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 Why the West needs another Churchill  

The January attacks in Paris on the offices of Charlie Hebdo raise an important question about the increasing fragility of what the media generally refer to as ‘our way of life’ and political leadership in the West that is beginning to look increasingly oblivious in the face of this threat. In three major ways the cornerstones of Western democracy are under siege – the democratic free market model, traditional foreign policy objectives and cultural identity. 
 
While the attacks turned everyone’s attention to the issue of free speech, it would seem that the bigger picture of which the attack forms a part was ignored; the accessible image of pencils being held aloft in defiance currying favour in the popular press over the reality of the slow disintegration of the old order. (see fig.1 below as published in Time Magazine) 
 
Exploring the three ways in which the west is threatened builds a strong case for the Churchillian model of leadership in today’s society to reverse this demise, especially poignant fifty years after his death. 

1. The Western Economic Model  

Confidence in the free market model of the West has still not returned following the crash in 2008. In fact, it is questionable the extent to which trust between the public, big business and the politicians perceived to be in their pocket will ever return. The latter two face increasing cynicism in a world where there is a growing inequality between rich and poor. 
 
One of the most obvious consequences of this is the significant internal pressure that threatens to rip apart the European single market project. This threat is increasingly relevant with the recent electoral success of the Syriza party in Greece; across the Eurozone, vocal and influential fringe parties that are superficially fractious are managing to unite disillusioned voters in their aim to depose the establishment. 
 

2. Interventionism is Dead  

Western foreign policy, traditionally interventionist, has been neutered by public opinion. Many believe that the West is now reaping what it sowed when it invaded Afghanistan and Iraq with the rise of militant Islamism in the Middle East. In some ways, ISIS has become symbolic of the West’s futile attempts to control strategically important countries in the Middle East both ideologically and with military force. With public opinion against further military intervention in the region and China now having overtaken the US as the biggest importer of oil from the Middle East, the period of powerful Western influence as led by the United States seems to be waning. 
 
As well as that, the optimism that followed the Arab Spring in 2011 has gradually been eroded – the shortcomings of dictatorial leadership were exposed but democracy has not, as many expected, effectively filled the subsequent vacuum. In fact it was Western naivety that ignored religious tradition, culture and history which led many to believe that the events in early 2011 were in themselves “transformational”. After all, as Djordjevich makes clear “[democracy] is not an event but a historical process”.[2] 
 

3. Cultural Identity Under Threat 

 
The final way in which the western model seems threatened is more obvious. The meteoric rise of China and its growing significance on the world stage accompanies the consequent realisation that the free market democratic model is not the sole way to achieve economic and political success. 
 
Ming Xia acknowledges that China is a “revolutionary power that is threatening”.[3] China’s rise will inevitably undermine American unilateralism, a defining feature of the global political geography of the last 50 years. 
 
The coming century will be defined by a tension between West and East. It will be war of ideology and cultural identity, not the violent bloody type offered by ISIS but of critical significance nonetheless. It will call for strong, adaptive leadership and an increasing need for tolerance – not of the extremism or violence the sort of which we have seen in France recently, but of the decline in the influence of ‘our way of life’. 
 
While Churchill himself is perhaps not the exact figure that the modern western world needs, being both famously intolerant (describing Bolshevism as “foul baboonery”) and with a propensity to be impetuous – most notably his decisions in Gallipoli in 1914 resulted in 180,000 dead troops. Despite this, a peace time political icon of his standing is needed more than ever to re-garner support for the free market democratic model. Issue based politics of principle has to supersede the current system of party politics that operates within the Westminster bubble. Just as in the Second World War, failure is not an option. After all just as Churchill put it – democracy seems to be “the worst system imaginable…except for all the others”. 
 
 
While Churchill himself is perhaps not the exact figure that the modern western world needs, being both famously intolerant (describing Bolshevism as “foul baboonery”) and with a propensity to be impetuous – most notably his decisions in Gallipoli in 1914 resulted in 180,000 dead troops. Despite this, a peace time political icon of his standing is needed more than ever to re-garner support for the free market democratic model. Issue based politics of principle has to supersede the current system of party politics that operates within the Westminster bubble. Just as in the Second World War, failure is not an option. After all just as Churchill put it – democracy seems to be “the worst system imaginable…except for all the others”. 
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At Footdown we recognise the need for strong leadership in an organisational context. This is essential in establishing a high performance workplace. Our iFootdown diagnostic tool and the flagship High Performance Workplace Workshop focuses attention accurately and quickly, determining the most effective way to drive future performance – developing performance culture, engagement and high performing teams within an organisation. 
 
This article was written in response to an article in the FT by Gideon Rachman ‘The west has lost intellectual self confidence’ 
 
(http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/18f0a1ec-9277-11e4-b213-00144feabdc0.html) 
 
References: 
 
[fig.1] http://time.com/3675310/state-union-charlie-hebdo-pencils/ 
 
[2] http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/b8189284-9678-11e4-922f-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3OBSdeejO 
 
[3] http://www.nytimes.com/ref/college/coll-china-politics-007.html