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Statesman v politician – the true test



Winston Churchill, a true statesman and an inspiration for Pamela Geller

The test of a statesman is to make what is distant or vague appear near and vivid. This test is more difficult in democratic societies whose people tend to be preoccupied with immediate gratification of desires.

Politicians and their image

It is in democratic societies where one can most readily distinguish between the statesman and the politician. The politician is preoccupied with public opinion or with his image – and of course with the next election. This not only diminishes his vision or foresight, but even his patriotism, where love of country should prevail over personal ambition or egoism.

Alexander Hamilton enlarges on this subject in the Federalist Papers – numbers 71-73 – among the greatest essays on statesmanship, but whose wisdom is conspicuous by its absence in Israel, and which I attribute primarily to its poverty in the teaching of normative or classical political science.

The failure to promptly and vividly making a distant danger appear near, that is, before it strikes ordinary citizens in the face, will lead to greater loss of life and property to overcome this danger, if not a nation’s very existence. Politicians in democratic societies prefer a policy of procrastination and appeasement. Enough to recall (1) how this policy, adopted by timid and short-sighted politicians, led to the Second World War, and (2) how England’s left-wing intelligentsia called Winston Churchill a “war-monger” by his warnings about Nazi Germany’s imperialistic ambitions.

An example of a statesman

Israel’s admittedly precarious situation does not negate the preceding argument. To the contrary, it only demands more courageous and wiser statesmen. It also requires a better informed public opinion; but this too requires statesmen, and not politicians, whose oratory and demagoguery disarms humble citizens by reinforcing their peace-loving or commonplace tendencies.

I conclude with these words from the first volume of Churchill’s history of the Second World War, The Gathering Storm:

It is my purpose … first to show how easily the tragedy of the Second World War could have been prevented; how the malice of the wicked was reinforced by the weakness of the virtuous; how the structure and habits of democratic states … lack those elements of persistence and conviction which can alone give security to humble masses; how even in matters of self-preservation, no policy is pursued for even ten or fifteen years at a time. We shall see how the counsels of prudence and restraint may become the prime agency of mortal danger; how the middle course adopted from desires for safety and a quiet life may be found to lead direct to the bull’s-eye of disaster.


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