Book Review: Churchill, Hitler, And The Unnecessary War

Churchill, Hitler, And The Unnecessary War:  How Britain Lost Its Empire And The West Lost The World, by Patrick J. Buchanan

I was recommended this book by a friend of mine who saw how I dealt with a previous book by the author, and I went into this book not precisely sure how it would end up but reasonably sure that the author would try to support a nationalist view.  This book is an example of revisionist history to a high level, and those who like the writings of A.J.P. Taylor on the origins of the second world war will likely find much to approve of here, although not everyone will be so pleased.  As someone whose views are moderately pro-Churchill [1], I found that much of this book didn’t deal with Churchill directly at all, or viewed him as a placeholder for the failed British diplomacy of the last century that led Europe to fight itself in two destructive world wars that crippled the capacity of European empires to dominate the rest of the world, which the author views as an immense tragedy.  The author also shows himself strangely sympathetic to many aspects of Fascism including its nationalistic appeal, which he views as much less dangerous to the United States than Communism ended up being.

As a sizable book, this particular volume spends over 400 pages looking at a variety of British choices (mostly) that ended up being very costly for the British Empire.  Much of what occurs is looking from the benefit of hindsight, arguing that Great Britain should have abandoned its traditional opposition to the rising hegemonic power in continental Europe and left France and Russia to their fates.  The author shows a consistent dislike for powers guaranteeing the security of small states, be they Belgium or Poland, and wants to have it both ways where he can criticize nations for either drawing red lines and fighting for moral reasons or for abandoning morality for a more cynical realpolitik, both of which end up being criticized by the author consistently inconsistently.  Churchill disappears for long periods of the narrative, and Hitler is more consistently viewed as an unsuccessful war chief, which is ultimately how Churchill is characterized as well, and those who are fond of Churchill will find little to enjoy how the author equates them as being eloquent and with bad principles and a lack of judgment who led their nations into destructive war, a comparison not everyone will appreciate.

Ultimately, though, Churchill was a complex person and this book looks at the more negative sides of that complexity, especially the cult of Churchill that supports a close sentimental relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom.  The author’s argumentation clearly reflect his worldview that gives America First isolationism a deeply cynical tinge of letting other people fight it out so that America can swoop in at the end to seize the spoils after the other parties are exhausted, as happened in both World Wars.  And if one is to judge the mood of the United States, this sort of approach has much to commend itself, waiting for one of the sides to make a fatal blunder like Pearl Harbor or unrestricted submarine warfare and supporting the other.  The issue, which the author fails to discuss, is that America’s elites and the American populace as a whole have very different political worldviews that have repeatedly led the United States to be involved in conflicts that the American people as a whole had no interest in, a tendency that has showed no sign of slowing down since the end of the Cold War.  In attempting to debunk the achievements of Churchill, the author manages not to show enough of his real hand in attempting to influence American geopolitical behavior, however one may be in sympathy with his aims.

[1] See for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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3 Responses to Book Review: Churchill, Hitler, And The Unnecessary War

  1. Pingback: Der Untergang (After W.G. Sebald) | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Book Review: 11 Essential Conservative Thinkers You Won’t Read In College (But Should) | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: Book Review: FDR Goes To War | Edge Induced Cohesion

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