

In War everything is different.  There is no place for compromise in War.  That invaluable process only means that soldiers are shot because their leaders in Council and camp are unable to resolve.  In War the clouds never blow over, they gather unceasingly and fall in thunderbolts.  Things do not get better by being let alone.  Unless they are adjusted, they explode with shattering detonation.  Clear leadership, violent action, rigid decisions one way or the other, form the only path not only of victory, but of safety and even of mercy.  The State cannot afford division or hesitation at the executive centre.  To humour a distinguished man, to avoid a fierce dispute, nay, even to preserve the governing instrument itself, cannot, except as an alternative to sheer anarchy, be held to justify half-measures.  The peace of the Council may for the moment be won, but the price is paid on the battlefield by brave men marching forward against unspeakable terrors in the belief that conviction and coherence have animated their orders.


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