WASHINGTON - Much of the Western world just honored the millions of soldiers fallen in the two world wars. But we also need to look beyond post-war myths and understand the tragic political mistakes that sent these soldiers to die in wars that might have been avoided.
In his powerful new book, `Hitler, Churchill and the Unnecessary War,’ veteran politician and author Pat Buchanan challenges many historic taboos by claiming that Winston Churchill plunged Britain and its empire, including Canada, into wars whose outcome was disastrous for all concerned.
Other writers, me included, have made the same point for decades, but Buchanan has marshaled a formidable array of facts and historians to support his case.
For me, World War I was the most tragic 20th Century conflict. It was triggered by Serbia and Austro-Hungary. After Russia and France began gearing for war, Germany was dragged into the conflict by the doomsday machine of troop mobilization schedules. Britain could have halted the war, or let the continental powers fight until they came to a truce. But Churchill and his fellow imperialists determined to destroy Germany, a new rival to Britain’s wealth and power.
World War I should have ended in 1917 when both sides were exhausted and stalemated. America’s entry into the war resulted in Germany’s defeat and ensuing post-war suffering. The German, Habsburg, and Ottoman Empires were torn apart by the lupine victors and reduced to ruin, creating today’s unstable Balkans and Mideast.
Had Germany and its allies not been defeated, had a Carthaginian Peace not been imposed upon them at Versailles and Trianon, there might never have been a Hitler, Communist Russia or World War II. Europe’s Jews may have escaped destruction.
Churchill made the fatal error in World War II of backing Poland’s hold on Danzig even though Britain could do nothing to defend Poland, Yugoslavia, or Czechoslovakia from Hitler’s attempts to reunite million of Germans stranded in these new nations by the dreadful Versailles Treaty. Britain’s declaration of war on Germany over Poland led to a general European war. After suffering 5.6 million dead, Poland ended up occupied by the Soviet Union.
Buchanan’s heretical view, and mine, is that the Western democracies should have let Hitler expand his Reich eastward until it inevitably went to war with the even more dangerous Soviet Union. Once these despotisms had exhausted themselves, the Western democracies would have been left dominating Europe. The lives of millions of Western civilians and soldiers would have been spared.
In the end, Churchill and US President Franklin were so obsessed with crushing Germany, and so seduced by `Uncle Joe’ Stalin, they handed half of Europe to the Soviet Union, a far more murderous and dangerous tyranny by an order of magnitude than Hitler’s Germany. From his Soviet gulag cell, Alexander Solzhenitsyn called Roosevelt and Churchill `stupid.’
Buchanan’s book is important because we see some Western leaders making the same grave errors as in the 20th Century and idolizing the arch imperialist, Churchill. The latest example: extension of NATO to Russia’s borders. As in the case of Poland in 1939, the West cannot defend the Baltic, Ukraine or Georgia, and has no vital interests there.
Yet NATO is giving the rulers of these nations the ability to drag them into a potential nuclear war with Russia. Georgia’s idiotic little aggression this fall offers a striking example. Ukraine’s independence must be guaranteed, but it must not be transformed into a dagger pointed at Russia’s underbelly.
Have we learned nothing from the 20th Century’s apocalyptic wars? As Buchanan says, Churchill’s giveaway of Eastern Europe at Moscow and Yalta was a far graver blunder than Chamberlain’s concessions at Munich in 1938.
Buchanan’s book strips away lingering war propaganda and shows the cynicism, lust for power, and foolishness of the `saintly’ Allied war leaders and their `good’ war.
As Ben Franklin said, there is no good war, nor bad peace.