Patrick J. Buchanan. Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World. Crown, 2008. See here to purchase the book.
Patrick J. Buchanan is a paleoconservative author and pundit. He served in the Nixon and Reagan administrations, and he ran for President in 1992, 1996, and 2000. This book is Buchanan’s controversial revisionist narrative about World War II. As the title indicates, Buchanan maintains that it was an unnecessary war.
Here are some thoughts and observations:
A. The controversial part of the book is Chapter 13, “Hitler’s Ambitions.” That is where Buchanan advances his thesis in a clear and straightforward manner. Buchanan’s argument is that Great Britain was wrong to go to war with Germany for invading Poland. Adolf Hitler initially had no designs on invading Britain, Buchanan maintains. Hitler spoke favorably of Great Britain in Mein Kampf, and Nazi Germany was not building up its navy, which would have been odd had she planned to go to war with Britain. Germany’s ambitions were twofold. First, she wanted to take back the land that she had lost in the aftermath of World War I, which contained significant German populations. Many in these countries chafed under authoritarian regimes or inept leadership and desired union with Germany. Second, Hitler advanced eastward so as to invade and destroy the Soviet Union. Hitler despised Bolshevism because he regarded it as a Jewish movement and as a threat to Germany. According to Buchanan, the Holocaust was not inevitable but was a response to the U.S. and Britain’s belligerence. Hitler said so much, and his anti-Semitism initially sought to drive the Jews from Germany rather than to kill them. Had the U.S. and Britain left Hitler alone at the outset, Buchanan contends, events would have turned out better. The Soviet Union would have been undermined and would not have taken over Eastern Europe, as Germany would have been a bulwark against that. Moreover, Hitler would not have taken over the world, for his racist Aryanism would have been unpopular in predominantly non-Aryan countries. In Buchanan’s eyes, Communism was the greater threat, for its imperialism attracted all sorts of ethnic groups.
B. Does Buchanan’s thesis hold up? On the one hand, critics point out that Hitler attacked more than the German-populated areas it lost in World War I. Buchanan acknowledges that Hitler attacked more of Czechoslovakia than he agreed with Neville Chamberlain to take. Some historians have even claimed that Hitler was developing an atomic bomb, which may indicate broader ambitions on his part than the former German lands and the Soviet Union. On the other hand, any sweeping imperialist ambitions that Hitler had are far from clear in Mein Kampf. Buchanan’s points about Germany’s failure to build up her navy and her tepid attack on France also deserve consideration.
C. Buchanan’s portrayal of Winston Churchill is largely negative, as a counter to dominant tendencies to lionize him. Buchanan points out that Churchill was a racist and a white supremacist, in both his attitudes and his policies. Churchill also was cold and brutal in his treatment of women and children, as he sought to decimate Germany to keep it from ever reemerging as an industrial power.
D. Apart from Chapters 13-14, the book was difficult for me to absorb, for there were a lot of facts and dates. In some cases, Buchanan seemed contradictory. He tried to deny that Germany prior to World War I was belligerent and offered facts to make that case, yet he also acknowledged that pre-WW I Germany had an empire and that Britain saw the Kaiser as belligerent; Buchanan later attempts to argue that Hitler was not as belligerent as the Kaiser, as Britain feared. (Buchanan still depicts Hitler as a brutal warlord, who killed anyone who stood in the way of his political ascent.) Buchanan perhaps could have done a better job in conveying the motivations of the characters involved, such as the reason that Britain abandoned its alliance with Japan to appease the U.S. These parts of the book did have some interesting details, however, such as Mussolini’s initial disdain for Hitler, and Churchill’s admiration for Hitler and Mussolini.
I checked this book out from the library. My review is honest.