Churchill on Iraq


Winston Churchill on the War in Iraq


I wrote this for an Eng. comp. assignment in 2007, pre surge. We were assigned to come up with a thesis on the Iraq War by a liberal professor who spent most of the quarter talking about peak oil and global warming; it wasn’t called climate change yet. But he was tough on your writing skills and so good at what he was paid to do. It may have been overly cautious, but in light to what a lot of others were saying at the time with such confidence, it doesn’t play badly. Now in 2015 when we view the results of total withdrawal from Iraq it makes you rethink Bush’s decision.


But mousie, thou art not thy lane, in proving foresight may be vain:

The best laid schemes of mice and men, aft go agley…..

 Still thou art blessed compared to me, the present only touches thee:

But och! I backward cast my eye on prospects drear! and forward, tho’ I cannot see, I guess and fear! (1)



          The war in Iraq is an issue that faces Americans daily. It also presents itself as a point of conflict to all the surrounding Arab and Islamic nations, Israel, and Europe. Should we stay? Should we go? What is the easy answer? I don’t have an easy answer, if you want one of those ask Sean Penn. However I do have a thesis. My thesis is that in the Iraq conflict we as Americans have an opportunity. I believe this is a sound opinion, albeit perhaps a safe one. Never the less it’s one that is often overlooked in our eagerness for instant solutions.

            And it’s a thesis that would have found approval by a statesman of no less stature than Sir Winston Churchill. He said,” The pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; the optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.” Winston Churchill was a man whose involvement in military campaigns and politics spanned the period from the last British cavalry charge in North Africa to the signing of treaties with Joe Stalin. When pondering present conflicts, I often try to view them in the contexts of past conflicts and past leaders. I wonder what the old tortoise, Churchill, would have to say about the situation in Iraq.

            What are the opportunities?  Well, I’m not a great statesman, so I can only guess. The possibility of an American ally right in the center of Middle East, in close proximity to Iran would be one. But that’s not the point. The point is that undoubtedly, there are opportunities staring us in the face right now, if we’re not too busy pointing out failures and difficulties to see them. Even a dumb logger knows that it’s better to look at ways to get something done than to analyze all the reasons why you can’t. Even if the options you have seem less than perfect and fraught with difficulty.

            Listing all our failures in Iraq as a reason to pull out would not have impressed Winston Churchill. During his career he suffered numerous defeats, and many of his decisions were perceived as colossal errors by the press and the people. His reaction?  He said,” Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” I believe he would have found the constant second guessing of our original decision to go into Iraq as pure folly. For one, it’s already been done and can’t be undone, he said,” I never worry about action, only inaction”.  Churchill had watched inaction, equivocation and the desire for easy peace lead to the most devastating war man has ever known, WWII.

            Am I saying we shouldn’t pull out of Iraq? No, I’m not saying that. Perhaps that may now be our best alternative. Should we have allowed Hussein to continue to slaughter the Kurds? What kind of political situation would have developed if we had pulled out quickly? How many readers remember the Iraqui’s shooting scud missiles into Israel during Desert Storm? But before we blow the horn for a popular retreat, let’s put our partisan politics aside, at least for a few brief moments. Then let’s look for the kind of opportunities that a man like Winston Churchill may have seen in the situation we face today in Iraq. It wouldn’t hurt us.




Robert Burns, To a Mousie, 1785


About notmanynoble

woodcutter from Washington State
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