Peter Hitchens Rethinks the Good War

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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5 thoughts on “Peter Hitchens Rethinks the Good War

  1. xenos April 25, 2008 / 12:17 am

    Peter’s the intelligent brother. I like Christopher’s take on religion (for the most part), but he has been on a distinct slide since late 2001. Even his prose style has withered; he doesn’t seem to have the same passion he once did. Compare the content of For The Sake of Argument to the garbage he wrote in The Long Short War. The difference is breathtaking.

  2. Daniel McCarthy April 25, 2008 / 12:33 am

    I liked Christopher’s book on Jefferson, though. First chapter is rubbish about Sally Hemings, which Hitch evidently thinks he’s being transgressive by expatiating about, but after that the book gets much better. A light but pleasant read. Don’t care much for Christopher beyond that, though.

  3. Brent Burk April 25, 2008 / 12:40 am

    He got Buchanan’s book already? Man, must be fun to be a reviewer.

  4. andrew April 26, 2008 / 2:56 pm

    Buchanan’s new book sounds a lot more edgy than his other works. I never knew Pat was the revisionist type. The neocons (and Tom Brokaw) will undoubtedly hate it.

    I thought Peter did a good job debating Chris about the war. Chris is a supreme rhetorician, and that gave him the edge. His run through of the Versailles treaty violations and the aggressiveness of Iraq probably gave him the “win” in the war debate in the eyes of the audience. Peter wasn’t as specific as I’d have liked him to be, although I felt he did well countering Chris’s version of history.

    The debate on God seemed silly to me. Chris likening North Korea as a religious state was a pretty big stretch/twist. It was as if Chris was making the case against government failure, not God failure.

    Great stuff!

  5. David June 22, 2008 / 6:10 pm

    When reading Buchanan’s take on this period, it’s useful to bear in mind that for him the ultimate question has always been whether a given enterprise furthers the interests of the Church and its traditional role as a bulwark of European values. Buchanan’s real complaint against Roosevelt – and, to a lesser extent, Churchill – is that the Western allies’ alliance with Stalin served to further Soviet communism’s expansion into the heartland of Catholic Europe when some sort of modus vivendi with the Axis powers would, in his view, have been far preferable. While such criticism strangely seems to resonates with many on the far Left , it is essentially the rhetoric of the Coughlanite wing of the old America First movement. What I find truly pitiful are Mr. Hitchens’ and others’ attempts to pawn off such recycled and discredited nonsense as a new and fresh approach to history. It is nothing of the sort.

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