"What Would Winston Do?"
So asks Newsweek's cover, which features a full-length photo of
the prime minister his people voted the greatest Briton of them all.
Quite a tribute, when one realizes Churchill's career coincides with the
collapse of the British empire and the fall of his nation from world pre-eminence
to third-rate power.
That the Newsweek cover was sparked by my book Churchill,
Hitler and The Unnecessary War seems apparent, as one of the three essays,
by Christopher Hitchens, was a scathing review. Though in places complimentary,
Hitchens charmingly concludes: This book "stinks."
Understandable. No Brit can easily concede my central thesis: The Brits
kicked away their empire. Through colossal blunders, Britain twice declared
war on a Germany that had not attacked her and did not want war with her, fought
for 10 bloody years and lost it all.
Unable to face the truth, Hitchens seeks solace in old myths.
We had to stop Prussian militarism in 1914, says Hitchens. "The Kaiser's
policy shows that Germany was looking for a chance for war all over the globe."
Nonsense. If the Kaiser were looking for a war he would have found it.
But in 1914, he had been in power for 25 years, was deep into middle age but
had never fought a war nor seen a battle.
From Waterloo to World War I, Prussia fought three wars, all in one seven-year
period, 1864 to 1871. Out of these wars, she acquired two duchies, Schleswig
and Holstein, and two provinces, Alsace and Lorraine. By 1914, Germany had not
fought a war in two generations.
Does that sound like a nation out to conquer the world?
As for the Kaiser's bellicose support for the Boers, his igniting the Agadir
crisis in 1905, his building of a great fleet, his seeking of colonies in Africa,
he was only aping the British, whose approbation and friendship he desperately
sought all his life and was ever denied.
In every crisis the Kaiser blundered into, including his foolish "blank
cheque" to Austria after Serb assassins murdered the heir to the Austrian throne,
the Kaiser backed down or was trying to back away when war erupted.
Even Churchill, who before 1914 was charging the Kaiser with seeking "the
dominion of the world," conceded, "History should ... acquit William II of having
plotted and planned the World War."
What of World War II? Surely, it was necessary to declare war to stop Adolf
Hitler from conquering the world and conducting the Holocaust.
Yet consider. Before Britain declared war on him, Hitler never demanded
return of any lands lost at Versailles to the West. Northern Schleswig had gone
to Denmark in 1919, Eupen and Malmedy had gone to Belgium, Alsace and Lorraine
Why did Hitler not demand these lands back? Because he sought an alliance,
or at least friendship, with Great Britain and knew any move on France would
mean war with Britain -- a war he never wanted.
If Hitler were out to conquer the world, why did he not build a great fleet?
Why did he not demand the French fleet when France surrendered? Germany had
to give up its High Seas Fleet in 1918.
Why did he build his own Maginot Line, the Westwall, in the Rhineland,
if he meant all along to invade France?
If he wanted war with the West, why did he offer peace after Poland and
offer to end the war, again, after Dunkirk?
That Hitler was a rabid anti-Semite is undeniable. Mein Kampf is
saturated in anti-Semitism. The Nuremberg Laws confirm it. But for the six years
before Britain declared war, there was no Holocaust, and for two years after
the war began, there was no Holocaust.
Not until midwinter 1942 was the Wannsee Conference held, where the Final
Solution was on the table.
That conference was not convened until Hitler had been halted in Russia,
was at war with America and sensed doom was inevitable. Then the trains began
And why did Hitler invade Russia? This writer quotes Hitler 10 times as
saying that only by knocking out Russia could he convince Britain it could not
win and must end the war.
Hitchens mocks this view, invoking the Hitler-madman theory.
"Could we have a better definition of derangement and megalomania than
the case of a dictator who overrules his own generals and invades Russia in
wintertime ... ?"
Christopher, Hitler invaded Russia on June 22.
The Holocaust was not a cause of the war, but a consequence of the war.
No war, no Holocaust.
Britain went to war with Germany to save Poland. She did not save Poland.
She did lose the empire. And Josef Stalin, whose victims outnumbered those of
Hitler 1,000 to one as of September 1939, and who joined Hitler in the rape
of Poland, wound up with all of Poland, and all the Christian nations from the
Urals to the Elbe.
The British Empire fought, bled and died, and made Eastern and Central
Europe safe for Stalinism. No wonder Winston Churchill was so melancholy in
old age. No wonder Christopher rails against the book. As T.S. Eliot observed,
"Mankind cannot bear much reality."
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