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PJB Columns

June 13, 2008

The Good War and the Terrible Peace

By Patrick J. Buchanan

In attacking my book “Churchill, Hitler and ‘The Unnecessary War’: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World,” Victor Davis Hanson, the court historian of the neoconservatives, charges me with “rewriting … facts” and showing “ingratitude” to American and British soldiers who fought World Wars I and II.

Both charges are false, and transparently so.

Hanson cites not a single fact I got wrong and ignores the fact that the book is dedicated to my mother’s four brothers who fought in World War II. Moreover, the book begins by celebrating the greatness of the British nation and heroism of its soldier-sons.

Did Hanson even read it?

The focus of “The Unnecessary War” is on the colossal blunders by British statesmen that reduced Britain from the greatest empire since Rome into an island dependency of the United States in three decades. It is a cautionary tale, written for America, which is treading the same path Britain trod in the early 20th century.

Hanson agrees the Versailles Treaty of 1919 was “flawed,” but says Germany had it coming, for the harsh peace the Germans imposed on France in 1871 and Russia in 1918.

Certainly, the amputation of Alsace-Lorraine by Bismarck’s Germany was a blunder that engendered French hatred and a passion for revenge. But does Teutonic stupidity in 1871 justify British stupidity in 1919?

Is that what history teaches, Hanson?

In 1918, Germany accepted an armistice on Wilson’s 14 Points, laid down her arms and surrendered her High Seas Fleet.

Yet, once disarmed, Germany was subjected to a starvation blockade, denied the right to fish in the Baltic Sea, and saw all her colonies and private property therein confiscated by British, French and Japanese imperialists, in naked violation of Wilson’s 14 Points.

Germans, Austrians and Hungarians by the millions were then consigned to Belgium, France, Italy, Serbia, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Poland and Lithuania, in violation of the principle of self-determination.

Germany was sliced in half, dismembered, disarmed, saddled with unpayable debt and forced, under threat of further starvation and invasion, to confess she alone was morally responsible for the war and all its devastation — which was a lie, and the Allies knew it.

Where was Hitler born?

“At Versailles,” replied Lady Astor.

As for the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk Germany imposed on Russia in 1918, is Hanson aware that the prison house of nations for which he wails, which was forced to disgorge Finland, the Baltic republics, Poland, Ukraine and the Caucasus, was ruled by Bolsheviks?

Was it a war crime for the Kaiser to break up Lenin’s evil empire?

Two years after Brest-Litovsk, Churchill himself was urging Britain to revise Versailles, bring Germany into the Allied fold and intervene in Russia’s civil war — against Lenin and Trotsky.

As for my thesis that the British war guarantee to Poland of March 31, 1939, was the “Fatal Blunder” that guaranteed World War II and brought down the British Empire, Hanson is mocking:

“Buchanan argues that, had the imperialist Winston Churchill not pushed poor Hitler into a corner, he would have never invaded Poland in 1939, which triggered an unnecessary Allied response.”

First, Hanson should get his prime ministers straight. It was Neville Chamberlain who issued the war guarantee to Poland after the collapse of his Munich accord. Churchill was not even in the Cabinet.

Second, Hansen implies that I portray Hitler as a misunderstood victim. This is mendacious. Hitler’s foul crimes are fully related.

Third, was it moral, Hanson, for Britain to promise the Poles military aid they could not and did not deliver, thus steeling Polish resolve to resist Hitler and guaranteeing Poland’s annihilation?

Was it wise, Hanson, for Britain to declare a world war on the strongest nation in Europe over a town, Danzig, where the British prime minister thought Germany had the stronger claim?

What were the consequences for Poland of trusting in Britain?

Crucifixion on a Nazi-Soviet cross, the Katyn massacre of the Polish officer corps, Treblinka and Auschwitz, annihilation of the Home Army, millions of brave Polish dead, half a century of Bolshevik terror.

And how did Churchill honor Britain’s commitment to Poland?

During trips to Moscow, Churchill bullied the Polish prime minister into ceding to Stalin that half of his country Stalin had gotten from his devil’s pact with Hitler, and yielded to Stalin’s demand for annexation of the Baltic republics and Bolshevik rule of a dozen nations of Eastern and Central Europe.

Was it worth 50 million dead, Hanson, so Stalin, whose victims, as of Sept. 1, 1939, were 1,000 times Hitler’s, could occupy not only Poland, for which Britain went to war, but all of Christian Europe to the Elbe?

Churchill was right when he told FDR in December 1941 it was “The Unnecessary War” and right again in 1948, when he wrote that, in Stalin, the world now faced “even worse perils” than those of Hitler.

So, what had it all been for?

Historian Hanson should go back to tutoring undergrads about the Peloponnesian War and the Syracuse Expedition.