In June 1940, when France had surrendered to the Nazis and the British army had been evacuated from Dunkirk, Winston Churchill delivered a speech in which he imagined two futures for the world: “broad, sunlit uplands”, or “a new Dark Age”. These phrases are all too relevant for this “hinge year in history”, says Bret Stephens in The New York Times. Broad, sunlit uplands are the women of Iran “tearing off their hijabs the way the people of Berlin once tore down their wall”; Chinese protesters forcing an end to their regime’s “cruel and crazy” Covid lockdowns; and Emmanuel Macron’s victory over the fascistic Marine Le Pen in France. Broad, sunlit uplands are a lab-made nuclear fusion reaction creating more energy than it consumes, and “the lofting of a telescope that lets us peer far into the reaches of space”.
But 2022 also offered us a glimpse of a new Dark Age, brought about not just by the enemies of freedom, but by the “complacency and wishful thinking of its advocates”. These include those who thought we could “trade our way to a form of perpetual peace” by outsourcing Europe’s energy needs to Putin; those who think “no vital American interest is at stake” in a Ukrainian victory; and those who are convinced that China’s “recent travails” might dissuade Xi Jinping from trying to seize Taiwan. The choice Churchill laid out in 1940 – sunlit uplands, or the abyss – “remains our choice today”.