Over the last forty-eight hours I have been asked for the same two Churchill quotations by several persons in the news media or in politics. The quotations are in my book, Churchill By Himself, newly published as Churchill in His Own Words:
“Leadership” chapter, page 490, “Inertia”:
When the situation was manageable it was neglected, and now that it is thoroughly out of hand we apply too late the remedies which then might have effected a cure. There is nothing new in the story. It is as old as the Sibylline books. It falls into that long, dismal catalogue of the fruitlessness of experience and the confirmed unteachability of mankind. Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong—these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history.*
Perhaps even more appropriate for the moment is from the “Politics/World Scene” chapter, page 439, “Middle East”:
The Middle East is one of the hardest-hearted areas in the world. It has always been fought over, and peace has only reigned when a major power has established firm influence and shown that it would maintain its will. Your friends must be supported with every vigour and if necessary they must be avenged. Force, or perhaps force and bribery, are the only things that will be respected. It is very sad, but we had all better recognise it. At present our friendship is not valued, and our enmity is not feared.**
History doesn’t repeat, Mark Twain said, but it sometimes rhymes….
*House of Commons, 2 May 1935. In a conference at Stresa, Britain, France and Italy had agreed to cooperate to maintain the independence of Austria. His fear was that this plan would be nullified by inertia. Hitler annexed Austria in March 1938. If only, Churchill was saying, these three powers had worked for peace and collective security earlier.
**1958. WSC to his private secretary, Anthony Montague Browne, from the latter’s book Long Sunset, pp. 166-67.