Posted tagged ‘World War II’

The New Buchanan Book

May 14, 2008

With a title like Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War, Pat Buchanan’s new book might seem designed to court controversy. But that’s not the case, at least not as far as I have been able to tell from the first 100 pages. For one thing, “Unnecessary War” is not Buchanan’s phrase, it’s Churchill’s. Buchanan was spurred to write the book by a letter he received from George Kennan after he sent Kennan a copy of A Republic, Not an Empire. Kennan agreed with Buchanan’s view in the earlier book that the British guarantee of Poland’s security “was neither necessary nor wise” (in Kennan’s words). The new book expands on that idea, among many others.

Geoffrey Wheatcroft reviews Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War, alongside volumes by John Lukacs, Nicholson Baker, and Lynne Olson, here. Wheatcroft is critical of Buchanan (“Although Buchanan’s argument isn’t stupid, it requires something like a historiographical sleight of hand, and is conducted backward, as it were”), but he isn’t romantic about Churchill:

Churchill led the way in cruel, brutish, and exterminatory war-making against women and children partly thanks to his uncompromising personality, partly thanks to what was seen as the logic of the situation. Three years after he hoped for “devastating, exterminating” attacks on civilians, he was shown blazing German towns filmed from the air, and exclaimed, “Are we beasts? Have we taken this too far?” And two years after that he tried (not very creditably) to dissociate himself from the destruction of Dresden by Bomber Command.

There’s much more of a Churchill cult in America than in his (and Wheatcroft’s) home country. A reconsideration of him is long overdue.

Peter Hitchens Rethinks the Good War

April 24, 2008

Peter Hitchens has recently read Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke and Patrick Buchanan’s forthcoming Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War. The two books, particularly Buchanan’s, have compelled him to reconsider some of his assumptions about the Good War. Be sure to read the whole thing, but here’s a sample:

On a recent visit to the USA I picked up two new books that are going to make a lot of people in Britain very angry.

I read them, unable to look away, much as it is hard to look away from a scene of disaster, in a sort of cloud of dispirited darkness.

They are a reaction to the use – in my view, abuse – of the Second World War to justify the Iraq War.

We were told that the 1939-45 war was a good war, fought to overthrow a wicked tyrant, that the war in Iraq would be the same, and that those who opposed it were like the discredited appeasers of 1938.

Well, I didn’t feel much like Neville Chamberlain (a man I still despise) when I argued against the Iraq War. And I still don’t.

Some of those who opposed the Iraq War ask a very disturbing question.

The people who sold us Iraq did so as if they were today’s Churchills. They were wrong.

In that case, how can we be sure that Churchill’s war was a good war?

What if the Men of Glory didn’t need to die or risk their lives? What if the whole thing was a miscalculated waste of life and wealth that destroyed Britain as a major power and turned her into a bankrupt pensioner of the USA?

Funnily enough, these questions echo equally uncomfortable ones I’m often asked by readers here.

The milder version is: “Who really won the war, since Britain is now subject to a German-run European Union?”

The other is one I hear from an ever-growing number of war veterans contemplating modern Britain’s landscape of loutishness and disorder and recalling the sacrifices they made for it: “Why did we bother?”

Don’t read on if these questions rock your universe.

“It makes me feel like a traitor to write this,” Hitchens says, “The Second World War was my religion for most of my life.” See the rest of his thoughtful post here. Hitchens will have a full review of both books in a forthcoming edition of the Mail on Sunday. I’ll post a link when the review is up.

And if you’d like to see some more of the Good Hitchens, here’s footage of him recently debating his brother, Christopher:


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