Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Sixty-five years ago, Winston Churchill exhorted his audience to recognize the need for the United States, Great Britain and their allies to form a united front to work for peace and “establish conditions of freedom and democracy” around the world with his “Sinews of Peace” speech at Westminster College.
Nigel Sheinwald, British Ambassador to the United States, and historian and Churchill biographer Max Hastings also spoke of the need to build strong relationships and rely on allies in times of turmoil Saturday afternoon during a press conference to kick off the Churchill Weekend in honor of that anniversary.
Sheinwald said the “very broad lesson” from Churchill’s address that still is applicable today is “that history moves and changes rapidly.”
“There are certain constants in international relations ... the events of the last few weeks bring into contrast for us,” Sheinwald said, citing ideas, values and alliances as the chief of those constants. “We all talk today about how to foster new relationships, but we must also reckon with the importance of being able to work with allies (you can depend on).”
Hastings said the relationship between the United States and Great Britain has always been affected by the two nations’ respective perceptions of their interests and their common interests, noting “when you have a world in turmoil, that causes us to be reminded” of those common interests.
“The world changes, but the real lesson (from Churchill) is recognizing that each generation faces different challenges, and the need for courage and realizing what those challenges are and responding to them,” Hastings said.
Both Sheinwald and Hastings emphasized the importance of making sure Americans and Britons understand one another.
“In terms of diplomacy, it’s important to have a sense of who you are and where you are,” Sheinwald said. “You need to define your terms, The relationship works because it’s in our interests for it to work, and the reasons why are redefined generation after generation.”
The British ambassador went further into the importance of a solid relationship between the United States and Great Britain when he spoke during a special dinner Saturday night.
He started off talking about how the world has changed since Churchill gave his “Sinews of Peace” address 65 years ago, making particular note of the impact of science and technology.
“For me, as a practitioner of foreign policy, one of the most profound impacts of these changes is the degree to which, in today’s world, we are linked to and dependent on one another,” Sheinwald said. “Our inter-dependence extends far beyond the sphere of war and peace. ... From the things we buy to the networks we use to stay in touch; from the energy which fuels our economy to the ideas which fuel our minds — all are implicated in chains of global connection.”
He referenced Churchill when revisiting the constant of ideas, noting the famous Briton’s “faith in the superiority of democratic and liberal values shines through his speech here and his whole career.”
“As nations such as China find a growing role in the international order and as change and transformation are unfolding in the Middle East, we must be as energetic as Churchill was in making the case for shared rules and liberal principals,” Sheinwald said, adding, “That does not mean expecting the emerging powers simply to cleave to our ways of doing things. ... But neither does it mean resiling from the idea that free and open markets, the rule of law, the respect of private property and representative government are good for nations and good for the world.”
He later quoted from Churchill’s “Sinews of Peace”: “We must never cease to proclaim in fearless tones the great principles of freedom and the rights of man.”
Sheinwald reflected further on values, noting that constant of international relations is one of the most significant lessons to be drawn from the current unrest in the Middle East.
“Protesters across the region are united in one thing: Their aspiration for the rights and freedoms that we take for granted in the West, and their hope that we will help them to achieve them,” he said. “These events have reinforced our conviction that those values are universal, and not limited by history, nation or creed.”
After revisiting the importance of strong alliances and utilizing those alliances in determining responses to events and situations with global impacts, Sheinwald concluded with another quote from Churchill regarding the need for the United States to “pursue consistently the great themes and principles which have made it the land of the free.”
“Let us also not forget the strength of our ideas, of our values and of our alliance,” Sheinwald said. “They are not the stuff of yesterday, or a relic of the past. They are the tools we have to meet the challenges of the future.”