Thursday, June 26, 2008
The arch-conservative Patrick Buchanan has never found an isolationist cause, other than the anti-anti-communist one, that he didn’t like. First he penned A Republic, Not an Empire to make the case for American active disengagement from the world’s woes but, apparently unheeded, this hasn’t sufficed. Accordingly, in his latest tome, Churchill, Hitler and The Unnecessary War: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, he has targeted the biggest objection to his preferred course of action the disastrous consequences of appeasing Nazi Germany in the 1930s. His argument is simple and tries to get out from under: appeasement of Hitler wasn’t the culprit the Allied victors of World War One were.
Buchanan asks: “How did
What Buchanan doesn’t mention is that there was no way to provide viable self-determination for some groups without creating new minorities, as
These omissions enable a disingenuous argument. They convey the false impression that self-determination was a sound, rather than problematic, idea and that it was dishonored by the Allies rather than imperfectly implemented by them. This in turn allows Buchanan to insinuate that the problems of inter-war
Thus, Buchanan presents Nazi demands in 1938 and 1939 as being simply instances of Germans justly seeking self-determination. That in turn entails another omission: failing to mention why applying the principle of self-determination to create
The answer is this: the Nazi supremacist policy of conquest and enslavement that anyone who cared to know at the time could have discovered meant that either the Allies would have to concede all Hitler demanded, or war would result. But the appeasers didn’t want to know it then and Buchanan, who knows it now, simply strikes it from the record while belittling the most prominent figure who did understand from the beginning, Winston Churchill. Like the appeasers, Buchanan detaches shards of legitimacy from totalitarian claims much like present day appeasers of Islamist aggression.
Unfortunately for Buchanan, the historical record is not amenable to this sort of engineering. Issues of self-determination led to world war not because, as Buchanan argues,
It was painfully clear by 1939 that
Buchanan tactfully says nothing about why Britain found itself in 1938 at Munich with the unenviable dilemma of either conceding Hitler’s demands or going to war with Germany when “she had no draft, no Spitfires, no divisions ready to be sent to France.” Yet the reason for precisely this dilemma and these near-fatal deficiencies was years of appeasement precisely the policy Buchanan is at pains to resurrect.
A refusal to arm and maintain necessary forces to keep the peace; a refusal to reverse Hitler’s violation of the peace when he remilitarized the Rhineland in 1936 something that could have been accomplished easily with available forces when Hitler’s armies were as yet too weak and small to face determined opposition; a refusal to make common cause with the Soviets to counter Hitler all these and more found Britain so fatefully unprepared for the crisis when it came. But Buchanan fixates on
Moreover, however woefully unprepared was Britain for war in 1938, it was in arguably better shape for the supreme test than a year later when it did go to war. True, the Royal Air Force won a year’s reprieve in which to build up its strength, which proved hugely important, but the failure to stand firm at
In short, abdication at
By its unpreparedness,