Alex Massie

Obama and Churchill

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So Obama has said he doesn't feel the need for his presidency to be reinforced by the presence of a British-government-owned bust of Winston Churchill in the Oval Office. As my friend Tim Shipman reports, the bust, loaned to George W Bush after 9/11, is now in the care of the British Embassy in Washington. This is a good thing in as much as anything which damages the Cult of Churchill in the United States is to be welcomed.

One can desire this without in any way compromising one's respect and appreciation for Churchill's wartime heroics. But the Churchill Cult in the USĀ  - especially amongst conservatives - distorts American views of Britain and, for that matter, history: every foreign policy crisis is seen as a test one may pass (like Churchill) or fail (like Chamberlain). That these comparisons with Munich and 1940 are as misleading as they are fatuous (while also, of course, traducing Chamberlain). It is not always 1940 and not every test is Munich Revisited. Yet the neoconservative vision in the US, always seeking a new Churchill, treats everything as though it was and as if the only thing standing between the US and it achieving its goals is a lack of proper Churchillian spirit. If only that were the case.

This being so, Obama's confidence that he can be President without Winston looking over his shoulder is a) encouraging and b) a sign of maturity and good sense.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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Topics in this articleSocietybarack obamaforeign policy