Churchill’s Folly is an examination of what might be considered Winston Churchill’s worst mistake in his long career in public service for Great Britain. Christopher Catherwood is the author of this incisive work, and he is also one of the numerous biographers of the famed world leader. Catherwood does not subscribe to a hagiographic approach to historical writing. He is not afraid to look beyond the legendary high points of Churchill’s brilliant leadership in order to see the flaws and low points of his service.
What is the “folly”? In the mind of Christopher Catherwood, Winston Churchill’s leadership in the establishment of modern day Iraq has caused indescribable problems for the world as we know it. With the help of intriguing figures, such as Lawrence of Arabia, T. E. Lawrence, Churchill carved out a modern nation state called Iraq which included Sunni, Shia and Kurds as people groups. This has led to problems that remain the focus of world attention today.
The context for such an effort to create Iraq was post World War I. The old Ottoman Empire had chosen to fight Britain, France and belatedly, the U.S. in The Great War. Since that shrinking empire had been on the losing side, modern Turkey emerged from the relics of the past and with it came Iraq and other countries.
Catherwood describes Winston Churchill and the ultimate defender of the colonial way of life. This is evidenced in Churchill’s obsession to hang onto India as the crown jewel of the remaining empire. This is also the driving force behind his nation building in the old Ottoman Empire.
In retrospect, Churchill does appear to be such a colonial figure in a time when colonialism was fading fast. However, even as Christopher Catherwood reminds his readers, Churchill’s stubbornness became an asset in the next big war with Germany and the axis powers. That was the man’s “finest hour.”