While reading a paper at work today, I was caught by this observation from Churchill and couldn’t help but think on our present circumstance…not just the most current problem in the Crimea but more broadly too:
“It is my purpose, as one who lived and acted in these days, to show how easily the tragedy of the Second World War could have been prevented; how the malice of the wicked was reinforced by the weakness of the virtuous; how the structure and habits of democratic states, unless they are welded together into larger organisms, lack those elements of persistence and conviction which can alone give security to humble masses; how, even in matters of self-preservation, no policy is pursued even for ten or fifteen years at a time. We shall see how the counsels of prudence and restraint may become the prime agents of mortal danger; how the middle course adopted from desires for safety and a quiet life may be found to lead direct to the bull’s-eye of disaster. We shall see how absolute is the need of a broad path of international action pursued by many states in common across the years, irrespective of the ebb and flow of national politics.”
Winston Churchill, The Gathering Storm, 1948
His point, of course, was to emphasize the importance of constant attention to the necessary investments of defense, fiscal restaint, political awareness, and the courage to stand up to aggression even when things seem to be going along quite well. These elements are essential to the preservation of a country's economic vitality, its cultural health and resiliency under pressure, and the strength to confront challenges before they grow to dangerous levels. When people do not attend to such things for too long a time--which typically happens during extended times of plenty--they eventually find themselves unprepared, perhaps fatally, at the worst possible time when the need is greatest, their resources have been squandered, and their competitors sense opportunity.