In the 1930s, Winston Churchill set out to write a history of the English-speaking peoples. He knew well the importance of drawing together those who had stood their ground against Germany during the Great War. When he was finally able to return to his task in the 1950s, after the defeat of Hitler’s tyranny, he was more convinced than ever of what he called the English-speaking people’s common duty to the human race. In this commitment, as in so much else, Churchill displayed what President Ronald Reagan would later describe as that special attribute of great statesmen, the gift of vision—the willingness to see the future based on the experience of the past.
Most important of all for the English-speaking peoples is the language. English is undoubtedly the language of values—values which are of ancient origin. In the preface to his history, Churchill pointed out that by the time Christopher Columbus set sail for the American continent, Britain had already come to be characterized by a body of legal principles and institutions, such as Parliament, trial by jury, local government by local citizens, and even the beginnings of a free press. These values which we share as English-speaking peoples have come together in what we call the rule of law. Our abiding commitment to the rule of law is the very bedrock of our civilization. It is what makes all else possible, from the flowering of the arts to the steady advance of the sciences. The idea that men must govern themselves not by the arbitrary commands of a ruler but by their own considered judgment, is the means whereby chaos is replaced by order. Balanced by the peaceful resolution of differences, the rule of law and the institutions of representative democracy are what stand between civilization and barbarism. It is through law-governed liberty that mankind has been able to achieve so much.
Positive law alone, however, will not prevent a descent into barbarism. After all, the Nazis had law, the fascists had law, and the Communists had law, as does every petty tyrant. The law that supports civilization is rooted in and springs from the deepest values of the Judeo-Christian tradition. As Edmund Burke put it, there is but one law for all, namely that law which governs all law: the law of our Creator, the law of humanity, justice, equity, the law of nature and of nations. It was the moderating influence of this belief that gave rise to both the English common law and the American Constitution, those two great beacons of hope to oppressed peoples throughout the world.
As we begin a new century, we must ask ourselves how we may rise to Churchill’s challenge to perform our common duty to the human race. What role must the English-speaking peoples play in the years ahead, and how might we effectively accomplish our objectives? We must begin our answers to those questions by recalling all that we have accomplished so far. Twice this century, it fell to the English-speaking peoples to defend world peace in wars of European origin. And after World War II, it was our duty to face down the evil empire that was the Soviet Union.
Last year, we celebrated the tenth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. There could be no greater symbol of what the English-speaking peoples can achieve. As Winston Churchill said, we must never cease to proclaim in fearless tones the great principles of freedom and the rights of man which are the heritage of the English-speaking world. This is of greatest importance lest we lose sight of the true horrors of the Cold War. We must never forget or allow future generations to forget the sheer numbers of those who lost their lives as a result of Communism. I carry the figures with me: ninety-four million souls lost their lives because of Communist tyranny during the twentieth century. These figures far outstrip those who died as a result of Nazism and are perhaps not sufficiently well-known.
Many use the term New World Order to describe the new balance of power resulting from the fall of Communism. A vague phrase indeed. I don’t necessarily see one, but it’s worth discussing. The disintegration of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War have hardly left the world a perfect place. The New World Order only means that many of our current problems are new ones, or rather old ones in new guises.
We have looked on in horror as new tyrants have deliberately stirred ethnic hatreds in countries where Communism once fiercely imposed an artificial order. We have witnessed the rise of repressive regimes whose clerical leaders seek to wrap their brutality in the raiment of ancient religious beliefs. We have watched with concern as rogue states seek to acquire a nuclear capability by rummaging through the dusty arsenals of the former Communist-bloc states. And we have realized grimly that the willingness to use terrorism as a political tool has not abated. We look with dismay at the rise of organized crime and gangsters in many of the emerging democracies now finally freed from Communism’s cruel yoke.
Education in Liberty
Most of these problems can be remedied by the steady spread of the fundamental values of the English-speaking peoples. We can help others do what we have done for ourselves. We can show them how to create a realm of freedom where they can achieve the virtues the eighteenth-century French statesman and financier Jacques Necker saw in the British Constitution of his day: public strength with individual security.
Liberty, however, is a plant of slow growth and one that demands constant and careful attention. Nonetheless, there seems to be an inevitability about it, for liberty is man’s natural and desired condition. James Bryce observed that the United States “disclose[s] and display[s] the type of institutions towards which, as if by a law of fate, the rest of civilized mankind are forced to move, some with swifter, others with slower, but all with unresting feet.” To help raise the structures of freedom where the scaffolding of tyranny formerly stood is not a very easy thing to do, but it is now the obligation of the English-speaking peoples to try to do just that. Indeed, it is our common duty to the human race.
But this is no small task. Creating the practical circumstances in which freedom can flourish requires more than the mere parroting of empty phrases about human rights. The challenge is to limit the powers of government even though the politicians wish to see them expanded. Private property must be secured even though the egalitarians and socialists are fueling envy. Taxation must be restrained even though the interest groups want ever-greater public expenditures. And, above all, the means have to be devised to create and administer an honest and clear rule of law even though temptations to sell influence, barter privilege, and wriggle around constraints are never greater than in times of fundamental change.
There is, of course, a problem even deeper than that of devising the institutional arrangements for freedom; namely, the need to change socialist outlooks where they still exist. Few things are more difficult than to inject a sense of personal responsibility in those peoples where the all-pervasive, all-providing, all-controlling state has nearly obliterated such qualities. The preference for independence and risk, rather than dependence and security, can only be acquired over time, and freedom and responsibility have to become second nature before they are truly safe. For in the end, the institutions of freedom can only rest on the moral commitment to freedom.
Those of us who enjoy the traditions of freedom have an obligation to teach the newly emerging democracies how to be free. This will best be achieved not simply through politics and diplomacy but through civic education. For example, each summer for the past two years, the Institute of United States Studies at the University of London has hosted a four-week course for scholars from eastern and central Europe on civic education and the practice of democracy. The scholars spend the first week reading and discussing the great works of democratic theory, works by John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Alexis de Tocqueville. They move on to read and consider the history of constitutional rights and liberties as handed down by the Supreme Court of the United States, then to compare different forms of democracy. They end their four weeks by studying the institutions that bring the practice of democracy to life—Parliament, political parties, courts of law, polling, public relations, and the media. During their time in London, they meet and discuss their countries’ problems with leading figures in politics, media, business, and law. Finally, they return to their homelands with a renewed appreciation of the intellectual foundations and institutional arrangements of liberal democracy. Perhaps more important, they witness firsthand how political liberty and economic progress go hand in hand. The fact is, the English-speaking peoples are uniquely situated to impart these lessons of liberty to those who seek to emulate our success.
A new political alliance of the English-speaking peoples would allow us to foster those values that have been so important to our peace and prosperity, and thus encourage that same peace and prosperity around the world.
Anything that stands in the way of that relationship is an obstacle to progress, and, even more worrying, it could constitute a risk to our security. That is why I’m so concerned about the current attempt to create an autonomous European defense structure which must, if taken much further, pose a threat to transatlantic defense cooperation and undermine NATO. Superficially, of course, the proposed defense initiative sounds splendid, because it means that the Europeans are now willing to concern themselves more with the continent’s defense. As the Kosovo conflict shows, and as the figures for defense spending confirm, European defense capabilities are lagging dangerously far behind those of the United States, and this is particularly true in the vital area of advanced military technology. The problem, however, is that the impulse toward developing a new European defense structure and separate European armed forces has little to do with the fact that Europe is cutting its defenses while America is increasing hers. The real drive toward a separate European defense is the same as that toward a single European currency; namely, the utopian venture of creating a single European superstate to rival America on the world stage. This has been a longstanding French aspiration.
The fact that the present British government, in pursuit of a doomed ambition to lead Europe, has reversed Britain’s traditional hostility toward such ideas should worry our American allies and, indeed, the wider English-speaking world. After all, NATO has worked so well in the past for two reasons; namely, the acceptance of American leadership and the understanding that in any crisis within the alliance, Britain could be relied upon to support America. The creation of a separate European defense, whatever the qualifications and assurances, threatens both these conditions and so poses a serious, long-term danger to NATO’s cohesion and effectiveness. Historian Robert Conquest has recently argued the merits of a new political alliance he would call the English-Speaking Union. Such an alliance, he suggests, would redefine the political landscape and, in the long term, transform politically backward areas by creating the conditions for genuine world community. Unlike the European Union, first brought together by common interests in trade and now riven by ambitions of bureaucrats in Brussels to control almost every aspect of policy within each of its member nations, an English-Speaking Union would be united by our common moral commitments to democracy and freedom and tied together by our common language.
The twentieth century has already been called the American Century, and indeed it was, and the next century will probably be another. Not only has the United States been a great world power both economically and militarily, it has been nothing less than a great moral example. It has been supported in that role by its allies, especially the English-speaking world—the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Together we have withstood the forces of evil and tyranny in whatever form we have found them. Together we have shown the world the strength of our democratic beliefs and our political institutions based upon them. We have no reason to think that the twenty-first century will depend any less upon our commitment to those self-same values which have encouraged the spread of freedom around the world.
As we begin this new century, another American Century, we must devote ourselves anew to those laws of nature and of nature’s God that have brought us so far. As we renew that devotion, so too must we renew our commitment to meet our common duty to the human race and add our voices to a proud and noble chorus of freedom.