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I hate, vehemently, when anyone attempts to rewrite history. It’s bad enough when the left does it; but when done by conservatives, it drives me nuts.
Pat Buchanan wrote a book recently that seemed to say that it was Winston Churchill who pushed Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler into expanding World War II and, in effect, driving Hitler to commit The Holocaust. I lost all of my respect for Buchanan after that.
So what does he do? He writes an opinion piece that adds to the blame the intransigence of the Polish government of 1939 over the mostly German free city of Danzig (now the Polish city of Gdansk; Buchanan explains how Danzig was created a free city, a semi-autonomous city-state, after WWI). At the time, Germany was in two parts: the main territory of Germany was roughly where it is today, but the territory of East Prussia was separated from the country by what was known as the Polish Corridor; Danzig, a port city on the Baltic Sea, was in between East Prussia and Germany proper. Buchanan mentions that Germany had hinted at offering Poland part of the territory of Slovakia that Germany had somewhat allowed to break away from Czechoslovakia after the 1938 Munich agreement in exchange for returning Danzig to German control. According to Buchanan, the Polish government supposedly refused because they had a guarantee that Britain would defend Poland militarily if there were any German incursions (Britain was still under Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who wasn’t going to be hoodwinked again after his failure at Munich the year before). But that doesn’t explain it completely.
Buchanan does at least acknowledge that Hitler had completely violated the agreement at Munich as a reason why Britain would ally itself with Poland. But after that, Buchanan’s reasoning falls apart. He opines that if Hitler were bent on conquest, which is what was feared by Britain, why did Hitler build the defensive Siegfried Line on its border with France, why didn’t Germany wait until it had a navy with a size comparable to that of Britain, why didn’t Germany build strategic bombers, why did Hitler allow British forces to escape from Dunkirk, and why did Hitler supposedly put through peace overtures towards Britain? Buchanan’s answer is utterly ridiculous:
Because Hitler wanted to end the war in 1940, almost two years before the trains began to roll to the camps.
I wonder if Buchanan ever read Mein Kampf. It is true that Hitler never set out to conquer Britain, at least not initially. Hitler’s target was always the Soviet Union, something you almost never hear Buchanan mention. And to get to the Soviet Union, he needed Poland gone, France and Britain out of the war, and for the Balkan countries, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, and Yugoslavia to remain his allies to protect his southern flank.
Buchanan completely avoids the strategic reasoning behind Hitler’s moves prior to the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. Despite what Buchanan might think, there wasn’t any way that Hitler wanted Poland as an ally or even neutral. He needed to get his army in a position to be closer to the Soviet Union before launching any invasion. He couldn’t have tried to get an alliance with Poland because that would have antagonized Stalin into action before Hitler was ready to tackle the Red Army. And he couldn’t first invade Poland without figuring out how to sucker Stalin into some deal that would keep the massive Soviet military at bay before Hitler was ready to take it on. But before that could happen, he needed Britain and France out of the war. Yet, He couldn’t attack those two first without antagonizing Poland into possibly attacking from the east. After three years of Nazi antagonism towards Britain and France, with the incursion into the Rhineland in 1936 and the takeover of Austria and Czechoslovakia in 1938-9, Hitler rightly figured that even with British and French assurances of military help for Poland, it would take too long for those two countries to act decisively in turning Germany’s armies from being on the offensive in the east to being on the defensive in the west. Plus, Hitler did get his non-aggression pact with Stalin about a week before the invasion, so the Soviets would be off his back.
The bottom line is that Germany’s complaints about Danzig were an excuse, nothing more, nothing less. Had Poland capitulated over Danzig, Hitler would have kept coming back for more until he figured out some kind of pretext with which to invade. That was the key. Poland had to go away.
Buchanan doesn’t seem to consider this as a possibility, which is amazing for such a learned man. What’s worse is that the questions that Buchanan asks about why Hitler didn’t do this or didn’t do that avoids him having to give the obvious answer. Hitler was a brilliant political strategist in that he rightly guessed how the political leaders of the other nations would react over his actions from 1936 through 1939. However, the obvious answer to Buchanan’s questions was that Hitler sucked as a military planner and strategist. The brilliance of the Nazi advance into western Europe was due as much to the prowess of the German Wehrmacht as it was due to British reliance on the political ineptitude of the French government and the military ineptitude of the French general staff (Britain needed a formidable military ally in France during those early days, and it wasn’t there). In addition, Stalin’s badly fought war with Finland, who was an erstwhile ally of Germany, and which led to frequent complaints from Stalin to Hitler for the 19 months between the beginning of that war until June 22, 1941 (the launch of Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi invasion into the Soviet Union), convinced Hitler that the Soviet Union was ripe to fall. Yet, Hitler didn’t do any of the things Buchanan cites in his questions. And that was because of two things: Hitler never counted on Churchill keeping Britain in the war; and, Hitler expected a quick victory over the Soviet Union, figuring his tanks and armies would be rolling into Moscow long before the dreaded Russian winter would set in, and was not ready to fight a protracted war of attrition with the Soviets. What was worse for Germany (and good for the rest of us), Hitler never bothered putting the economy on a wartime footing, as every one of his enemies did; Hitler had the factories working 8-hour days all the way into 1943, even after his disastrous setbacks at Moscow, El Alamein, Stalingrad, Kursk, and Sicily, while the Allied factories were working 24-hours a day. Plus, the weapons systems the Germans were building were complicated to build in great numbers, especially its tanks, whereas the Americans and the Soviets were able to build simpler tanks and quality airplanes in huge numbers. Hitler’s strategic military plan wasn’t even all that original; it was a modified rehash of Germany’s pre-World War I Schlieffen plan, Germany’s attempt to knock out France and Britain before attacking Russia. The execution of the plan in World War II exceeded what had been attempted a quarter-century earlier, but it wasn’t completely successful since Britain remained a belligerent.
When all is said and done, Hitler was intent to start a war of conquest, something Mein Kampf makes blatantly clear. But because Hitler had no concept of how to completely mobilize Germany to fight the kind of war he wanted waged, because he was mostly surrounded by sycophants who were too cowardly to offer advice that Hitler needed for victory (plus, those sycophants were mostly surrounded by their own sycophants), and because he would ignore the advice some smarter sycophants were willing to offer, the only conclusion to draw is that Hitler was a lousy, and completely inflexible, military leader, a fact that Buchanan never entertains.
Pat Buchanan is a very smart guy, but his ultra-isolationist orthodoxy seems to have clouded his judgment about who is to blame for World War II. I understand that conservatives such as Buchanan and Ron Paul take to heart George Washington’s warning about meddling into European affairs (and by extension, world affairs); but, this isn’t the 1790’s where commercial trade and the exchange of ideas took days and months to get started, let alone completed. It’s the same with the mobility that was in place 200 years ago as compared to what can be employed in modern-day warfare. Buchanan is rightly concerned that much of U.S. trade policy is damaging to this country’s ability to produce. But that’s no excuse for trying to revise the real history of how World War II came about, especially when trying to lay blame with the start of the war, and ultimately, the Holocaust, on anyone but Adolf Hitler.
There are many more important things for conservatives to discuss, especially as President Obama and Congressional Democrat “leaders” (and their moonbat supporters) seek to implement the authoritarian government, one that is overreaching on the American people and is weak in foreign policy, they accused President Bush of seeking. It doesn’t help when some conservatives engage in complete nonsense that have nothing to do with stopping what the federal government wants to do to us. Views like Buchanan’s must be quickly debunked in order to proceed with the work that needs to be done. This is my attempt to do just that.