Actually, I could think of worse things to call him, but since this is a family friendly blog, I will refrain. I say that he is an idiot because of this column in which he discusses, approvingly a new book called 1939: Countdown to War by a British historian named Richard Overy. The premise of Overy’s book and Buchannan’s column is that Europe and Britain would have been better off not fighting Hitler. They both contend that World War II was unnecessary and could have been avoided, except for Britain’s stubbornness.
“Few historians now accept that Hitler had any plan or blueprint for world conquest. … (R)ecent research has suggested that there were almost no plans for what to do with a conquered Poland and that the vision of a new German empire … had to be improvised almost from scratch.”
But if Hitler had no “plan or blueprint for world conquest,” this raises perhaps the great question of the 20th century.
What was Britain’s stake in a Polish-German territorial quarrel to justify a war from which the British nation and empire might never recover?
How the war came about is the subject of Overy’s book.
By August 1939, Hitler had come to believe that Polish intransigence over the city of Danzig meant Germany would have to resolve the issue by force. But he desperately did not want a war with Britain like the one in which he had fought from 1914-18.
To prevent a German-Polish clash from bringing on a European war, however, Hitler had to sever the British-Polish alliance formed the previous spring.
To split that alliance, Hitler negotiated his own pact with Stalin, a coup that meant any British declaration of war to save Poland would be an utterly futile gesture. But when the Hitler-Stalin pact was announced, spelling Poland’s doom, Britain publicly reaffirmed her commitment to Poland.
Hitler instantly called off an invasion set for Aug. 26.
In the last analysis, says Overy, British “honour,” Chamberlain’s honoring of his war guarantee to the Poles, caused Britain to go to war.
When and why was this commitment given?
On March 31, 1939, Chamberlain, humiliated by the collapse of his Munich agreement and Hitler’s occupation of Prague, handed, unsolicited, a war guarantee to a Poland then led by a junta of colonels.
To understand the rashness, the sheer irrationality of this decision, one must understand the issue involved and Britain’s situation in 1939.
First, the issue: The Polish-German quarrel was over a city, Danzig, most British leaders believed had been unjustly taken from Germany at the end of World War I and ought to be returned.
The German claim to Danzig was regarded as among the most just claims Germany had from what most agreed by then had been an unjust and vindictive Treaty of Versailles.
What did the people of Danzig themselves want? Writes Overy:
“In May 1933, shortly after Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany, Danzig’s National Socialist Party won 38 out of the city’s 72 assembly seats and formed the city government. … By 1936 there was a virtual one-party system. … The strongly nationalist German population agitated in 1939 to come … back home to Germany.”
In short, the Germans wanted their city back, and the Danzigers wanted to go home to Germany. And most British had no objection.
Yet Britain backed up Poland’s refusal even to negotiate, and when that led to war, Britain declared war on Poland’s behalf.
This has been an idea of Pat Buchannan’s since he wrote his book The Unnecessary War.
I think it might be helpful to put things in context by making out a timeline of the events leading up to the declaration of war.
January 30, 1933-Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany
March 23, 1933-after the Reichstag fire, the Enabling Act is passed making Hitler dictator
January 26, 1934-Germany and Poland sign non-aggression pact. Germany violates it six years later
July 24, 1934-Austrian anti-Nazi dictator Engelbert Dolfuss assassinated by Austrian Nazis
August 2,1934 Hitler named Fuhrer of Germany
March 16, 1935 Germany begins to rearm in violation of the Versailles Treaty
March 7, 1936 Germany occupies the Rheinland in violation of the Versailles Treaty
Now, one could argue that certain provisions of the Versailles Treaty were unjust but that is not the point here. The point is that Hitler did not feel himself bound by any agreement made either by himself or any previous German ruler. He also did not feel obliged to follow any law or constitution in effect before or during his rule. To continue;
September 1938 Hitler demands that the Sudetenland be given to Germany, secretly prepares for war with Czechoslovokia
September 30, 1938 Munich Agreement signed, Germany occupies the Sudetenland
March 15, 1939 Germany invades Czechoslovakia
March 21, 1939 Hitler demands the city of Danzig be returned to Germany
April 3, 1939 Hitler begins planning the invasion of Poland for the autumn of 1939
August 23, 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact between Germany and the Soviet Union signed.
September 1, 1939 Germany invades Poland, beginning World War II
Going over this timeline, one fact emerges. By the summer of 1939 it had become obvious that Adolf Hitler could not be trusted to keep his word under any circumstances. He broke nearly every agreement he had ever signed. Neither Neville Chamberlain nor the leaders of France could believe anything he promised.
Suppose that Chamberlain had flown to Berlin to appease Hitler once again by offering to allow Germany to occupy Danizig, do Buchannan or Overy seriously believe the war would have been averted? Hitler would simply have come up with another excuse to invade Poland.
It may be true that Hitler had no serious plans to rule the entire world, but he did plan to conquer the Soviet Union to provide “lebensraum” for the German people. After conquering Poland, he probably would have gone ahead with his plans to invade Russia. Since Hitler was not foolish enough to want to fight a two-front war, and he could not guarantee that Britain and France would not attack his rear while he was involved in Russia, he likely would have decided to neutralize them first. In other words, by the summer of 1939, war was inevitable. Hitler had made it clear that he could not be trusted and could not be appeased. He wanted the war.
I don’t really know why this strange revisionist history appeals to Pat Buchannan. I don’t want to think that he is a Nazi, although he has been suspected of being an anti-semite. I think that he has considered the aftermath of World War II, especially the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and has decided that matters would have been better of Hitler had remained in power. Since Stalin was every bit as evil and vicious as Hitler, maybe he has a point. It couldn’t have made much difference to the hapless people of Poland or Hungary which dictator ruled over them.
But, this is hindsight. No one in 1939 could possibly have known how things would turn out. No could would have guessed that the Soviets would end up occupying half of Europe. Given that Stalin had just finished killing half the officers in the Red Army, any observer in 1939 would have concluded that a war between Germany and the Soviet Union could only end with a swift German victory. To Britain and France, the greatest threat seemed to be a Germany made invincible by the conquest of Russia.
- Looking Back at the ‘Good War’ (lewrockwell.com)
This site has a number of very strange articles. If you think that Pat Buchanna and Noam Chomsky are on opposite sides take a look. They seem to have a lot more in common than you might think, besides the fact that both are idiots.