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OPINION

A History of Conflict and Conquests

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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He was one of the most consequential public figures of the last century. Winston Churchill was a man of many interests. Even now, his paintings fetch prices approaching those of the master Hunter Biden. Always fascinated with words, Sir Winston mobilized the English language and skillfully used them to help win a world war.

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Churchill was also interested in history. That curiosity combined with his considerable writing talents to produce his four volume classic, The History of the English-Speaking Peoples. He began writing in the 30s during his “wilderness years.” He didn’t finish it until the early 1950s. It begins with the Roman invasion of Britain shortly after the crucifixion of Christ. It concludes with the end of the second Boer War in 1902.  

By his own admission, it is a chronology of people, events and conflicts that were of interest to him, not necessarily a scholarly presentation of history. More than anything else, it is a repetitive story of conquest and conflict. Wars whose names and dates we have forgotten, one after another, interrupted by relative peace. Battles that were constantly changing the borders of Europe and the world. Churchill was not a warmonger. He believed that war was brutality elevated to an art form. He had experienced the exhilaration of being shot without effect. He understood that every few decades, someone came along who wanted to dominate the neighborhood and rearrange the plat book. Armed conflicts were as predictable as floods. Sir Winston’s four volume history won him the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Along the way, Churchill discusses the rationale for much of the conquest and carnage. The leaders who marshaled their forces to advance diplomatic and political ends by military means generally believed that they were doing the targeted people a favor. Sometimes they claimed that they were liberating an afflicted populace from an evil Monarchy. Other times the aggressors rationalized that they were bringing a new level of order out of chaos. Promising more freedom, less corruption, better religion and improved commerce. Clearly benefiting the newly annexed regions. 

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Sound familiar? Remember spending hundreds of billions of dollars to liberate an oppressed people from a radical religious group called the Taliban? Killing tens of thousands of innocent civilians in the process. Only to bid a hasty retreat, leaving the radicals in power…now with the fourth best equipped army in the world?

Churchill reminds us that there are few things new under the Sun. However noble the purported intentions, warfare guarantees no happy ending. 

The ever-changing face of Europe over the centuries is illustrated clearly in a video making its way around the internet. 

The velocity of change on the map is mesmerizing. Borders expand and contract with each decade. Consider that Germany (as we know it) did not exist until after our civil war. Ukraine came into being decades later as part of the Russian Empire. Later to become part of the Soviet Union. Finally gaining its independence. As far as Vladimir Putin is concerned, it is still part of the Russian Empire. Putin cannot accept NATO missiles positioned 100 miles from St. Petersburg any more than President Kennedy could allow Russian missiles positioned 90 miles from Miami. The Russian President is willing to go to war to make his point. Putin’s war is not going well but it will not stop until he receives significant concessions. 

Teddy Roosevelt successfully negotiated the peace between the Russians and the Japanese. He did it by understanding how and why the conflict began. He then reminded both sides that they had much more to lose by continuing to fight. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for helping secure an agreement that both sides could live with.  

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Regrettably, Joe Biden is no Teddy Roosevelt. 

Maps change. Human nature does not. Our friends on the Left love to claim that they are changing the arc of history. A rather lofty claim. Especially when they so studiously avoid learning from it. To people like John Kerry the Russian invasion of Ukraine simply cannot happen. Not today. Not on their watch. 

But it did. 

We in the West would like to see maps remain unchanged. But history produces an unrepentant echo. The video demonstrates that borders move. The people in the Donbas Region may be ready to accept that change.  

Winston Churchill and Teddy Roosevelt have passed the torch. This carnage must stop. Our feckless leaders must somehow rise to the challenge, negotiate the peace and write the next chapter. 

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