Departures Podcast with Ian Buruma


FDR and Churchill. Kennedy and Macmillan. Reagan and Thatcher. Bush and Blair. Trump and Johnson. The so-called “special relationship” enjoyed between the United States and the United Kingdom in the past 75 years since the end of World War II, often guided by the personalities of the respective individual leaders, has come to define so much of what we understand about the liberal world order. And yet today we now find a US and UK who are turning their backs on that order with an uncertain future ahead.

Ian Buruma joins Robert Amsterdam on the podcast this week to discuss his new book, “The Churchill Complex: The Curse of Being Special, from Winston and FDR to Trump and Brexit.

Speaking on the podcast, Buruma says that his book presents a history that challenges many of the myths of Churchill as a wartime hero and likewise Chamberlain as a failed symbol of appeasement.

“Out of the glory of winning the war, with of course the vital help of the Soviet Union, the British and the Americans got rather high on the idea of using military force to spread freedom and democracy all over the world, and Winston Churchill became the model for a lot of US presidents to follow,” Buruma says.

This unfortunate tendency has led to a lot of foolish wars, perhaps most notably the ill-fated adventure into Iraq under Bush-Blair, which in turn has brought the special relationship to the breaking point. Buruma and Amsterdam explore the questions of how we got here and what comes next.