Hey! Randy

Starting the Needless

Posted by heyrandy on October 16, 2008

Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War. Patrick J. Buchanan, Crown Publishers, New York, 2008

End notes, index, photographs, 519 pages.

Buchanan’s book upsets the accepted thinking about Hitler and the start of the Second World War.  It is Buchanan’s thesis that the war could have been avoided had the British diplomats, especially Churchill,  been more competent.  Buchanan claims Hitler never wanted war in western Europe, and the actions of the British and French encouraged the Holocaust.

Buchanan survey scores of authors to support his ideas.  In fact, the book is really a collection of quotations interspersed with Buchanan’s thinking.  This is my real objection to the book, but any author with such a radical thesis as Buchanan’s needs much support.  Buchanan’s extensive citations of other authors proves that his thesis is not entirely new, but Buchanan does not hesitate to speak bluntly.

In his dealing with Hitler, Buchanan portrays Hitler as a man not wanting war with the west of Europe, but as a man driven by his hatred of Communism.  Buchanan states that England was admired by Hitler as a great empire, a great white empire.  Buchanan does not down play Hitler’s racism or his hatred of the Jews, but Buchanan points out that Hitler wanted a peace agreement with England so he could turn against Russia, Germany’s traditional enemy and the source of the Communism he hated.

Buchanan supports this idea by adverting to Germany’s the lack of naval power, its allowing the effective retreat of British forces at Dunkirk, and Hitler’s writings in Mein Kampf. Buchanan has a point.  No really good explanation of the German failure to press its advantage at Dunkirk has been presented.  Germany lacked the necessary landing craft to move troops to England’s shores.  Hitler never deviated much from what he had written in Mein Kampf. Buchanan is correct to point out that Germany was a continental power, not a global power such as was England.  It was England that had the huge Royal Navy.  Germany had only two battleships, no aircraft carriers, and a small submarine fleet.  When it came to war, Germany did not have a navy worthy of the name.

Examples of diplomatic incompetence abound.  England did not renew its treaty with Japan when the treaty expired after the Great War.  This insulted the Japanese, making it easy for Germany to form an alliance with them.  England also alienated Italy, driving it towards Germany, even though Mussolini thought little of Hitler.  These two mistakes exposed Britain’s Asian colonies to the Japanese and deprived Britain of a key ally in Europe.

Then there is the treaty the ended the war that made the world safe for democracy:  the Treaty of Versailles.  This execrable document, of which both France and England were signatories, forced a most dishonorable peace upon Germany.  The Treaty was so invidious that another war was inevitable.  Buchanan goes into great detail in discussing this agreement.  He notes that Wilson was so disgusted by the thing that the U.S. signed a separate agreement with Germany and then went home.  France and England stayed behind and cut up the losers.  Britain and France then give their allies pieces of territory to which the allies had no historical claim.  Hitler would use Germany’s claim to these lost lands and peoples as a political tool to advance his cause.

Churchill is shown to be a jingoist, an opportunist, and an self-aggrandizing politician.  In the Great War, as First Lord of the Admiralty, he was pushing for a naval fight.  Later he was railing against renewing the Anglo-Japanese Treaty that has worked so well in the Great war.  When what Churchill’s actions are totaled, he is seen as a menace to the preservation of the Empire.

Although Chamberlain get the blame for the appeasement of Germany, the blame is not his alone.  Churchill pressed for a guarantee of military intervention to the Checks to prevent Germany from reclaiming the Sudetenland by force.  Chamberlain refused, rightly saying that such a guarantee would be worthless because England could not fulfill it.  Churchill also supported the foolish guarantee Chamberlain made to Poland.  It was equally worthless, but England made the promise anyway.  Churchill never repudiated the promise.  It is Buchanan’s opinion that the guarantee to Poland made the Poles stop negotiating with Germany regarding Danzig and the Corridor.  So Hitler turned to Stalin and made a pact with the man he would later attack.

Churchill is also shown to be a Janus-faced hypocrite.  Churchill wanted to invade Russia in 1919 when the Bolsheviks were still weak to kill the monster in its crib.  But in fighting Germany, Churchill not only welcomed Stalin as an ally, but Churchill willing gave away large sections of eastern Europe to Stalin’s control.  It was well known what Stalin was.  Who knows how many were murdered because of this deal?  Churchill conveniently overlooked that both Germany and Russia invaded Poland.  Yet England chose to fight only Germany.  Russia was made an ally.  This from the man would coin the phrase “Iron Curtain”.

Churchill is today regarded as a great man.  Some would say The Great Man of the 20th century.  Buchanan debunks that myth.  The book will win him many enemies among the Churchill adoration cult, but the truth must be made plain.  Debunking the received wisdom is an unpleasant, thankless task.  It is always easier to go with the establishment view.  But the facts are that when Churchill came to Parliament the British Empire was at its zenith.  When Churchill failed to win reelection after the war, the Empire was already beginning to disintegrate.  What was left in 20 years?  Only the Churchill cult.  It is still going and going and going.

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