Time for Churchill’s “V or Victory”

By Amb. Henry F. Cooper
Thursday, July 25th, 2013 @ 8:14PM

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Winston Churchill overcame many difficulties-even failures-to speak truth to power in the 1930s, warning about the growing existential threat to Great Britain-indeed all of Western Civilization; and when that truth became sufficiently apparent, to lead the British from apathy to victory in a great world war.

His “V for Victory” pose, illustrated [above], rallied the people long before victory was sure. A review of some of that history could help us assess our efforts to awaken the powers that be to today’s electromagnetic pulse (EMP) threat and how to counter it-hopefully in time.

Last Friday, my friend Bill Federer issued his daily “American Minute” to which I encourage you to subscribe. It referencedBritish Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s famous “V for Victory” pose, illustrated above, and referred to Churchill’s speech 72 years earlier on July 19, 1941, six months after the Battle of Britain during the summer and autumn of 1940-during which Britain’s Royal Air Force had prevailed over Hitler’s Luftwaffe attacks on the cities and people of Great Britain. But this was not the victory to which he referred-he was looking ahead not backward-or even at the then current situation, because Britain was at one of its lowest points in World War II.

Churchill launched the “V for Victory” campaign across Europe, telling all under Nazi control to use the letter “V” (for Victory) in speaking and writing to let the Germans know they still had spirit and believed they would overcome Nazi Rule. His July 19, 1941 radio speech included the words: “The V sign is the symbol of the unconquerable will of the occupied territories and a portent of the fate awaiting Nazi tyranny. So long as the peoples continue to refuse all collaboration with the invader it is sure his cause will perish and that Europe will be liberated.”

The letter V began to appear everywhere painted on walls or tapped out in Morse code on shop counters with knuckles or beer glasses or pencil stubs, and was a rallying call across Europe that there was still hope. This is also why Churchill’s most famous pictures from World War II always featured him giving the “V for Victory” sign.

Reviewing this history that I recall vaguely from my childhood years got me to thinking about some parallels with today and our concerns about the EMP threat and how to counter it. Consider just a few thoughts with obvious parallels. Let’s review a bit of background, and see if those of us trying to awaken the powers that be to this existential threat should adopt Churchill’s air of optimism.

Before the War: Churchill had anticipated war with Germany for years and had attempted, without success from his back bench in Parliament, to warn the British people and their leaders to prepare for their coming trials as Hitler gained control of Germany and planned to occupy Germany’s neighbor’s. Eventually, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s policies of appeasement and ill fated “peace in our time” September 30, 1938 deal in Munich with Hitler (and also signed by Italy and France) failed with Hitler’s September 1, 1939 invasion of Poland that officially began World War II. Finally, Parliament turned to Churchill for leadership.

Appeasement seldom if ever is a winning strategy; maintaining “Peace through Strength” is far better than policies that project weakness. We would do well to remember this lesson as the current U.S. powers that be dismember the defenses that undergird our national security interests here at home, as well as around the world, and rely more and more on diplomacy to maintain the peace.

We also face an existential threat today-and just as Britain (and we) did in the 1930s are largely ignoring it. But let me return to a little more history before discussing that threat.

Preparing for the Battle of Britain: Over a year before his “V for Victory” speech, on June 18, 1940-the eve of the Battle of Britain, Churchill warned the House of Commons, “I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization . . . The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war.”

He continued, “If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.” Churchill concluded: “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.'”

A little over a year later, after standing up to Germany in the intervening Battle of Britain, Churchill gave his July 19, 1941“V for Victory” speech.

Pearl Harbor: In another five months on December 7 came Pearl Harbor. The next day, President Roosevelt went before Congress to give his famous “Day that will live in Infamy” speech that led to our Declaration of War against Japan-shortly followed on December 11 by Hitler’s declaration of war against the United States. We were as ill prepared as was Britain, only years later – and then to confront major enemies in two theaters of operation. Most of our leaders, especially in a congress that favored isolationism, refused to acknowledge the looming threat that we confronted and did not prepare for the coming truly mortal conflicts in both Europe and the South Pacific.

President Roosevelt had sought to prepare and mobilize our industrial capabilities. He provided support to Britain and the Soviet Union as they battled Germany, and some of our airmen were engaged in the Royal Air Force. Some of our soldiers are reported to have trained with broomsticks and old rifles-and after Pearl Harbor, many went off to war with little training. At home, aroused and with the safety of the oceans that separated us from our mortal enemies, our industrial base, “manned” by “Rosie the Riveter,” became a unrivaled war machine producing aircraft, ships, and all manner of weaponry that permitted our troops of “the greatest generation” to prevail over our enemies in Europe and Japan within four years.

I can’t help but sadly note that now bankrupt Detroit in those days became a colossus producing tanks, trucks and all manner of war machines in record time for our troops, while the folks at home grew victory gardens; made clothing out of flour sacks; frugally enjoyed rationed sugar and other delicacies; and traveled on tires made of synthetic rubber – to be patched every hundred or so miles. If they could spare the rationed gasoline, men too old to go to war traveled to county seats to train with the home guard. We were all patriots then, as we listened to the radio reports of the unfolding battles in Europe and the South Pacific.

The End of the Beginning: But back to tidbits from Churchill and our story . . . Sixteen months after his “V for Victory” speech, on November 10, 1942, he gave another of his memorable speeches, including these words: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” For a YouTube recording of this speech click here.

These famous words were spoken at London’s Mansion House, just after the British routed Rommel’s forces at Alamein, driving German troops out of Egypt. The battle marked a turning point in the war, leading Churchill, after the war, to write in his memoirs, “Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein we never had a defeat.”  Victory: Fast forward about two-and-a-half years of bitter battles: May 8, 1945, brought V-E Day and the end of the War in Europe and August 14, 1945, the week after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, brought V-J Day and the end of war with Japan. Still, we did not have “peace in our time.” Within five years after literally throwing away our World War II armaments, we were rearming to engage out first major Cold War “engagement” in Korea. We never seem to learn that “Peace through Strength” is our best policy by far.

Implications for Today’s Existential EMP Threat.

But to return to our story for today, where in Churchill’s “V for Victory” to “End of the Beginning” to “Victory” timeline are we in our efforts to counter the EMP threat-especially with a truly effective Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system? Let’s review a bit of that history.

In the Beginning: First, it should be understood that we have understood that EMP is a serious threat for half a century-since we discovered it on the 1962 “Starfish Prime” high altitude nuclear test in the South Pacific. We hardened our strategic systems during the Cold War to assure that the President could retaliate if the Soviet Union were to attack us-we expected that they would begin such an attack with high altitude detonations of nuclear weapons, precisely to destroy our ability to retaliate with our nuclear forces-and we have confirmed this Soviet plan since the end of the Cold War.

So we hardened our strategic forces and their associated command, control and communication systems. But we did little or nothing to harden our civilian critical infrastructure to EMP. And since then we have come to realize that massive solar emissions also can create these damaging effects to electronics-now made much more vulnerable as vacuum tubes have been replaced by solid state electronics that compose critical elements of most everything on which we now depend.

Either a naturally occurring solar storm or a high altitude nuclear explosion could completely shut down our electrical power grid, indefinitely-and the consequent impact our urban society dependent on “just in time” supplies for survival would be catastrophic. Competent estimates suggest that hundreds of millions of Americans could perish within six months to a year after such an event.

Key Initiatives: These are problematic facts. So what have we done to address them?

Among others, two key legislators, like Churchill, tried for years to warn the people and the powers that be about the EMP threat: Curt Weldon (R-PA) and Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD). In the wake of the breakup of the former Soviet Union, they became concerned about the potential EMP threat, in part because of their discussions with the Russians, who, it turns out knew more about EMP from their more extensive high altitude nuclear testing that did we. After the turn of the century, they became prime movers behind establishing the nonpartisan Congressional EMP Commission, which delivered its first authoritative report in 2004 and updated it in 2008 with a great deal of declassified information from the Cold War experience. Then Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) also was a stalwart supporter during this period. But to date, the EMP Commission’s authoritative recommendations have been ignored.

Weldon’s and Bartlett’s legacy is the current bipartisan EMP Caucus, led by Reps. Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Yvette Clark (D-NY), which continues to seek recognition of the EMP threat that could bring down the electric power grid, possibly leading to the death of several hundred million Americans within a year after either a major solar emission or a high altitude nuclear burst. For the third congress, they are again trying to gain support for The Shield Act,which would provide directions to harden the electric power grid. Two congresses ago, the proposed act died in the Senate after passing the House in a voice vote and in the last congress, the proposed act stalled in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Hopefully, it will pass on this third try. But the initiative to try again is a positive sign.

More Positive Signs: Our email message a week ago listed several additional things moving in the right direction to assure that the existential EMP threat is being recognized, including:
* The prominence of a two full page “Solar Weather” article in the Business section of the July 14 Washington Post shows that businesses are recognizing their interests are at stake, which should lead to activities and incentives to motivate the “powers that be” to address the interests of the private sector-and the rest of us as well.

* A recent major international conference focused on the same concern indicates that at least some nations are taking this concern seriously-the U.K. and Israel have designated single organizations to spearhead their response in dealing with the issue-a step the U.S. should follow.

* Thanks to the efforts of Maine State Representative Andrea Boland (D-Sanford) and all but two of her legislative colleagues in the state Senate, Maine became the first state in the nation to pass legislation to seek to assure that the electric power grid in its jurisdiction can survive a major natural or man-made EMP event.

* Dr. Ernest Moniz, in his confirmation hearing, promised that he would look into the issue of hardening the electric power grid to both natural and manmade EMP threat-hopefully, he will shortly follow through and assume a leadership role in countering these threats.

* The Senate Armed Services Committee included in its version of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) the requirement for Secretary of Defense to provide a Report to Congress assessing the ability of current BMD systems to defend the U.S. homeland, including against threats from vessels off our coasts, in particular from the Gulf of Mexico, and from other threats from the south.

* Such a report, if based on a rigorous assessment of the threat and possible counters to that threat, can’t possibly miss the important near term ways that the Aegis BMD systems-at sea and on shore-can add significantly to our current homeland defense capabilities for relatively minor funding.

* In a hearing this past week, the director of the Missile Defense Agency, VADM Syring, testified that the role of Aegis BMD is currently being included in ongoing studies-and this is definitely a positive sign, because that system can not only defend against short, medium and intermediate range ballistic missiles-as tests have shown, but also against intercontinental ballistic missiles if an appropriate cue is provided by an upstream radar.

Thus, major improvements are possible and it appears that we are moving toward making them-the key questions are:
1.Will we follow through in making these improvements?
2.Do we have time to rectify current shortcomings before we are actually threatened by an event that could send us back to the 19th century without the benefits of an agrarian society?

The concern that time is short is highlighted by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent comments on a Face the Nation interview-e.g., that Iran is”edging up to the red line . . . They haven’t crossed it yet. They’re also building faster centrifuges that would enable them to jump the line, so to speak, at a much faster rate-that is, within a few weeks.” And as we have discussed at length, Iran poses an existential threat to the United States as well as Israel.

And this is a year for solar storms-will we dodge that bullet again? Hopefully we will – because we no longer have time to harden the electric power grid during the current period of maxima solar emissions.

So, what shall we do?

Bottom Lines: So, things are looking up and we might appropriately signal “V for Victory” and point to some backup evidence to encourage our colleagues of our progress. But we still have a long ways to go.

And I would argue that we’re not yet near the “end of the beginning.” To reach that stage, I think that we need to redouble our efforts to build truly effective ballistic missile defenses to counter the growing nuclear-armed ballistic missile threat-and nuclear armed satellites that may approach the U.S. from over the South Pole! And we’re building momentum to harden the electric power grid-but we are not yet sure the powers that be will follow through.

So, let us take heart and redouble our efforts!   And it makes sense to prepare your family just in case that we do not respond in time. More for another message.

But to end this message, consider the following quotation from Churchill’s October 29. 1941 speech at Harrow, the school he attended as a young boy. This was after the Battle of Britain, before Pearl Harbor and over a year before Alamein-and worth remembering as advice for living between the “V for Victory” and the “End of the Beginning” in context wrapped around a quote that is often remembered:

“You cannot tell from appearances how things will go. Sometimes imagination makes things out far worse than they are; yet without imagination not much can be done. Those people who are imaginative see many more dangers than perhaps exist; certainly many more than will happen; but then they must also pray to be given that extra courage to carry this far-reaching imagination. But for everyone, surely, what we have gone through in this period-I am addressing myself to the School-surely from this period of ten months this is the lesson:   

“Never give in, never give in, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty-never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”  “We stood all alone a year ago, and to many countries it seemed that our account was closed, we were finished. All this tradition of ours, our songs, our School history, this part of the history of this country, were gone and finished and liquidated.”

“Very different is the mood today. Britain, other nations thought, had drawn a sponge across her slate. But instead our country stood in the gap. There was no flinching and no thought of giving in; and by what seemed almost a miracle to those outside these Islands, though we ourselves never doubted it, we now find ourselves in a position where I say that we can be sure that we have only to persevere to conquer.”

High Frontier Plans.

We at High Frontier will continue to inform the powers that be of existential threats to the American people-as we have discussed in our emails for many months-and to urge them to “provide for the common defense” as charged by the Constitution they are sworn to uphold. Hopefully, key federal authorities and members of congress will soon begin to deal more effectively with this existential threat. Key initiatives are to undertake both the Shield Act and efforts to enhance our ballistic missile defenses, especially for our citizens on the East Coast and around the Gulf of Mexico, where they are completely vulnerable to ballistic missiles launched from vessels in the Gulf-or from Latin America, e.g., Venezuela.

We will also be taking the message to grass roots America. Our local and state authorities need to understand these issues and what they might do if their federal representatives continue to fail “to provide for the common defense.” It would be wise for them to follow Maine’s initiative and harden the electric power grid in their states, while holding the Washington authorities accountable for their oath to provide for the common defense.

*Ambassador Cooper is Chairman of the Boards of Applied Research Associates and High Frontier, Senior Associate of the National Institute for National Policy.


Categories: ACD/EWI Blog, Cyber, U.S. Policy

On The Campaign Trail

Check the dates and see when we're in your town!