Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Unnecessary War

I've begun reading a fascinating book by Patrick Buchanan called Churchill, Hitler and "the Unnecessary War". Its theme, spelled out in the subtitle, is how Britain lost its empire and the West lost the world.

Buchanan's thesis is that World War I was a total fiasco caused by poor judgment by Britain's leaders in general and Winston Churchill in particular.

On the threshold of the 20th century, Britain's empire was at its peak in influence and power. Who could have foreseen that the Britain could stumble so badly so as to become a shell of its former self. Who could have predicted the devastation in Europe wrought by two global wars, and the horrors wrought by Hitler and Stalin?

I am reminded of the venerated Robert E. Lee, the Confederacy's hero/general in its time of greatest need. For a hundred years Lee was on the receiving end of much adulation. He was a "great man." But, he was also flawed like many, and did not always make wise decisions. In the past thirty years or so Lee's life and leadership have been re-examined. The critics are finally having their say.

So with Churchill, it appears. A great statesman or a blundering bulldog?

I enter the book with a certain level of background about Pat Buchanan, a Nixon insider and speech writer who coined the phrase "the Silent Majority." As part of the Nixon "dirty tricks brigade" Buchanan's rap sheet carries baggage that might cause some to dismiss him outright. His foreign policy stance has resulted in him being labelled an isolationist. But there's some substance behind this stance or attitude that may be worth a deeper examination. For this reason I believe his arguments are worth a hearing.

One of the themes of the Viet Nam War era protesters was, "Who appointed America to be the policeman of the world?" Buchanan's position these past many years has been identical. In the preface to this book he castigates the 78 days of bombing which we inflicted on Kosovo as well as the military incursion into Iraq. The war with Iraq may have been a cakewalk at the start, but the mess afterwards is a very serious problem which will continue to have consequences. Buchanan states that we may be witnessing first hand the irreversible decline of the West.

This book shows the destructive power of certain mindsets. Entangling alliances and foreign military adventurism created that first Great War and, according to Buchanan, the vengefulness of the Treaty of Versailles is what catapulted Hitler to power in the 20s. WWI thus gave birth to WWII... and consequently much suffering.

In one of his previous books, Buchanan chastened America's leadership for following the same paths. “(T)oday, America's leaders are reenacting every folly that brought these great powers [Russia, Germany, and Japan] to ruin -- from arrogance and hubris, to assertions of global hegemony, to imperial overstretch, to trumpeting new 'crusades,' to handing out war guarantees to regions and countries where Americans have never fought before. We are piling up the kind of commitments that produced the greatest disasters of the twentieth century." Pat Buchanan, A Republic, Not an Empire

Is Buchanan being alarmist? True, Buchanan has been controversial during the course of his very public political career. And having not yet waded too deeply into this volume, I can't say where I will line up with all his assessments. One thing is certain, if I may paraphrase Robert Burns: Man's inhumanity to man has made countless millions mourn.

2 comments:

LEWagner said...

>>>>>>>“(T)oday, America's leaders are reenacting every folly that brought these great powers [Russia, Germany, and Japan] to ruin -- from arrogance and hubris, to assertions of global hegemony, to imperial overstretch, to trumpeting new 'crusades,' to handing out war guarantees to regions and countries where Americans have never fought before. We are piling up the kind of commitments that produced the greatest disasters of the twentieth century." Pat Buchanan, A Republic, Not an Empire

I agree with Pat's assessment. I don't agree with his attitude towards minorities, or towards monolingual education, though. He was in the news just now:
http://thinkprogress.org/2009/06/22/misspelled-english-buchanan/#comments

ENNYMAN said...

I agree with you re: some of Pat's attitudes. He's a mixed bag. The book is interesting, though.