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Tuesday, June 17 2008

Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War — A Book Review

Bret McAtee @ 3:20 pm

I just finished Pat Buchanan’s recent release entitled Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War. It is not the first book on this subject I have read, though I am certainly no expert on the subject. One thing that Buchanan does is to take off the halo from above Winston Churchill’s head. One doesn’t have to do much reading to realize that it is usually a fool’s delusion that invests itself with inventing heroes out of leaders of nation states or mammoth organizations. Men do not get to the top of these kind of organizations and institutions without being ruthless and coldhearted on the way up the food chain, nor do they hold their positions apart from a willingness to play the assassin when necessary. There are probably exceptions to this rule of thumb but when they occur they are truly exceptions.

Buchanan reminds us of Churchill’s monumental errors. From his error with the Boers as a young man, to his error as First Lord of the Admiralty in W.W. I in his Dardanelles policy, to his policy of civilian incineration through bombing of civilian cities, to his policy of civilian starvation by naval blockade, to his insistence that the Chamberlain government should guarantee Poland help against German invasion when he knew that there was little England could do to protect Poland, to his fumbling on the issue of Norwegian neutrality, to his magnum opus error of giving half of Europe to the monomaniacal murderous madman, Joseph Stalin, in order to slake his monomaniacal hatred of Germany, Churchill was anything but a moral genius statesman that should be emulated.

Buchanan also spends time teasing out how the peace of W.W. I led to the war of W.W. II. Indeed, the case can be easily made that these were not two different wars but were really two phases of the same war. On this score the average layman needs to understand that Germany surrendered in W. W. I with a certain pre-understanding of what her surrender meant (based upon Woodrow Wilson’s 14 points) but once her arms were laid down the ‘peace’ that was forced on her looked far different then what she thought she had agreed to in her initial surrender. This ’stab in the back’ created a national psyche of bitterness against the W.W. I Allies, that Hitler was able to successfully manipulate as he came to power. Buchanan notes that Churchill was a war dog early on and pushed for a war (W. W. I) that in Buchanan’s opinion never had to happen. A few good books that complement Buchanan’s work here in addition to the Macmillian book I already mentioned is Jim Powell’s book on Woodrow Wilson, Barbara Tuchman’s book The Guns of August, William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of The Third Reich, and Churchill’s own work, Triumph and Tragedy.

Buchanan labors to show that the results of W.W. II for Britain are highly suggestive that the policies pursued that led to the war with Germany were mistaken. This is not just a hindsight is 20/20 project. Buchanan reveals chapter and verse where Churchill went wrong and how Churchill bears responsibility for pursuing policies that he should have known were ill-conceived. Buchanan argues continuously that all Churchill accomplished was to guarantee the fall of communist night upon Eastern Europe. This tracks well with what I was taught in my undergraduate days. My professor would say that “in 100 years all history books will say about W.W. I is that it catapulted Communism to a national platform, and that all W.W. II would be remembered for in 100 years is that it catapulted Communism to an international platform. Nobody can doubt, that Churchill, as well as Roosevelt, was complicit in turning over Eastern Europe to Stalin. Buchanan uses this reality to ask who was the greater appeaser in history, Neville Chamberlain or Winston Churchill?

The objections to Buchanan’s book will come from those who want to insist that W.W. II was the ‘good war.’ They will point to the character and nature of the Nazi regime and speak of how necessary it was, at whatever cost, to bring such a evil regime down. The problem with this is that in 1939 when the war started, Stalin, the eventual chief beneficiary of the Nazi demise, had killed his millions to the Nazi’s tens of thousands. Getting in bed with the Russians was a calculated move by Churchill (and Roosevelt) that was misguided at best and evil at worst. Buchanan suggests that the better policy would have been for Churchill to sign an agreement with Germany after the victory of Britain in 1940, thus allowing German Nazis and Russian Communists to kill one another in the East. More than that, Buchanan argues that England should have never guaranteed Poland on the Danzig corridor, thus leading to war between England and Germany when Germany took the German city that she had been willing to leave in Polish hands in exchange for certain considerations.

In reading this book you learn a great deal about Churchill that is different than what the court historians publish. You learn that he was long on intellect but short on judgment (Buchanan provides quotes from several complementary sources on this analysis). You learn that Churchill, while being a philo-Semite, would be considered by today’s standards a white supremacist. At the end of his career he was cooking up policies on how to keep England white. You learn about his savage hatred of all things German and how he suggested a policy that would have had anthrax cakes sprinkled all over Germany with a view of first killing the cattle with hopes that consumed diseased cattle would wipe out large portions of the civilian population. You learn about his post-Christian atheistic secular faith.

Churchill was not a hero. Neither was Roosevelt. Eisenhower was responsible for ‘operation key haul’ (you need another book for that one). Woodrow Wilson was more fool than hero. The motto here is to never allow yourself to get invested in a ‘great leader’ mentality. Total depravity remains true and belief in that doctrine should cause us to be very slow about admiring anybody who sits atop some mega-conglomerate institution, organization, or nation-state.

Buchanan wrote this book as a way of warning. He sees in the behavior of these United States today the same kind of behavior that brought down the British Empire in the 20th century. Just as England over-extended herself giving guarantees to nations which held to English interests, so these United States are spreading themselves too thin with their silly guarantees. Buchanan sees our involvement in Iraq as just one example of meddling where we have no business. His fear is that all of this unipolar stretching of American capacity is going to bring us to our knees much the way that Britain was brought to her knees.

This book didn’t really plow up any new ground for me though it did reinforce what I have learned over the years with its use of some great primary sources. When I was 18 I was taught that W.W. II was not ‘the good war,’ and that it could have been avoided. When I was 18 I was taught how Germany had sent Lenin by sealed train back to Russia to foment instability in hopes that Germany would be relieved from a two-front war. When I was 18 I was taught how the West had been complicit in the deaths of millions of Eastern Europeans by its constant giving in to Stalin. When I was 18 I was taught that when two atheistic nation states (Germany and Russia) want to kill each other the wisest thing another nation state can do is get out of the way and let them kill each other. The book made me thankful again for Dr. Glenn Martin and his teaching when I was in college.

One final comment. I doubt if Doug Phillips reads this blog, but if by chance he does I hope he’ll read this book and rethink his high estimation of Winston Churchill that he communicates in his public teachings, or failing that, give reasons why this history on Winston Churchill is wrong.