A Blundering Churchill, a Farsighted Roosevelt

By Peter Baker

May 8, 2019

Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill at the Casablanca Conference, 1943.CreditCreditKeystone/Getty Images

WAR AND PEACE 
FDR’s Final Odyssey, D-Day to Yalta, 1943-1945 
By Nigel Hamilton

Admittedly, it is a pretty geeky parlor game, maybe one that has faded with time. But for years in many households, it provoked endless dinnertime debate. In the annals of the 20th century, who was the greater, more significant historical figure: Franklin D. Roosevelt or Winston Churchill?

The case for Churchill is powerful. He rallied Britain against Hitler’s hordes when the rest of Europe had fallen. While the United States remained on the sidelines and the Soviet Union embraced its devil’s-bargain alliance with Nazi Germany, Churchill virtually single-handedly defied the Third Reich in the face of existential threat: He was personally at risk, along with his countrymen, amid the cascade of bombs raining down on London during the Blitz.

But count Nigel Hamilton in Roosevelt’s camp — not just in his camp but perhaps his most passionate and eloquent champion. In “War and Peace,” his latest book on the American wartime leader, Hamilton presents a farsighted Roosevelt riding to the rescue of freedom, then setting the stage for a new world order to come. Churchill is depicted as a military dunderhead who let ego and imperial ambition get in the way of sensible strategy. Courageous? Yes. A stirring orator? Absolutely. But if not restrained by Roosevelt, Churchill, in Hamilton’s view, might easily have lost World War II for the Allies.

“War and Peace” is the third and final volume in Hamilton’s “F.D.R. at War” trilogy and certainly as gripping and powerfully argued as the first two, “The Mantle of Command” and “Commander in Chief.” Hamilton, as the historian Evan Thomas once observed, ended up producing the extended memoir that Roosevelt himself…

Read more at:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/08/books/review/nigel-hamilton-war-and-peace.html

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