Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War, a new book by conservative pundit Pat Buchanan, confuses the thoughtful reader before a single page is opened. WW II, unnecessary war? Tell that to the millions of The Greatest Generation who fought in the conflagration. Place the absurd premise before Holocaust survivors. Try it out on the scientists in the Manhattan Project.
Some Internet reviews of the books shoddy arguments call it fascinating and correct. Others, including this newspaper, strongly object.
Buchanan offers six points to support his case: Germany experienced great poverty and felt abandoned by the world in 1914 and 1939; Britain should have stayed out of the politics in 1914 and 1939; Winston Churchill, more than anyone, pushed Britain to pursue war on both occasions; the US was needlessly dragged into the war (what about Pearl Harbor?); Stalin and Mao were the chief beneficiaries of WW II; and the Holocaust was as much a consequence of an avoidable war as it was of Nazi racism.
Many of the causes of this war, as any war, are open to debate and analysis in historical circles. But there is a vast difference between nailing down the precise cause or causes of a war and between saying it could have been avoided. To claim that the Holocaust ultimately falls on, say, Churchills shoulders rather than Hitlers whose immutable, genocidal intention was stated as early as 1925-1926 in Mein Kampf is factually wrong and morally reprehensible.
Hitlers plan was laid out in clear, obscene language. The Jews of Europe were enemies that needed to be annihilated. This ultimate hatred, reinforced at huge rallies and through well-oiled propaganda machines stretching all the way down to neighborhood and even family gossip, was articulated repeatedly; the fate of Jews, sealed. To say Hitler was not responsible for the racist reich he created is a canard.
Hitlers powerful, goosestepping military devoured the Sudentanland without any encouragement from the West. Hitler took over Austria without any threat of war from Britain, France or the US. Hitler invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, in response to no belligerent act or statement by Russia. Hitler started WW II. Period. And Britain entered the war in response to the obviously unsatiable appetite of Hitler for countries, for dominion, for Lebensraum. The US entered the war in response to Japans attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941. WW II was unnecessary only if the preservation of freedom was unnecessary.
Hitler wanted his reich to last for 1,000 years but not in some fairy tale repose far removed from the world of realpolitik. Under the definition of his reich, countries and populations and territory had to be sucked up on a grand scale. Buchanan need only to review a single slogan from the period to understand: Today Germany, tomorrow the world!
There is no doubt that Hitler would have marched toward global domination had he not been checked. The US, England and their allies crushed Hitler. Case closed we hope.
We dont pretend to comprehend Buchanans perverse talent behind this book. We tenaciously uphold his right to free speech. But Buchanans mad genius for provocation ensures a wide audience, or at least a wide discussion, of a book that trashes the polarity, the evil and the heroism, of WW II. In an age of Holocaust denial, Buchanan has come up with a most creative variation. Yes, the Holocaust happened, but it was Churchills fault. Buchanan has found a new way to exculpate Nazism. The devil is dancing.