70 years later, Churchill's speech still a blueprint for national security

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March 5 marks the platinum anniversary of Winston Churchill's "The Sinews of Peace" speech. Given in the immediate aftermath of World War II, Churchill famously foresaw the rise of the Cold War, declaring to the world that:

From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in many cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow.

Though not well-received initially, in many ways this speech laid the foundations for the West's anti-communism policies. In addition, arguably the foundations of U.S. national security policies and institutions, as well as diplomatic norms, were based on this speech. It may be the single most-important foreign policy speech of the past 70 years.

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And yet, much of the oration has been overlooked due to the historical focus on the "Iron Curtain." Indeed, much beyond the security of the nation-state, Churchill's oration included key components of human security. Beyond the clarion call for a "special relationship" between the English-speaking nations of the world, Churchill implored for the security of individuals when he asked:

What then is the overall strategic concept which we should inscribe today? It is nothing less than the safety and welfare, the freedom and progress, of all the homes and families of all the men and women in all the lands.

Moreover, according to Churchill, the needs of the people were beyond mere sustenance; security necessitated more than merely basic rights. Churchill declared in no uncertain terms that:

All this means that the people of any country have the right, and should have the power by constitutional action, by free unfettered elections, with secret ballot, to choose or change the character or form of government under which they dwell; that freedom of speech and thought should reign; that courts of justice, independent of the executive, unbiased by any party, should administer laws which have received the broad assent of large majorities or are consecrated by time and custom.

Churchill's speech was as much a description of security as justice, human rights and rule of law as it was a blueprint for the security of nations.

As we rapidly approach the 70th anniversary of "The Sinews of Peace" speech, perhaps it is time for renewed interest in a foreign policy speech, a foreign policy vision, which encapsulates the best of Churchill. The United States and the West, in the face of intensifying relations with Russia and China, in the face of threats from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), clearly cannot afford to shed a vision of national security. But, using Churchill's vision, perhaps one can imagine national security policy that includes the clear recognition of freedom and progress, "that freedom of speech and thought should reign" and that courts of law should be unbiased. Securing the nation at the cost of her citizens' security and freedom is an unnecessary paradox, and we need leaders and statesmen to recognize this.

Gibson is an associate professor of political science at Westminster College in Missouri.

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